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August 21, 2010

Parenting Imperfect: Summer starts with great possibilities, but when does school start?

Daily Star

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Summer, like pregnancy, goes on for three weeks longer than is tolerable.

One of the reasons we left Texas and Tennessee is that in both states, summers were brutal. Texas summers started in April and went until October. Temps hovered around the century mark; for months, the skies would fail to yield even a single cloud.

Tennessee summers were shorter but 9,000 times more humid. You could almost feel yourself starting to mildew.

Both of my kids were born during the summer. The Diva made her entrance in late June. The Boy was evicted in late July. I distinctly remember the unpleasantness of being eight months' pregnant in Tennessee. I'd come home from work, strip off all of my clothes, blast the AC as cool as it would go and lie under the ceiling fan until I could control the murderous rage that the heat had sent me into. Good times.

I do like certain parts of the summer, mind. Those first few days above 80 degrees are pretty sweet. You can stretch out on a rock outside and finally banish the long winter's chill from your bones, like a lizard might.

I'm also fond of the first few weeks that the kids are out of school. Possibilities seem endless, then. There are vacations yet to take. Movies yet to see. General lazing around yet to laze. Late June is all about potential.

Late August is all about anticipatory listlessness. We're all done with summer and killing time before school starts again. My husband and I go back to teaching almost two weeks before the kids go back to school, so we always spend this part of the year furiously juggling professional and personal obligations. This works about as well as you'd expect it to and makes the end of August exceptionally irritating.

Then there's the weather, which is one topic that makes you seem ancient if you complain about it. I'll run that risk, though, since my students are convinced I'm older than dirt anyway, especially when I tell them tales of the dark ages before the Internet and cell phones. I can almost hear them cry when they imagine it.

Even before we moved to the South, I hated being overly hot. As a kid in Pittsburgh, where summers are as mild as Oneonta's, I would find a patch of shade to spend August in, like one of those spiders who only stick a leg out when food is nearby.

To this day, I'd much rather be half-frozen than half-baked. Um, no pun intended. When you are cold, you can toss another layer on. When you are too warm, you quickly run out of things to take off, especially if you intend to leave your house.

I'm an adult and can deal with my dislike for the first two months of the season. It's August that throws me over the edge. Not only is it hot, but the Diva is bored. She claims that there is nothing fun left to do. The only enjoyment she has is complaining about how dull everything and everyone is.

She's not wrong. I've run out of good ideas for filling summer days and lack the energy to foster creative boredom because I am too warm to think. I'd like to crawl into my shady spot, frankly, and emerge after our first frost.

I can't, of course. Because this is the time when we have to get ready for school and make supply and clothes runs on what feels like an hourly basis. I swear that all of the sun is making the kids grow faster. How can a skirt be long enough in the morning but pop-star short by bedtime?

My saving grace for the last three summers is that I've only had one kid to sweat with. Because I am the meanest parent ever, the Boy has spent the last few summers in day care. That's all about to change.

This fall, he'll start kindergarten, which means he'll be booted out of day care just as his parents are going back to work. We'll be juggling two bored and ansty kids this August rather than one.

Still, he's ready for "real" school and seems excited to start. The better question is whether "real" school is ready for him.

As one of his preschool teachers put it, "He wants to be the class clown but hasn't figured out what's funny yet." Which means that he has to keep trying different approaches _ including extra sass and plastic fork-related violence _ to suss out what makes people laugh.

George Carlin got his start in pre-school, right?

In addition to all of the other milestones that going to kindergarten entails, what this means is that the weeks running up to school's start will be filled with twice the boredom, twice the supply runs and twice the clothes shopping trips. There are certainly worse problems to have but, still, is it fall yet?

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Sweater Quest," which was published in March. Her columns can be found at parentingimperfect.