Before yesterday, thinking about a bright, sunny Labor Day Saturday spent at an amusement park filled me with… a certain kind of sweaty dread.
But also a realization. Summer is over. My sabbatical is almost over. These swaths of free time where the kids are stuck with me are almost over.
Maybe a Saturday at an amusement park with family and friends isn’t something that should fill me with apprehension.
If there is anyone who deserves my best behavior, or my biggest smile, or c’est la vie attitude, it’s them. If there is anyone I should muster patience and energy for, it’s them.
But if they think they’re getting Dippin’ Dots after 5 pm before we have dinner…
The kids are back in school and I’m jealous. If I could only go back to school now, I think my experience would be so different. And I don’t just mean how much better I’d be at flashcards.
When you were a kid, what did being an adult mean? No more school. No more homework. Graduation was the final destination of learning. Being an adult was one long summer vacation. School and education are the same thing and that education inevitably stops. This obviously says something about our school systems but it also says something about parents.
I don’t want to raise kids that are good at school. I want to raise lifelong students who know that learning is an endless pursuit, to believe one never graduates or arrives at some final destination of education.
School has started back up. One of the frequent bits of hand-wringing last year, myself included, was that the pandemic was a lost year, or that the kids were falling behind, or not learning anything. In my more rationale moments, I was able to see that this was mostly absurd, stress from other things finding an easy target.
By some metrics there probably was some backsliding, but did your kids really not learn anything? I hope not. And I doubt it. If I’ve learned anything from being a parent for a decade, it’s that kids are always watching and listening. So they were learning things. Just not likely the things they typically standardize test for at the end of an academic year.
They were learning how unpredictable life can be. They were learning about pressure and stress and about how important (and necessary) it is to be resilient and adaptive. They learned that their Mom was a boss on conference calls and worked hard every day to help people get through a difficult time. They learned about the importance of frequent vacuuming and the healing power of fresh baked bread. They learned how important relationships and good friends were. They learned about politics and and public health, if they wanted to or not! They learned about how interconnected we all ultimately are.
I hope they learned that education doesn’t just happen in school. It’s a lifelong, never ending journey.
I’m on the record many times about being a person that likes routines and order. I like having a plan. I like figuring out what we are going to have for dinner over my first cup of coffee in the morning. This…trait can be helpful in many aspects of life but I do find myself saying ‘No’ a lot because it’s not on the to-do list or it’s not on the menu.
I can easily defend saying ‘no’ as doing the responsible thing, the necessary thing but is it the best thing as a Dad? If this strange summer has taught me anything it’s that you just never know how long you have. Why not say ‘Yes’ a little more. More chocolate chips in those pancakes? Sure. A neon red slushie at 11 a.m.? Sure. Going for a walk on the beach at 10 p.m.? Sure. It might drive my ordered mind temporarily insane but I’ll forget. The girls will remember those slushies.
The girls started back to school this week and I’m feeling…stressed and anxious? Probably not completely uncommon but I realized after a little tiff with Cecilia over homework on Day 2 that I really prefer Summer/Camp Dad to School Year Dad.
Not that Summer Dad never gets upset he just seems to listen a little more and snap a little less. I don’t want the one time I’m really present and focused on my kids for the next six months to be only about homework. I might learn a lot about base-10 number systems but maybe not so much about my child.
So, as we talked about the new school year, expectations and goals over dinner this week, I set one of my own: to let go of some of that anxiety and frustration and try to be more like Summer Dad all year long.
Just without all the sunscreen each morning. I won’t miss the sunscreen.
There were a lot of weird things that happened in the 80’s: Bunnicula, Mr Belvedere’s employment situation, those weird vinyl E.T. dolls, Noid, Muppet Babies, but somewhere up near the top of the list must be the musical Cats. How did this become a hit?
It would be easy to blame Michelle, but I really only have myself to blame for this one. As a joke, I put on the cast recording in the car one day and later showed them a few YouTube clips. Cecilia was appropriately horrified. Allison, on the other hand, was smitten. This was the greatest thing since glitter tattoos and warm chocolate chip cookies.
She has spent the entire week begging to listen and learn more about this strange tribe of cats. She has been prancing around the house singing Magical Mister Mistoffelees. I have spent it cursing Andrew Lloyd Webber.