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Parenting Imperfect

June 23, 2012

Strangest days are right before the school year ends

This month's column may be more scattered than usual. As I write this, we're in that limbo between when I'm off for the summer and when my kids are. It's one of the strangest times of the year.

Which implies that the rest of the year is never strange. I laugh just typing that sentence.

"Strange" might not be the right word. "Out of whack" might be a better phrase. "Unsettling" and "too quiet to be good" are two more.

Usually, I fill this time with all of the projects that I can't get done during the college's academic year. Last time around, I painted our dining room. My grand plan for this year was to finally paint my home office, with an added excursion into the depths of my yarn closet.

Yes, I have a closet devoted to yarn. Don't judge, judgers.

Then we got a puppy, who is a delight (mostly) but who also makes large-scale home improvement projects impossible. If we're not out walking, we're inside prying shoes out of her mouth.

I can imagine the havoc that would be wreaked if the floor was covered with paint brushes and yarn balls, and have decided to spare myself the trauma. The ability to make this call is a sign of maturity, I feel, or of exhaustion. Or both.

The past few weeks of dog ownership have made me realize there are only a few places where babies and puppies overlap, in terms of your day-to-day life. Both can get into trouble in the time it takes to sneeze. Both have inscrutable sleeping schedules. And both cause strangers to stop you on the sidewalk in order to deliver advice about small critters and how you are doing it wrong.

Other than those three points, however, the experience has been completely different. Plus, more people stop to fawn over the puppy during a day's walks than have ever stopped to fawn over my children.

Gratifying, yes, but said fawning can make the walks ever so much longer.

Which is fine, mostly, because I don't have all that much else to do right now. There are doctor's appointments to catch up on, yes, and writing projects to finally finish. But other than that, it's oddly quiet.

A smart person would use all of this time to get ahead on things and accomplish big stuff. I should appreciate this lacuna, where expectations and crises are low.

Yet, it just feels too weird to allow me to do much than comment about how weird it is.

I also know that soon enough I'll be heartily sick of summer and of always having either a kid or a dog or all of the above demanding my attention and/or snacks. The constant to-ing and fro-ing will quickly work my last nerve. And it will be hot, which is my least favorite form of weather. I had 10 years of near-constant hot when we lived in Texas and Tennessee. I've paid my dues.

It's the broken routines that make me all itchy inside. During the school year, the day is predictable. We wake the kids; we cajole them into clothes; we force food into them; we send them out of the door. Frequently there is yelling involved, because neither child seems all that concerned about our German-like levels of time management.

None of that happens during the summer. The kids wake when they wake and eat when they eat. We wander to city-sponsored swimming and tennis lessons. We stroll to the library. There is general lolling.

Since I'm in loll mode already, weekday mornings aren't as efficient as they are when we all have to make it out of the door. I keep forgetting to accomplish vital tasks, such as packing lunches and nagging about hygiene. A couple of times, at about 10 a.m., I've wondered if either kid brushed his or her teeth.

Don't panic _ teeth get brushed in the summer, too. We're just not as organized about it.

Right now, from the perspective of a parent whose kids are still in school for another week or so, I'm looking forward to the break from hectic mornings. There will be decidedly less homework. And there won't be all of the meetings and events that come out of nowhere but that have to be attended to right now, lest the world implode.

For example, I can't imagine having to make a late-night run for posterboard, which the Diva forgot to mention needing until mere hours before it was required.

I'm really looking forward to not having to pack lunches. I'm sure my kids are looking forward to not having to face what I've packed.

By this point in the year, I'm out of fresh ideas for lunch. I sent my daughter to school with leftover bacon the other day, not because it was what she wanted _ although she does like bacon _ but because it was already in a plastic bag in the fridge.

It's always the transitions that are hard. Once we're deep in the heart of summer I'll wonder why this period of time was full of angst, which means it will be time to start stressing out about school again.

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.

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