Like many parents on the NSW South Coast, I've been looking ahead to this summer with great anxiety. We remember the fear, the losses and the evacuations from Black Summer so clearly, and the warnings about the bushfire risk for this coming season have been clear.
But it was still a shock last week, in the middle of September, to have my kids home from school because of the bushfire risk. There were more than 20 schools closed and the fire warning was upgraded to catastrophic on Tuesday.
We thought we had a few more months to prepare ourselves for this feeling of insecurity and the disruption to our lives.
To already be sending kids home from school, where they should be safe, is deeply worrying. While I was able to juggle having my kids, aged seven and 10, home for the day, my thoughts went to my friends and neighbours who'd be missing out on a day's work to care for their children.
At the school where I teach, we stayed open but were short-staffed as colleagues had to step away to care for their own children.
This time it was just one day out of the classroom, but I'm worried about how often this will happen over the summers to come - how many more disruptions to our lives and our kids' educations can we deal with?
And we all know that if kids aren't in school, there will be parents who need to step back from their own work to care for them. We've all noticed the rising cost of living, and there are many regional Australians who simply cannot afford to take time off work and still provide for their families.
But when I heard my daughters' school would be closed, my thoughts first went to how I could keep my kids calm. They are old enough to remember evacuating during the Black Summer fires.
My oldest got out of bed one morning and watched as a fire front came down over the mountain and I'll never forget her blood-curdling scream. Last Tuesday, it took her until lunchtime to raise the issue with me that it was indeed a dangerous day for fires, and I had to admit that, yes, it was and I was worried, too.
Most young people in this area are carrying trauma from that time, and many of them are anxious about bushfires. And that goes for adults, too. When a heatwave like last week happens we regularly scan the hills for smoke or get a jolt of worry when we smell the familiar smell of burning bush.
We've all heard the warnings about this summer and the next. Last week the Bureau of Meteorology officially declared an El Nino weather system, reflecting what the scientists have already been telling us - we're in for some very hot and dry weather, increasing the risk of extreme heat and bushfires. Our grass is already crunching underfoot.
For some of us, the mental load of managing our day-to-day lives and cost-of-living pressures coupled with a dangerous summer approaching is too much. Many parents are already feeling the strain as they try to be present and positive for their children.
We remember the disruption of Black Summer - of schools closed, roads closed, evacuating with our families, not letting the kids outside to play because of all the smoke. Our entire lives were on hold. No one knew what day it was. The only thing we could focus on was keeping ourselves and our families alive.
We were in flight or fight mode, and unless you've experienced that for weeks on end like we have, you can't understand what it's like.
Maybe that's why leaders here and around the world have done so little to take the action we need on climate change - most of them haven't experienced its effects firsthand.
The scientists tell us that unless we drastically reduce our emissions this decade, summers will only get more dangerous. The experience my children have already had, and are likely to experience in coming years, is so far from my own. I grew up in the bush, aware of bushfires but never fearful for my life, or for my community.
When I think about how little has been done here and around the world to reduce our emissions as much as we've needed since Black Summer, I feel quite anxious about the world my daughters will be living in as they grow older.
I've been trying to shield my kids from the reality of climate change while they're still little, but it's becoming harder to avoid.
What would give me and my kids some hope, as we prepare for some disruptive summers ahead, is to see leaders at all levels showing that they care about keeping our communities and kids safe by treating climate change with the urgency needed.
- Laurel Waddell is a Bega teacher and mother of two. She is a member of Australian Parents for Climate Action.