My two least favorite times of the year are the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year. At the beginning of the year the joy of getting the kids out of the house is tempered by everyone asking me for money. The end of the school year is worse. Much worse.
Try to imagine you are running in a race of some unfathomable distance.
Might be 26.2 miles.
Might be 50 kilometers.
Might be across Charlotte International Airport to catch a short connection because US Airways hates you. No seriously, they do.
Now imagine you round the corner on the last leg, and you see rising before you the Mother of All Hills.
It’s not so much that it’s steep– although it is.
Or that it looks unbearably long– although it does.
It’s that some sadist decided that the last thing you needed to do at the very end of the race when you were physically and mentally exhausted and praying to gods and spirits you don’t even believe in for a quick and merciful death just so this race will come to an end and you can stop running and instead of deciding to end on a nice flat spot at sea level put the finish line on top of Mount Freaking Kilimanjaro because the race is almost over and we need to make it memorable.
This in a nutshell is the last 3 weeks of school.
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It is the height of arrogance to complain about abundance. I am truly lucky and blessed to have children well enough to do things and the means to give them things to do. If I was complaining about the overabundance of opportunity it would truly be a First World problem. It’s not the abundance though, as a thirsty man can still drown. What mystifies me is what is the part of our psyche that makes us create these social obligations for ourselves and others in a way that contrary to our own self interest. When these social obligations collide with our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, it starts to produce feelings of Can’t Even.
There are many levels of Can’t Even.
There’s your basic “Kids are bouncing off the walls and I” Can’t Even, followed by the slightly more serious “Your Daughter is Giving Me Attitude Again and I” Can’t Even. When it’s really bad, you reach “It’s Thursday Night I don’t Know What to Make For Dinner, We Have No Food, and The Dog Barfed on the Carpet” Can’t Even.
I am not ashamed to admit that as a parent, I am pretty much phoning it in right now. We have entered the “Popsicles Count As Fruit” level of Can’t Even. By this point in the year my standards are lax and my my resolve is weak. I am fighting a losing battle against Behaving Like An Adult.
So here we are, at the bottom of our mental game, punch drunk, battered and bloodied, exhausted, and generally done. Last leg of the race. Finish line is in sight.
JUST KIDDING! LET’S SCHEDULE ALL THE THINGS!
Every. Single. Night.
We have Book fairs. Enrichment fairs. Achievement fairs. Science Fairs. Spring chorus concert. Spring band concert. Graduation. Field Day. Bring your Hamster to Work Day. Tell The Kids They Aren’t Allowed To Use Sandwich Bags Because It Kills Baby Seals So They Have To Use All Of The Snapware But We Don’t Have Any Matching Lids So Making Lunches Takes 30 Extra Minutes And It Doesn’t Fit Into Their Backpack Day.
Now take all of the above multiplied by four, because when it comes to propagating my DNA I am an overachiever.
Can’t we just quietly and in a dis-organized fashion say to each other “Well then. That was lovely, thanks very much” and ignore each other for another 3 months? Why load up my calendar now?
And then there are the sports. I am looking at you, Little League. Just because you’re America’s Pasttime does not mean you can arbitrarily reschedule games just because of “weather”. Our kids swim in the rain, I see no good reason why they can’t play baseball in it. I’m sorry baseball you get Tuesdays and Thursdays, no complaining. Do you know how finely-tuned our calendar is? LaGuardia Air Traffic Control has got nothing on Mrs. Nostrikethat when it comes scheduling take offs and landings.
* * *
Just the other night I was determined to try to catch one of our kids at something they were doing because work has been pretty busy and I have been doing my best imitation of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Logically, I showed up at the pool, which was normally a safe bet. Nope! Because baseball. Fortunately the field is right next to the pool, so I sauntered down to the field to watch the kids play.
It took me a good 5 minutes to realize that 1) my child was not out there and 2) his team-mates were old enough to shave. It turned out we had an away game so I had actually spent the last few minutes watching the Dominican Ringer League warm up.
At this point I did what any sensible person would do: throw their spouse under the bus and go home to wash down my Teriyaki Mac and Cheese with an ice cold beer.
I also had popsicle, because I need my fruit.
I suppose there is a lesson here if you look hard enough. Perhaps the lesson is “say no to more things” or “don’t expect to have a life” or “hey pal, you need to re-examine the latest nutritional guidelines because I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about the whole popsicle-fruit thing.” There will come a day, mostly likely in the middle of August, when baseball is over and swimming is over and vacation is over and we are just sitting around staring at each other wishing school would start. That seems right. That seems natural. The pendulum swings back. When that happens, and I’m standing at the starting line getting ready to run some unfathomable distance all over again, I can only hope that I will remember life’s Great Truth:
U.S. Airways still hates me.