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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Aug 21, 2013 - 9:08:23 AM


Dear Summer: Peace out! Love, Mom and Dad
By Jennifer Johnston
Aug 21, 2013 - 9:05:00 AM

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Just days before the start of school, not a single bike ...
...but at 8 am Monday, it's a packed rack!

There's something patently amusing about the mixed reaction you get when you mention the approaching start of the school year to a parent in the presence of his/her child. The mom or dad will stifle a smile while the son or daughter will groan, snarl, or whimper. One emotion is carelessly conspicuous while the other is thinly shrouded.
Why? Because kids are not supposed to love school, and parents are not supposed to love when their kids go back to school. In conjunction with children mourning the loss of their freedom, parents are expected to feel an impending void as well, one that tugs on the heartstrings at meet-the-teacher night and makes us tear up at that first arrival bell.
But for those of you (okay, us) barely able to contain a sense of glee at your (okay, our) youngsters' return to a seven-hour hiatus from home, accept the following as an absolution of guilt. It's not your kids you are looking to ditch, per se, but rather some of the trappings of summer vacation that grow old after twelve weeks. The lack of routine, enforced bedtimes, and nutritional discipline leave everyone a little gnarly by summer's end.
So here, for you and your real or imagined judge and jury, is a public acknowledgement of the legit aggravations that give summer love its limits.
1) At-home lunches often mean being a short-order cook. One child wants a turkey sandwich, but the other has adopted a strict vegetarian diet (which will be kicked to the curb once she realizes pepperoni is a meat) and lobbies for a grilled cheese. So much for splitting a sandwich, or at least creating an efficient production line. Going out is not much better, with the battle of Chick Fil A vs. Five Guys sure to ensue. Lunches at school follow the old adage, “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.” Love it or hate it, they will choke down whatever is in their bag or on their tray, and you never have to hear a whine or witness a look of disapproval.
2) Brothers and sisters locate – and work – that last nerve when they are together all day. Sibling rivalry reaches its zenith right around the Fourth of July. From there, it lurks in every snide remark, dirty look, and “accidental” collision. At best, it can be managed at a level that evades the emergency room and a likeness to reality television. The merciful school-day separation of sibs allows for repair of frayed nerves and redemption on the heels of some seriously compromised parenting.
3) Summer breeds boredom. It is hard to have sympathy for a kid that has so much freedom and so little responsibility. Even when the nagging finally mobilizes us, the challenge of finding the time and mental capacity to entertain a child for two and a half months seems insurmountable. Where possible, we enroll our kids in summer camps (under the guise of engaging their minds and/or bodies), and end up wishing we’d set up a 529 Plan to save for the multiple tuitions. Seriously, even private school per diem is easier on the wallet.
4) The house is nearly never clean, even when it’s just been cleaned, in the summertime. Sand/grass/pluff mud/construction dirt on the floor. Wet bathing suits and towels hanging on every hook and knob. Breakfast/snack/lunch/snack/snack/dinner/snack dishes in the sink. Craft supplies on every flat surface. Multiple unpacked day camp/sleepover bags jammed in the closets. All signs of a fun summer, yes. All menacing triggers for a borderline OCD parent, you betcha.
5) Children are at risk for complete cerebral evacuation by mid-August. When a rising third grader can't calculate what a customer owes for three 50-cent cups from her lemonade stand, or emails a grandparent to recap her “osum vakashun,” she needs to get back to the classroom, stat. And, no, the Fashion Math with Barbie app does not prevent the summer slide.
6) The kids are crashing the late-night party. Even where said party is hunkering down with the latest issue of Southern Living or polishing off a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies, that time is precious and frankly unintended for anyone not contributing to household maintenance or financing. The summertime free-for-all blissfully ends with the reinstatement of 8 bedtime on the Eve of First Day.
7) I love my kids, but I’m sick of the TV remote being in their grubby hands. There, I said it. It’s August, and I haven’t the foggiest idea what’s happened in the world since May 31. The littles have commandeered the clicker, toggling between episodes of Good Luck Charlie and Cupcake Wars in every discretionary moment. Even if I could beat them to the buttons, exposing them to network news is a little chancy. But when they are knee-deep in first-period related arts class, I can watch the Today Show with reckless abandon.
Your list may be shorter or longer, but the lesson is this: you needn’t feel badly about welcoming the school year with open arms. You will still miss your kids when they are gone, and be happy to see them when they return home at 3 p.m. And by May, we’ll all be ready to holler, “sayonara, school year!”

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