Parents, beware the mid-winter school blues

| February 11, 2015

For many students, today is the official 100th day of school. Here at Aspen Country Day, our Lower Schoolers are doing show-and-tell with the collections they brought from home: 100 rose petals, 100 Legos, and even (clever!) 100 drops of water. After lunch, we’ll light 100 candles on a cake to celebrate this mini-landmark in the school calendar.

At most boarding schools, thanks to the seven-day school week, the 100th day went by ages ago. This is the long, dark stretch – from winter break through to spring. Roommates, no matter how compatible, get on each others’ nerves. Classes, no matter how engaging, lack a certain sizzle. The daily routine -- alarm, breakfast check-in, classes, sports, study hall, sleep, repeat – induces ennui. Humans are dragging, but one biological element thrives: the respiratory virus.

At this time of year, parents are more likely than ever to receive the phone call we all dread. It will come at the end of a long day. There may be sniffles, even sobs. These late-night tech-support sessions are distressing for student and parent alike. Small problems, in the dark days of winter, take on larger-than-life proportions.

It reminds me of an episode of Arthur, the brilliant children’s show from PBS. In a classic episode called The Long, Dull Winter, (it starts at the 10:30 mark) Arthur (the aardvark) laments the lack of holidays: “No days off from school, no assemblies, no decorations…” Then Buster (the bunny) chimes in, “It’s cold outside, and the sun goes down early, so you can’t go anywhere… It’s like being dead, only with homework.”

Is there a cure for the mid-winter blues that parents can offer children away at boarding school? One friend swears by a small shipment of wardrobe updates from J. Crew Factory. Another suggests a care package with protein and citrus. (No candy; there’s enough of that around already.) But perhaps the most effective tactic is the simple reminder that the situation is temporary. This is part of the cycle of life at boarding school (and eventually, at college). As Arthur and friends discover, another holiday comes along soon; Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Then spring break. The days are already getting longer. The best is yet to come.