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June 20, 2013

Optimism of the start of the school year is gone

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The Daily Star

---- — I’ve got nothing left to give. 

By the time you read this, my long slog through the last few weeks of elementary school will be over.

I can all but promise you that the end will not be pretty.

We start every school year with such outsized hopes. This will be the year that my kids always arrive clean and well-fed. Their homework will be neatly labeled and in its appropriate folder. Lunches will be packed the night before and contain all four food groups in USDA-recommended proportions. The mornings will run swiftly and smoothly, like a fine piece of German engineering.

This lasts longer than one might think. It’s hard to say exactly when we start cutting corners — but it is easy to say that these last few weeks are full of parental equivocations.

You have an apple in your lunchbox? Awesome. And, no, I don’t care that it’s the same apple that’s been in there for the last month. It’s an apple, at least, and will make up for the leftover bacon I just tossed in there.

Your homework is crumpled at the bottom of your backpack? Great. Smooth it out and sit on it during the ride to school. Couldn’t hurt. Might help.

You bathed three days ago? Well, it’ll have to do because you don’t have time to shower now. And could you put your shoes on, like I asked you? What? No, I don’t have 24 cupcakes for you to take in today. Why would I have two dozen cupcakes just sitting around? Could you have mentioned this earlier? 

That’s not a dress anymore, child, it’s a top. No, it’s not OK. Please tell me you have shorts on under it. I know you’ve outgrown everything but, no, we’re not going clothes shopping tonight. Three more weeks, kid. Your wardrobe just needs to last three more weeks.

A shoebox? Why? Could you have mentioned this earlier, too? My diorama supplies have been exhausted.

No, I don’t know what we’re having for dinner. No, we’re not ordering pizza. Can we focus on right now, please.

Dude. Get off of the floor. I know the dog loves it when you’re down there. Get. Up. Brush your teeth. Then you should have eaten the cereal when we gave it to you. Now is not cereal-eating time; it’s getting-out-the-dang-door time. 

Wait. Today is another half-day? Rats.  

And on and on. The me of right now laughs at the beginning-of-the-school-year me. 

It’s not just about how tired we are of the routine, it’s also about how all of the end-of-year capstone events stack up on each other. We need to register for summer programs by when? Is today the band concert or the school play? Which parent and kid combo needs to be where when? And which accessories are also needed?

(An aside: I have no idea how elementary school band teachers do it. I tip my proverbial cap to you. Your patience is mighty.)

Right now, we’re weary and scrambling. We’re ready to not push quite so hard to fit it all in. Enough already. 

The teachers must be struggling through these last few weeks, too. All of the children’s quirks and habits have got to be wearing thin by now. Their daily school routines are just as chaotic at this point as ours are at home. Plus, the parents aren’t helping, what with the crumpled homework and smelly offspring.

I’m looking forward to the day after the last day of school, when we can all sleep in and rush only from our beds to the back porch. It will be a delight.

Well, it will be a delight for a week, until the whining about how boring summer is and how boring we are. All of the books we have are boring, too. Ditto all of the library’s books and every TV show ever made and the Wilber park pool and ...

They say a change is as good as a rest. Do new complaints count as a change?

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.” Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.