THE YIN-YANG OF SUMMER VS. THE SCHOOL YEAR

It was the first day of fourth grade for my son after a very
unproductive summer of playing mind-warping video games with friends and
perfecting butt slams (a distant version of the cannonball) in the pool. Like all
aspects of motherhood, I have a love/hate relationship with the whole summer
vacation thing.

I hate the structure of the school year – and the out-of-control
frantic pace. Getting up twenty minutes before school starts and driving at a
frantic pace to school, only to have to wait in the “line” to drop my son off
at the curb; driving at a frantic pace to pick up my son when the school day
ends, or else suffer the looks I get from the other mothers who are
“responsible” enough to pick their kids up on time; the homework battles;
driving at a frantic pace to whatever sports practice we have; frantically
searching for whatever dinner can be made in ten minutes or less on the two
nights a week we do have practices; realizing it’s 9 p.m. and homework hasn’t
been completed; frantically trying to complete homework; the bedtime battles;
me usually falling asleep before my son because hey, by 10:30 p.m., I’m past
the point of being able to form complete sentences.

Waking up and doing it again for the next ten months.

Then again, I love the structure the school year brings
because we get so much more done. My son becomes smarter, and more athletic.
Kids thrive on a routine (at least that’s what all the kid books say) – meals
are at a semi-regular time, bedtimes, wake-up times…all the things that will supposedly
turn my child into a well-functioning member of society. And with nothing but
hours of solitude in front of me while my son is in school, I have no excuse
not to write. Because when I have all this time and I don’t use it to write, I
end up self-flagellating to the point of nausea, thereby making myself so sick
that I have no choice but to write if I want to feel better.

I hate the lazy days of summer. From the moment the school
year ends I am counting down the days until school begins. It’s turned into a
running joke among my friends. “How are you doing?” they ask me. “Only one
month, 20 days, 3 hours and 33 minutes until school starts again!” I answer. If
anyone needs to know on any given day how much longer summer purgatory will
last, they know who to call.

I hate it being too hot to cook, so proper nutrition falls
along the wayside. My food pyramid is as follows: Microwavable frozen food
taking up the largest part, followed by anything that can be heated in the
toaster oven (usually greasy breaded crap), ice cream and candy from the
ice-cream truck that I swear comes around at least six times a day, and fruit,
which let’s hope cancels out all the bad-for-you food karma.

And I hate making and subsequently breaking the promise that
THIS will be the summer we prepare ourselves academically for the next grade.
That we will do math practice worksheets, memorize times tables, write letters
to the grandparents, read a book a night…

Ahhh, but I do so love those lazy days of summer, when we go
to bed at 1 a.m. because we’re watching movies, and get up a little before 11,
because what the heck do we need to get up for anyway? Neighborhood kids are
running in and out of my house all day long, laughing, the dogs are barking,
the pool is full of activity and a glass of beer or wine tastes better when
it’s 93 degrees outside.

For all the complaining I do about wanting and needing peace
and quiet, and not being interrupted fifty times in a day I have to admit I was
lost without my son that first day of school. I wandered room to room,
contemplating all the things I could do. So many potentially productive hours
stretched ahead of me (wasn’t this what I had been waiting for?), and yet I
found myself missing my son terribly, and wondering what he was doing at
various moments throughout the day. Does he like his new teacher? What was he
eating for lunch? Did he play soccer during recess?

After an entire summer of practically 24/7
together, it’s time for me to cut the umbilical cord once again — allow for
his independence — and mine.

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