What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1: 9
"School days, school days, dear old broken rule days."
Three months ago our kids sprang into summer. Hurdled—dragging us with them. But now that school is back, it's like trying to stuff a puffy pillow into a pillow case. I want to hold them by their waistbands and shake vigorously. You vill fit into this.
We’ve all had our fun—or whatever that was—and normal beacons. Unfortunately, our kids will not go down without a fight. To help them surrender their summer freedom without calling out the National Guard, take note of these valuable back-to-school rules:
1. Thou shalt get up on time. During summer, my kids got up when they woke up, so a week before school starts, I play my oldie-goldie favorites. Full blast. At 7 a.m. The effects of "Rock Around the Clock" and "Shout" on a child's sleepy mind makes the intrusion of an alarm clock seem mellow once school actually begins.
2. Thou shalt wear shoes. Shoes are for civilized people— not my kids. Unfortunately, schools have the rule, "No shirt, no shoes, no service" (do flip-flops count?) Therefore, I take advantage of the shoe company's ad campaigns and point out how fast they'll be able to run, jump, and play with rubber cushioning their little piggies. Gullibility can be a gift.
3. Thou shalt wear underwear. During the summer, my kids live in their swimsuits (it does save on laundry). But since school officials frown at the smell of chlorine and too much skin, I relegate the faded suits to the nearest toxic waste site. Then I buy my girls some of those Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday underwear to remind them that the days of the week have names. For our son? A package of spanking new whitie-tighties. What can I say? They’re a classic.
4. Thou shalt eat at a table. With chairs. And napkins. And even a fork. After spending the summer eating between ball games, water fights, and Barbie marathons, I set the table and make them sit down and eat. If they say please and thank you, I toss them a cookie. Good dog.
5. Thou shalt stop growing. The age-old goal is to get last month’s Visa bill paid before they outgrow their new clothes. That hasn't changed, but styles have. Remember the thrill of wearing a special first day of school dress or shirt? And new school shoes? Crisp. Neat. It's hard for a tee-shirt—new or not—to be crisp. And a pair of baggy shorts and untied sneakers are eons away from neat (and that's my daughters’ attire.) As for the extra inches they keep adding to their physiques, try the old book-on-the-head trick. It's a good way for them to get in touch with the dictionary.
6. Thou shalt read. The end of summer signals the downloading of muscles and the uploading of the brain. A week before school starts, I make them read quietly for an hour a day. When they ask what they did to deserve such punishment, I tell them this is the way it was done in olden times. At this point, if they reference my age, they have to read for two hours. Want to try for three?
7. Thou shalt remember 1 + 1 = 2. If you've been good parents (exceptional, extraordinary parents) you've made your child read, practice their clarinet, and add random numbers throughout the summer to prevent brain mush. However, if you've been busy figuring out how to keep them safely occupied while you’re at work, or what to make for lunch for three months, you may have accepted brain mush as a viable summer alternative. If so, you need to reintroduce the concept of math. Take the kids shopping and ask them to figure out how much their jeans cost at 40% off. Or how about: If Mom and a carload of kids leave the house at 2 o’clock to go on errands, traveling at 45 mph until the kids spill their drinks in the car after five minutes, how many minutes—and miles—will it take for said mother to decide to go home and shop online? After taxing their brains in such a manner they'll be eager to get back to school.
8. Thou shalt listen. No, not to their computer, I-pod, Game-boy, cell-phone, or TV. And not even to you. For during the craziness of summer haven’t even you sometimes forgotten to linger in the silence, to hear your own breath go in and out, to savor now. For how can we hear what God has to tell us if we constantly have noise inundating our lives? He listens to us. Isn’t it time we return the favor? “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." (Habakkuk 2: 20) So shush yourselves. Turn everything off. And listen to the Teacher of the universe.
9. Thou shalt breathe a sigh of relief. This advice isn’t just for us parents. Even kids get tired of summer and long for—
Never mind. Number nine is just for parents, because after enduring the question "But Mom, what can we do now?" 275 times (and coming up with 270 good answers and 5 questionable suggestions) we need to rejoice in the fact that our child's pain is our gain, and wallow in the upcoming nine months of school.
Until next summer—when we’ll forget everything we learned and make the same mistakes. Don’t fret it. That’s just the way it is—and has been since time began. “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 17)
Wisdom, madness, folly . . . that’s summer. Enjoy it. Every chaotic minute. For this too shall pass.
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