Monday, August 19, 2013

A lament for the longest days of the year


Every August, like a dog returning to its vomit, I dredge up the homeschooling vs. public school debate with Dean. He is always kind. He sympathizes and wishes things were different, but, Sask? You remember when you homeschooled, Frankie, right? How when it was your turn to host art class, sometimes you did a project on pointillism and sometimes you frantically found tissue paper and had everybody glue it on a heart? And it wasn't Valentine's Day? And you also remember how you enthusiastically bought math curriculums and seventeen penmanship workbooks and you did about a half hour a day and then mooned around the house wondering how to fill the interminable hours?

Yes, I remember. But I also remember, and I mean no offense to teachers, I am sure it is mighty difficult to try to adapt a lesson on addition to twenty-seven children, how that hour a week in math put Frankie right smack where she needed to be for second grade. And to be honest, her penmanship still stinks.

It just seems like cheating to send your kids to school. It's like using a gift bag. We all know that a gift bag is cheating at the life game of wrapping presents. Ditto store-bought birthday cards, frozen stuffed shells and pillowcase dresses bought online. This is how my brain works. This is what all those straight A's have come to. I do not want to get a B in homemade cornbread.

Do I really get to stay home with just Susannah and drop Frankie and Molly off for eight hours each morning? Totally cheating. I am used to three tiny pairs of hands rubbing cherry lemonade into new shorts. I am used to concentrating on my BSF lesson while simultaneously filtering out the flying limbs and wild cheering of three girls practicing gymnastics landings from the coffee table. That is a skill. That is a skill I have finely honed.

It sounds lovely in theory to have naptime to myself, but I am dreading sending the girls back to school in two weeks. Two sad, pitiful little weeks. This summer has gone down in history as the one in which far too much time was spent sitting by a bedside in the ICU and not nearly enough time spent lathering myself in SPF 70 while the children eat handfuls of sandy grapes. I only had to dig two sand holes for Sukie to pee in. Nobody peed in bushes or beach grass. Hopefully, no one peed in the pool. We all  peed in the lake. There's no shame. That's what rip currents are for. To take our pee out to the middle of the sea.

We have spent one day, ONE DAY, at "the lake house", otherwise known as Carley's parents' house on Pickerel Lake. All year long, in the dead gray of February and March and April, I hear a non-stop refrain: "When can we go to the lake house? Tomorrow? When, mom? Call Miss Carley and ask her? WHY NOT, MOM? Here I will dial the phone! Here she is!". If the sum of the intensity of pleading plus the number of eighty degree days in Michigan summers minus the days when Carley's parents are sick of having six kids in the their home equals the number of days spent whiling away the hours lakeside, then this summer was a FAIL.

My children, of course, enjoyed every minute of their summer, regardless of how much their Opa suffered. The sicker he got, the more the fun was layered upon fun. I blame their father for this. Dean is incapable of allowing normal summertime benign parental neglect. When he is at work, I subscribe to the policy that the more time the kids spend playing in cardboard boxes on the neighbor's deck, the greater the number of neural pathways they will be laying down to make their little brains able to fire non-stop the rest of their lives. That's right, me ignoring them means that in their adult lives their brains will encounter new information and BANG! BANG! BANG! those neurons will shoot off like rockets. They will thank me on their knees for the times I didn't play pretend with them.

Dean refuses to buy into the motto of my parenting: "DO NOT ADD FUN TO FUN". If they are happy coloring rocks in the front yard, they are having fun. Do not add hot dogs. If they are busily working their way through reams of printer paper in the name of illustrating their own creative writing, do not offer to take them to the pool. Happy on the trampoline, no ice cream at Whippi Dip. Riding scooters in the driveway, no need for the drive-in. No, no and some more no to move-sized Skittles while we are making s'mores around the campfire.

There is such a thing as TOO MUCH FUN. And my children have had it. Maybe it's not cheating to have a little of it myself this year. Throw caution to the wind and buy a Lunchable or two.

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