As in any love relationship, there are aspects of the package-deal of having school-aged kids in the house that I will distinctly not miss. We parents have been mindful not to throw out our babies with their bathwater, long after those babies started bathing themselves (and remember when some of them, fresh out of their showers, doused themselves in enough Axe Body Spray to asphyxiate a large farm animal? Better than smelling like one, I suppose.) But there is a substantial amount of bathwater I’m ready to throw out at this point.
Sayonara to dragging a teenager’s slumbering ass out of bed–and in the winter time, it’s still black as pitch when the alarm goes off–while they’re in the fathomless depths of Stage 4 NREM sleep. I’ve heard of kids who get up early and easily on their own, but I’ve never had one of these, myself. So anytime a child in this house has had to be somewhere before noon, which of course is every, single school day for the past almost 20 years, it’s been up to me to make sure they’re up. Before they could drive themselves, people would say, “Let them suffer the consequences of missing the bus,” but it was I who would suffer the consequences of chasing that bus through the neighborhoods, or driving that child to school myself, or having them hang around the house all day. Who do those options punish? The question of who’s really being punished prompted a lot of my over-reaching parenting over the years. So I picked my battles. If I had a nickel for every time, every morning, five mornings a week that I called a child’s name down the stairs, I could probably fund a college education with it. After the initial, up-close-and-personal nuzzling her awake with a kiss (the one moment of the wake-up ritual I will deeply miss), the calling-down-to-her room began, “Sophie Milstein! Are you up? Please get up!” “Time to get up. Now.” “Do you see what time it is?! You MUST. GET. UP. NOW! I MEAN it!” and so on. I’m not a morning person myself so I both sympathize and empathize; in this way, I suffer a double-shot of battle fatigue in the mornings. Now I am advising Sophie, if at all possible, to register for afternoon classes for the next four years.
Ciao to all the paperwork that is generated around each, individual school child. There are Health forms, Emergency Contact forms, Order forms, Athletic forms (O.K. so I could count on one hand the school sports forms I filled out, especially at the high school level) and Classroom Expectation forms/Syllabi that required a parent’s signature. Then there are the Permission Slips, covering all kinds of activities that required parent’s permission, from field trips to sex ed. And finally, the steady stream of notes to excuse them for tardies, absences and daytime appointments, which I really tried to keep to a minimum (but they don’t put braces on–or take them off–on weekends.) It always felt like a sinister joke on the school’s behalf that each form is slightly different, even when soliciting the same basic information. I thought about making an 8.5 X 11 rubber stamp of all pertinent “form” information, but each year, each form, for each child, differs just enough to make this impossible. Can you imagine the hours of human form-filling time and energy that would be saved through the use of a Universal School Child Information form? This is another of my brilliant stream-lining ideas that’s occurring to me, like Sophie’s arrival at school most days, too late.
Arrivederci to speaking with school office personnel, though they are some of the unsung heroes of any school’s administrative staff. What will I do next year with all the extra time I’ll have in the mornings that this year I spent talking to Marge in the senior office? That woman has shown me more patience, understanding and compassion than members of my own family and she often even remembers to ask about Sophie’s brothers, bless her heart. There’s a special place in heaven–or better yet, in a hammock on a Caribbean beach somewhere–for these kind souls.
Aloha to being in charge of moving youngsters from here to there. I mean this in both the physical sense (the brick-and-mortar of childhood, including school, religious school, sports, medical appointments, tutoring, haircuts, music lessons and corresponding performances, etc., etc., etc.) AND the developmental sense. Remember when the pediatrician wanted to know if your child could pick up a Cheerio off the tray of his or her high chair? Well, expectations only took off from there. Now they want to know if a child has picked up a second (or third or fourth) language. They want to measure if they meet the physical fitness standards we used to think of in terms of sit-ups and the 50-yard dash and are now so comprehensive the program is monitored by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. We worry about our children’s intellectual, academic, emotional, social, spiritual and moral development, their global awareness and their self-esteem. We had to teach them to say “no” to drugs and to strangers but “yes” to life. I sincerely hope my kids continue to develop themselves as decent human beings and productive members of society, but they’re on their own to get themselves from here to there, from this point forward.
Peace-Out to nagging. Kids are under the grossly misinformed impression that we parents get some kick out of nagging, about topics ranging from not leaving wet towels on the wood furniture to breaking-down semester-long projects into weekly increments, so an assignment that is 90% of their grade does not get started the night before the term ends. Doing their homework is certainly not our job, but neither is getting THEM to do THEIR homework. And while we’re at it, I will shed no tears over a home-work free environment, at least for the foreseeable future. As much as I have been challenged by all this homework, both mine and theirs, I’m not gonna miss it.
Bye-Bye to contacting other parents, for the purposes of making arrangements with them or checking out our kid’s reports. Though I have met some of the most wonderful people in my life through my kids (some of my best friends are parents, and even parents of my kids’ friends!), I will not miss calls to set up play dates and carpools and, more recently, to check if the parents who are reportedly hosting the co-ed bonfire/hot tubbing/sleepover are going to be home…or even in town.
Farewell. Now that one I mean literally. When you guys “dip”, I pray you fare well. Of course we parents will be here to adore and advise you and marvel at your accomplishments; I have no doubt they will be many and impressive.
And there are goals of my own I hope to achieve with all the time that is about to be freed up now that I am no longer responsible for all of the above. I’ve even thought about taking singing lessons. Then I could sing to you,
Happy trails to you, until we meet again…