Back to School, Back to Reality…

By: Aimee Tafreshi

Adair going to schoolSummer is officially over. In reality, fall does not commence until Wednesday, September 23, but I’m not counting down the days; really, I love the intense heat. The thermometer is also not fooled by the States’ attempt to usher a quick end to summer. We may be shopping for fall clothes at Target, but let’s be honest here; no one is going to rock a cardigan in 90-plus degree weather.

So now that the school board has declared the demise of summer with its own calendar system, what does that mean for families across America? Parents, the party is officially over. Dust off the alarm clock and get ready to pack some healthy kid-friendly lunches, because the school bus comes at a quarter after 7, and you better have your child ready to go! Every day I get my child off to school on time with breakfast ingested, teeth brushed and appropriate footwear worn, I award myself one mom pint point.

Funny how kids have trouble waking up early on a school day, but on a Saturday, the kids have already been playing (school, ironically) for an hour when you crawl out of bed at 6:30 a.m. My three-year-old son does not even escape the obligations of primary school. I had to sprint upstairs this morning before bus pickup to rouse him from his dreamy slumber. I did take a small amount of pleasure in waking him, as I slyly recalled his past pre-5 a.m. rise and shine routine.

My older son takes after me, as he does not fall into the morning lark camp. His musical alarm clock wakes him each morning with a cheery song (sheer torture for a night owl), and he comes downstairs and collapes on the couch, cold and in need of a blanket. I can relate, as even in the blazing hot days of August, early mornings will find me in athletic pants and a hoodie, before my body thaws out from my peaceful slumber. I try to cajole him to eat some breakfast, but he just stares at me with vacant Pete the Cat eyes.

My daughter, the only one attending elementary school, is luckily a morning person, and she spends most of her “getting ready” time brushing her hair à la Marcia Brady and furtively applying “kiddie” make-up, with plans to do makeovers of all the girls at recess. (She is in second grade.) I recently read an article about the massive successes of Harvard MBA female graduates who have launched beauty-based businesses like Birchbox and Rent the Runway, so I didn’t bat a mascaraed eye at my daughter charging $10 (her price) for a manicure (or pedi, their choice) on her classmates. This morning she skipped off wearing a prim dress with her makeshift make-up bag (a Pepto-Bismoled colored fanny pack), ready to pamper her clients.

We hit the teacher jackpot this year with an educator who does not believe in assigning a lot of homework. Hallelujah! After 20 years of school, I did not realize with three children I was signing myself up for 18 more years of homework, given their staggered school careers. I will spend half of my life doing homework – yippee!

Thankfully, my daughter’s teacher is into research, which tells her that the most effective “homework” and predictor of a child’s success is reading twenty minutes a night. I am hopeful that my daughter eventually loves reading for pleasure as much as I did as a child. Despite the scaled down homework, we still spent a solid hour last night on spelling words and reading a page-turner on Tinkerbell and her fellow fairies. (My daughter keeps forgetting to bring home a school book, so we are stuck reading from her personal collection of Pinkalicious and Disney characters.) When she remembers, she usually chooses a nature type book because she knows I enjoy them. She is thoughtful like that.

We hit a bit of a bump last night when my husband asked my daughter to make a sentence with the word “me.” Her sentence went something like, “My friends and me like to go to the park.” No, it’s my friends and I, we corrected. “Why don’t you like my sentence?” she wailed. I attempted to explain the rules behind “I” and “me”, but we decided to move on and save that lesson for another evening. Once there are tears involved, it is time for a new topic. In truth, after a glass of wine and a full day with my three-year-old, I began questioning the rule and the best way to explain grammar to a child. In the South, you probably hear the improper version more than the correct one. It’s not ignorance; it’s just a folksy way of speaking.

Other than waking up before the roosters and homework time for mom and dad, there is one HUGE benefit to having the kids back in school. Free babysitting! That’s right, I said it. I know you are all thinking it. Oh yeah, the learning, the intellectual stimulation, the socialization . . . that’s all great stuff, but I desperately needed some alone time after a summer of “fun” (a full-time job) with the kids.

Parents with children in private school can’t relate to the “free” part, but you can relate to the freedom part. It’s tough to keep an elementary school student entertained all summer long. Now granted, we tend to send her to a variety of camps, and summer is a great time to try out new activities or brush up on skills. But toward the end of the summer, when you’re all sunburned and exhausted, you might throw up your hands and turn over the iPad for a Minecraft marathon. Or turn on Disney and let her veg out watching Jessie or Dog with a Blog (at least that pooch is literate).

Now that my oldest daughter is back in school, I can spend the next few months catching up on all the writing I did not do this summer. I realize these three munchkins will only be young once, and I know when they are teenagers they won’t want anything to do with me. So this summer I made time to go to the pool on a regular basis and just live in the moment. We didn’t travel anywhere, but we live on an island, so we didn’t have to wander far for a pool or beach.

I can finally get back on task, tucking those summer memories away as the year my daughter passed two levels of swim lessons, and my middle child gave up his inner tube in the pool. The youngest son, not to be outdone, can confidently put his face under water, blow bubbles with gusto and propel his body toward me in the shallow end, liberated from any flotation device. Now I will look forward to the crazy holiday parade stretching from Halloween to New Year’s, and my favorite part, college football season.

Best of luck to all the parents and caretakers as your children head back to school. I wish you patience, energy and a sense of humor.

Aimee Tafreshi is a mother of three young children and former litigator who contributes to Nameberry.com and her own blog, aimeetafreshi.com. She also enjoys teaching Zumba in her spare time, seeking out Mexican food dives (in Florida!) and watching Texas football.

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