There's something bittersweet about summer coming to an end. That is, unless you're a parent.
With many local schools starting in August, most parents are gleefully packing up the backpacks and counting down the days until they can drop their precious cherubs off at school and have a quiet house for several blissful hours. Some, though, are ambivalent.
What do they like most — or least — about the start of the school year?
"My favorite day this year is Aug. 22," said Lorna Brown, owner of Santa Rosa's My Gym, choosing her children's first day of school.
Because she owns her business, Brown has hours flexible enough that she doesn't have to worry about fulltime daycare for Morgan, 9, and Callum, 7. That means there is less structure in her house, and Brown has carried the burden of maintaining her kids, her business and any extracurricular activities during the summer.
"I've already planned lunch with another mom friend for the first day of school so we can celebrate surviving summer," she said.
"I'm so excited my kids started school," said Sarah Warner of Rohnert Park. Her son Billy's first day at Evergreen Elementary was July 25, ending her struggle to get him reading or writing in the off-season.
"Better yet," she added, "no more bickering all day with his brother."
Maggie MacNab of Santa Rosa described the sense of exhaustion and relief that comes with the official end of summer. Her biggest frustrations were trying to create activities for her 5-year-old daughter, Jorie, especially with the high cost of summer camps.
"The least expensive camp I found was at her school, but that seemed the least fun to me and a lot like just being in school," MacNab said.
Planning play dates with other families was also frustrating for MacNab and her daughter. Spur-of-the-moment invitations proved to be an impossible feat, as they worked around other families' busy schedules.
"I can totally understand year-round school now," she said. "Two, three weeks vacation at a time just may be enough."
"I cannot wait, and neither can my son," said Claudine Bibeau of Santa Rosa. Since her son, Justin Parks, 11, is one of the first students at the new French American Charter School in Santa Rosa, both are looking forward to the change.
"New school, learning a new language, new skills to learn — we cannot wait for the rhythm of the school year to start again," she said.
A little bonkers
Kristin Meyer of Novato repeated the sentiment. "I'm excited for it to start," she said, "but I'm going a little bonkers with the kiddo here at home."
Her 7-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, will start second grade in a few weeks after learning how to swim and attending art camp during the break.
Summertime also meant that Kaitlyn, an only child, was a bit lonely. "I think she misses her friends," Kristin Meyer said. "I'm not excited about the homework part, though. It's always a bit of a challenge getting her to buckle down and do it."
But while many parents are anticipating the start of the school year, Sarah Ponsford of Santa Rosa is not excited. She's the mother of Hannah, 15, Summer, 13, and Ella, 7.
"For me, the worst part is that once school starts, every part of our day is scheduled out. The pace is so much more chaotic," she said.