Here we are again. The last day of the school year. Wait. What?
I know it’s trite. I know that it has been said a thousand times in a thousand ways but where did this year go? Next year, I will be the proud parent of a first and fourth grader. It is the parenting of the eldest that is always the most precarious. Uncharted territory. With the second, you get to try and patch the pitfalls that you made with the first. You know when to push back, when to let up, when to shut up and when to leave the house before it all blows up.
Every year, we ask our children to reflect on the school year. Usually this conversation takes place over the slurping of a spaghetti dinner or trampolining at sunset on the first night of summer without a set bedtime. Reflecting is an important word in this family. It, much like breathing, is something that we must do but sometimes forget to do on this busy journey. It is such an easy step to skip…like forgetting the gas tank cap, toothpaste top, or to close the underwear drawer before the babysitter comes over. A little step. An important step nonetheless.
What I have realized slowly but surely (all of the epiphanies seem to come to me in this deliberate, foglifting kind of way) is that I, Matriarch, must reflect on each year too. I hear what these kids are saying. Multiplication was hard…it felt GOOD to master those times tables. It felt good to stand up for the friend on the playground when the bully gave them a wedgie. It felt good to be honest when I lied. I hear them loud and clear. I throw the most profound reflections on post-it notes, date them, wad them up and toss them into a Mason jar, also known affectionately as the Memory Jar. It it like a popcorn bag of shuffled chronology in there. Everything from first poo in the toilet to first stage-dive at pre-school graduation. They are in there in their crinkled up glory to be unfolded one day.
So back to practice-what-you-preach. Mothers of schoolers frequently keep at least one of their calendar years in this fashion. Start month? August. End month?…Last day of school. My turn to reflect on the year. We survived it. This is the least that I can do.
What I have learned this year:
- If you are standing in the hallway after your child has presented his/her project and another parent comes up to you and says “you guys did a really great job”, then you are DOING IT ALL WRONG. This is not your project. Not in the 3rd grade and sure as hell not in the 4th. If a project requires more of your time then your child’s, you are on track to be a horrendous enabler. Let it GO. The lettering does not have to be stenciled in a straight line. The Mayans will not descend a few months early to end the world if your child’s work is the actual work that is turned in. It is called teaching responsibility. And the best way that you can do it is to keep your perfect little penmanship off of their work. Whose assignment is this again?
- The other parents are crazy. And they think that you are too. There will be parents that you do not like in your child’s classroom. Plain and simple. But instead of coming home and sharing with your spouse that you think Jonah’s mom is a borderline psychotic and a really shitty driver, stay the course. And zip it. Their ears hear everything. Even from behind closed doors. And truthfully, this is your opportunity to show them that we can all get along with people even if we are all different to put it mildly and nicely.That includes not going ballistic over the parent who cuts in line every day at pick-up time. That includes not eyerolling over the child who is allergic to deoderant, all nuts, latex balloons and poinsettias. Be sympathetic to the child who has to live with the crazy mom. Who knows? Maybe someone, somewhere will be sympathetic to yours for the very same reason.
- Do not tell your child that the teacher is wrong. There is a time to teach the kids when and how to usurp authority. It is not in kindergarten or third grade. I am not sure when it is. I will let you know when I figure it out. In the meantime, if you go on a rant about your kid’s teacher, guess what happens? Yep. Monkey see, monkey do. My child went straight to school and the first thing out of that taut little mouth was something like, “My mom says that you are WRONG.” I don’t know what comes after that line. I choose not to stick around long enough to find out. Basically, I have been on the other side a few times. Did a few 24 hours as a teacher myself. They have a hard job. You can disagree in a tactful way. Choose your battles wisely and acknowledge all of the things they are doing right during the onslaught. But leave the kid out of it. You may be Maverick, Top Gun. But your child ain’t Goose…nor should they be.
- Last but not least. You cannot drink until you blackout but you can stage a BLACKOUT every now and then. My kids love Blackout night. Sounds raucous, I know. We stumbled upon this ritual by accident. The electricity was knocked out by a spring storm a few months ago. Electronics weren’t working. The house was dark. The TVs were dormant. Heaven. We sat in the dark with flashlights and talked. Told stories. Invented chain stories. Made up wacky songs about athlete’s foot and country ham n’ biscuits. You know what happened? The lights came on and we weren’t finished having our fun. Blackout is now a regular ritual around here. And by far one of my favorites. Just don’t agree to stage it during a Stanley Cup final without consulting your spouse first.
And so it goes into the history book. My reflection on School Year 2011-2012. Wonder what the next one will hold. Bet it involves a takeback on part of this one. That’s ok. Isn’t that the point? Life’s but one big, fat draft, revise, reflect and edit … and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photo: TJ reportedly in reflection mode, 2012