Sunday, August 23, 2009

Praise God, School is Back!

Last week, my daughter went back to school. She's now a proud first grader. It seems like just the other day I was picking her up from preschool, her Little Mermaid backpack lightly grazing the ground as she shuffled off to class, holding her teacher's hand. Now she's no longer into Disney Princesses. Ariel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty have surrendered their thrones to Hannah Montana and the cast of High School Musical. My little girl is growing up fast. Before I know it, she'll be wanting a cell phone and texting messages. Next comes boys. Talk about frightening! I can hear the theme from Halloween growing louder as I think about it. Already, while in preschool, she's had one little boy ask her to marry him. Emerson told him that she would, but first she wanted to finish kindergarten and get a horse. That's my daughter, a romantic perhaps, but with a practical side. Since then she's completed kindergarten, but given that I still haven't bought her a horse (nor can I find a law enforcement agency that does criminal background checks on six-year-old boys), I can just about guarantee that Emerson won't be getting married any time soon.

Yes, if my wife and I stop to contemplate the swiftness of time, we can become a little sad at how fast the years move. However, truth be told, last week we were too busy being fired up that summer was drawing to an end and that the little ones were heading back to class. This year, for the first time in our parental lives, all three of our children will be in school at least a couple of days a week. A few days ago, it was Emerson. Next week, her little brothers will follow. My wife and I feel like a couple of inmates recently put on work release. Sure, we'll still be incarcerated first thing in the morning and again after 2pm, but in between we actually get to live adult lives. I can work without having to stop every ten minutes to yell things like, "Get Elmo out of the toilet!" or "Take your underwear off your brother's head!" As my wife does house work she can actually watch TV shows that don't involve singing dinosaurs, numbers of the day, or five rather creepy Australians called The Wiggles. (I don't know how they got the name The Wiggles, but whatever they're wiggling, they better not do it anywhere near my kids.)

Finally, Meredith and I can talk to one another for at least a few hours out of the day without having to out yell a three-year-old. No more sitting on the commode ten minutes longer than I have to and pretending to have an intestinal virus because it's the only place I can escape screaming, whining, and emotional meltdowns over who got the bigger pop tart at breakfast. At least until next year, I won't come downstairs every night to find my wife crouched in the corner of the kitchen, an I'm one spilled sippy cup away from insanity look in her eyes as she marks the refrigerator with a crayon, counting down the days until school starts like a prisoner tracking time until freedom. We've survived summer with three kids! Along with army ranger training and a couple of Asian religions that require you to beat yourself with bamboo, that's about as tough a test of endurance as you'll find.

Funny how life changes. When I was a kid, I lived for summer. I celebrated the last day of school and mourned the summer's end. I basked in the freedom of no school, no responsibilities, and as many trips to the pool as I could maneuver. Now, summer just means it's hot when I go to work. My wife and I frantically search for any art camp, gymnastics class, Bible school, or sport that will keep little people too busy to sit around the house all day with nothing to do but pout, complain, and take issue with the amount of crust left on their peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Heavy scheduling gets us through early July, but that's a month too short. We try to set up play dates, but all our kids' friends' parents are at their wits end too. The last month before school is turbulent. Vacations are over. Summer camps and classes are done. Play dates are few and far between. The little people are restless, discontent, and rebellious. It's like living in Munchkinland during the 1960s.

And so we begin another school year. Another year of attending meet and greets, school productions, chaperoning field trips, and scrambling to clean the minivan enough so that an avalanche of crackers, Cheerios, and discarded Happy Meal toys don't bury some poor, unfortunate teacher during car line. So goes life with kids. It's not bad. In fact, its right where I want to be. And, yes, summer's can still be fun (for a while). But, believe me, fall is sooooooo much better.

So off to school, little people. Mom and Dad are going to take a nap as soon as you're out the door. After that, who knows. Maybe we'll get crazy and watch the news--maybe even Sportscenter. Praise God, school is back! Where's the clicker.

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