Slices of Life: By Jill Pertler
It’s a wrap. Another school year complete – in the books. TGIF: Thank Goodness It’s Finished. Because I am tired. It happens every year.
Let’s face it, being a parent can be taxing. Being a parent with kids in school can be exhausting.
We start out strong in September — am I right? Lunch accounts are in the black. Healthy snacks line the shelves of the pantry and fridge. A dozen or more sharpened number two pencils are lined up in the homework station drawer; ditto that for extra erasers and pens in working order. We check the school’s parent website every Friday. Weekly progress reports are signed Sunday evening with ease, folded neatly and placed in the designated backpack pocket to ensure effortless retrieval Monday morning. Bedtime rituals are in place, as are bedtimes themselves. Weather-appropriate clothes are laundered and folded. A week’s worth of clean underwear and socks lie ready in dresser drawers.
We start out strong. Then September morphs into October and that unfolds into November and later December and we realize this is no short-lived stint. It’s a grueling test of endurance and fortitude and we still have months to go before we sleep.
And as those months unravel, one by one by one, so does the perfect life we intended back in September. Lunch accounts dwindle, as do healthy snack choices. When did chips (both potato and chocolate) become afterschool staples?
By March, matching socks are practically out of the question, but that’s okay because no one matches socks anymore anyway. Not if you’re cool, at least. Shorts are worn year-round, even in the most wintery of climates. Tennis shoes sport holes and broken laces, but what mom in her right mind is going to invest in another pair at this point in the race? We’re nearing mile marker 25 for goodness sakes. Everyone knows a kid’s feet grow in the summer, so shoes purchased in April would be of no service come fall.
We scour the house for a working pencil and rejoice when we find the bottom half of one pinched between the cushions of the couch. The eraser is missing (of course) but we find a nubbin in the junk drawer, previously known as the homework station drawer.
Weekly progress reports lie crumpled and forgotten at the bottom of a backpack. They are accompanied by candy wrappers, a tennis ball, discarded gym t-shirt, a lone sock and seven pencils. We should have thought to look there earlier in the day.
Every Friday I get a notification from the school that I can take a peek at which assignments my kid is missing. I got an email a more than a month ago that midterm grades were available online.
I’ve yet to check grades and I’ve stopped looking to see what assignments I’m supposed to harp on my kid about each week. I can’t bring myself to click on the link because my harping wore out sometime around late April.
In the final weeks of the school year, when we are at our most vulnerable state, one thing is certain: there will be at least one gigantic school project requiring hours and hours of research and preparation and learning. It goes without saying that this is a group project. Group projects are every parent’s favorite because they require more planning than any kid is capable of because to them a Monday morning deadline sounds very far off until Sunday afternoon when things suddenly become imminent and the group has to find a way to get together somehow and can someone’s mom give someone a ride now so this project can get done, or at least started. If you are the parent lucky enough to live in the home where the group decides to meet you also find yourself with the opportunity to provide them with pizza at 11 p.m. the night before the gigantic project is due.
This year I drove him to school each morning and we used to try to get there with five or 10 minutes to spare. That was in September when the newness of the year filled us with optimism and honor roll hopefulness. In the last weeks we cut the time gap down to seconds. I turned into the school driveway and braked to a slow roll as he jumped out and dashed into the building. I was often the one running late because it was May and I was tired. Not sleepy tired, but tired as in ready for summer tired. Ready to be done with schedules and homework and really gigantic projects.
I feel that way now, but it won’t last.
Come next September I’ll be summer-energized and unapologetically optimistic about my upcoming school-year performance. It happens every year. Hopefully I’ve only two to go.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.