Monday, August 10, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Yesterday afternoon my girls and I saw a commercial that sent all three of us into gales of laughter--albeit for very different reasons. The commercial I refer to is a real side-splitter, one of those rare "bids for attention" that actually succeeds in getting the viewer to watch the entire thing. It is a commercial for Staples. In it, a giddy father swoops along happily in a Staples store, two solemn-faced youngsters trailing him in silence. He laughingly waves pens and note pads and staplers in the faces of his kids before carelessly tossing the supplies into his cart. Then he does a little jig up the isle, positively glowing with joy. The cheerless children mope along, while the music in the background warbles, "It's the most wonderful tiiimmmmeeee of the year!"

Yes, school begins again. For us, it starts in less than two weeks--12 days to be exact. And while there is a part of me that is going to be doing a little celebrating of my own (altho I doubt I'll be dancing through the aisles at Staples like the dad in the commercial), I know that I am going to miss the girls desperately. We've gotten into a self-sufficient routine that is as comfortable as it is predictable. And as much as I like to fly by the seat of my pants (as evidenced by my lack of focus, commitment, or any other form of adult-esque maturity) I like that, during the summer, I know just what my day with my girls is going to be like.

This year, I find, I'm having a bit harder time with the idea that they will soon be headed back to the hallowed halls of learning. They're getting older--going into 5th and 3rd--and they just don't need me as much. Their growing independence comes out in little but undeniable ways--the other day before heading off to the beach, I started putting sunscreen on my oldest daughter. She said, "Mom, I can do it" and took the bottle right out of my hands. I was a little stung--after all, no one can put on sunscreen like a mom, right? I woefully predicted she'd miss a spot and end up with a burn, but she did a good job--the aloe vera gel stayed in the medicine cabinet that night. My youngest daughter has already grown impatient with my pursuit of her for hugs and kisses. She's a cuddler--but on her terms. 

But of course (and perhaps this is part of the reason I'm not looking forward to the advent of school in a week and a half) when it comes to homework, they are definitely not independent. Homework is a grueling two-hour-a-day test of my ability to actually help them understand what they're supposed to be doing. The show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" would laugh me out of the room--throughout Sam's fourth grade year, I proved more than once than I'm not even as smart as a 4th grader. 

My favorite (ahem) example of this is when I tried to help Sam with some pre-pre-algebra sort of stuff. I vaguely remembered the general principal from 6th or 7th grade 30 years before. I gamely tried to demonstrate how to beat an algebraic equation into submission using just my brain. I'll never forget that day--Sam and I were in the waiting area at my other daughter's gymnastics class, sitting at a table reserved for siblings with homework. There were four or five other kids there in various stages of homework frustration. And try as I might, I just couldn't help Sam with her math. At last in desperation, she asked a couple other moms who were hanging around for help with her homework (yes, having your daughter give up on you helping her with math is a singularly humiliating feeling). The other moms gave it their best shot, too--but in the end, I decided my answers had to be the right ones, and instructed Sam to write them down.

The next day when she arrived home from school, I could tell by her face she was struggling between tears and laughter. I suspected I knew why...and sure 'nuff, she pulled out her graded homework from the day before. Her answers --ahem, my answers--were wrong. Every single one. I found myself in the unique position of trying to explain to my kid why I didn't know how to do fourth grade math. I couldn't explain, so I directed her that next time she needed to know what x equalled, she could go ahead and ask her dad!

So now with school right around the corner, the kids are excited to see their friends again, worried about increasingly difficult homework, and hoping they get nice teachers. I am excited for them, and glad for myself that I'll be able to get back into a routine of my own. I have several article proposals out there that I'm waiting to hear back on (and one idea is, in my never-to-be-humble opinion, so good that I've already started my research--after all, how could the magazine possibly turn me down??) plus the cookbook Stargrazers that I'm co-authoring. I've got plenty to keep me busy. I'm also trying desperately to finish my writing website so when potential clients ask me if I have a website, I can answer them in the affirmative rather than hem and haw and generally look like a behind-the-times ass. And I just finished writing my one year plan for moving from the occasional freelance work to full-time freelance writer. So I definitely won't be bored when they trundle off to school.

But once the elation of seeing them off for another year wears off, and the strains of "It's the most wonderful tiiimmmmeeee of the year" fade away, I'll miss them. And our own special summer routine. 

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