Is It Just Me – Let There Be School

I love my kids. I swear. As individuals, they are fascinating, unique creatures and I am a proud Dr. Frankenstein. But, together, during the couple of weeks before school started up again, we created an environment that was like a tornado at midnight; dark, unending and very, very loud.

Think of the math – premenopausal woman with fourteen year old son, Charlie, about to start Grade Nine at a new high school where he only knew one kid from his old school who he didn’t particularly like + teenage hormones + a seven and a half year-old, Harrison, who sounds and expends energy like Elmo on helium. Bracket in that these two brothers thrive on fighting like warring clansmen, even though they actually adore each other.

We all have our equations. But, we aren’t all good at problem-solving and, unfortunately, I dropped Math in Grade Thirteen.

As people returned to the city, to their lives, I was reunited with other moms who described fabulous, relaxing summers. Some had life-changing adventures while their children were away at summer camp. These moms appeared rested and serene. They were svelte and tanned or pale, depending upon their preferences. Some had learned a new language or how to play an instrument. I learned how to tell the difference between Silly Bandz and wannabe imposter brands of elastic bracelets.

Some families, I was told, spent the entire summer camping or cottaging together, romping in nature, growing, eating, playing Scrabble, collecting tadpoles or birch tree branches to display in their fall urns. They returned hale. They were bonded together like strings of boondoggle. Outwardly, I admired the hell out of them but secretly, they made me slightly nauseous. I am not out-doorsey. I like to read. I like movies. I am very fond of air-conditioning. My family and I occasionally enjoy hiking up escarpments and playing basketball on our driveway, but afterwards, we repair inside to the comfort of our own beds, up on frames and under comfy duvets, far from the threats of bears, starving mosquitoes and too many baked beans.

I admit that by the start of September, I was eager for my children to resume a schedule, spending eight hours each day in a place where human body parts are only mentioned in health class. I wanted our house to myself, if only for an hour or two, so I could sit and write in silence or run naked between the washing machine and the hall closets that need to be winterized. Does that make me a horrible mother?

The two weeks prior to the beginning of school were challenging for my family. I encouraged Charlie and Harrison to make plans with friends or to hang out at home, resting up. I invited them out for shopping excursions but realized that for a kid, visiting Staples before school starts is like watching “Running Man” before your next dentist appointment.

I was of two minds. Part of me wanted to allow my children to sleep in, laze around, feed often and visit their own individual happy places even if these are video wastelands. The other part of me, the practical mom, wanted them to begin not only going to bed earlier but waking up earlier too, certainly in the case of Charlie who thinks that time is just a word to describe a memory. I wanted him to try a practice run to his new school via subway and feet. I wanted Harrison to practice his multiplication tables. True, he learned to play a mean game of gin rummy over the summer and beat me almost every time, but I’m pretty sure counting cards isn’t included in Grade Three math.

But, Charlie never did the simulated rush to school and the practice math book for Harrison remained untouched. I chose to take the non-hysterical fork in the road and not force my issues of preparedness on my kids. Charlie agreed to go to his bedroom earlier when it was merely a passing suggestion. Whether or not he immediately fell asleep was beyond my control, but at least he was in the appropriate location when exhaustion overcame his love affair with anything electronic. Harrison learned a couple more card games.

During that time, my life was meant solely to take care of the others in my domain. I stopped feeling agitated that we didn’t do all the fun things I wanted for us this summer or that I didn’t have a chance to just think. I understood that whether my boys realized it or not, they needed me more than ever throughout the few weeks before the new school year. I tried not to take their acting out personally. I knew that they were excited and nervous. I felt for them because I, too, was excited and nervous on their behalves — although I would never admit feeling the latter to them.

Charlie and I attended his new high school for orientation. He ran into a boy he knew and really liked at camp a few years ago as well as some teachers extremely gifted in buoying up teenage boys without them even realizing what is happening. I was impressed and relieved. As we left, my son told me that he wanted to get to school on his own the first day. “Nothing against you, Mom. I just want to find my own way. Thanks for helping me feel like that.”

The first morning of Grade Three, after a huge rainfall and continuing sky-high temperatures, Harrison told me that he’d invented a new word. “It’s phewmid out today, Mom” he said. “A cross between ‘phew’ for stinky and ‘mid’ for humid!”

I laughed, told him he should call Oxford, (he asked me who Oxford is) and thought that both my boys are going to be just fine.

Let there be school.

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