For me, the phrase “Back to School!” stirs up feelings of failure.
I know others swoon when the calendar flips to August, and for many reasons. End of summer vacation means kids will go to bed earrrrrrrlier. They will meet new calculus-obsessed friends. They will get smarter. They will have something to do that doesn’t involve game controllers, over-chlorinated water, arguing, whining, or, if they’re teens, sleeping until the crack of noon.
Not that I know anything about that last one.
For me, “Back to School!” time is a wake-up call. It forces me to evaluate what happened the previous few months. Or rather, what did not happen. This is when I prepare myself for a painful tumble in my own vicious cycle of hope and disappointment.
Every April or May, I feel like an overfilled water balloon of enthusiasm just wanting to burst on the scene where accomplished/organized people dwell. I make plans. I dream. I set so many ambitious goals for myself and my sons.
Here’s the springtime dialogue, if only in my head: “This is the summer it’s all gonna happen, guys! First, we’ll organize your rooms to the point where we might see the floor! After that, we’ll enrich our minds. We’ll go to museums. We’ll study ‘til dawn. We’ll learn new skills, scale sequoia trees, volunteer, write to our elected officials, watch foreign movies with subtitles, alphabetize the spice rack—no, no—grow our own spices first, then store them in bottles we crafted ourselves in glass blowing class and then alphabetize from black pepper to thyme.”
I exaggerated my thoughts up there. I avoid movies with subtitles.
But when I consider the history of my parenting journey, every summer has ended up mostly unproductive. To begin with, I am the ultimate ball-dropper. From the time my guys were little, I would fail to register them on time for the fun camps. (To this day, the word “register” is my shiver-inducing kryptonite.)
Like clockwork, I’d get word of something awesome a week too late, only to learn the department of recreation’s ultimate experience sold out the first day of registration. “CAMP FULL” became my pouty mantra. My kids’ summers defaulted to suffering through leftover day camps like “Mud Pies ‘N Math!” or “Exploring Folk Music.”
Today, my guys are teens who are becoming independent young men. Yet, they still require some adult-orchestrated structure (cattle prodding) because they are, in fact, teens. And I continue to drop more balls than a pre-schooler at a bowling alley.
The tasks that were still on my shoulders for this summer—gently suggesting productive, daily activities, organizing and executing college visits, signing up the guys for enriching teen-centric classes—may or may not have happened by press time. Hopefully, I hit the 10 percent mark.
If I didn’t, oh well. I’ll know at least my family earned an A+ in “Pillow Case Design with Drool!”
Sleep. That’s what summer’s really all about. Right?