I’M ALMOST READY FOR the predictability of the school-year schedule. I don’t want to wish away my summer with all of its relaxed attitude and flip-flops and casual dress and late dinners and extra parking at the Metro lot. But my kids, whether they realize it or not, are showing signs of needing the structure that school imposes.
And I'm right there with 'em.
Take bedtimes, for instance. I’m referring here more to my children of the ‘90s than the Peezer, but what is it with these kids and the staying up really, really late? These weeks, they find no compelling reason to turn in at the usual stroke of nineish, and frankly, I have no good response to their arguments.
Last night, as I headed to bed, my final words to the Boss were: “I want you off the Xbox at midnight. That’s 90 minutes from now.” (I know; I’m nothing if not a stern enforcer of rules.) He shouted "Okay!" from his perch in the downstairs office, never missing a beat on his video game.
I awoke at 2:00 a.m. to hear his voice, filtering up through the air vent that connects our bedroom to the room below. “THERE’S ONE! GET HIM!” He was on Xbox Live, talking into a headset, collaborating with a friend on some game that involves the stalking and shooting of virtual beings.
I yelled downstairs: BOSS! IT’S TWO O’CLOCK! GO TO BED NOW!!
(Look, I understand the lure of video games. I had the first Atari ever made, and I played the heck out of it. No one rocked Pong and Combat like I did. But I don’t remember losing track of the time in the wee hours quite like that.)
I heard him say: “Uh oh, Michael? I gotta go, my Mom’s yelling at me.”
Then, this morning? I discovered both Seth and the Boss, crashed out on the sofa in the family room. Together. Wait, that’s not accurate. Seth was actually on the floor, face down, under the coffee table. Snoring. Hey, at least they turned off the TV!
Yes, for all their urging in June that they be allowed to have separate bedrooms, they end up many nights together, on the couch. I'm so glad we spent most of our kidless week making that happen for them.
You're welcome, boys!
But look – it’s August. There are less than four weeks of summer break left! You’d think they’d be getting bored with this routine of nothingness, day after day.
I remember loving the beginning of August – it meant the Firemen’s Carnival, which brought a week of Big, Huge Fun to our otherwise quiet town. The rickety rides! The bingo tent with corn to mark the cards and its wall of fantastic prizes! The nickel pitch to win quality glassware, the ping pong balls that would win you an ill-fated goldfish, the cake wheel! The food tent, with its barbeque sandwiches, pizza, and oh, the French fries! The meeting up with friends, comparing tans, and making plans!
And then – poof! – it was gone, as if the high school athletic field had swallowed it whole. Saturday night, the grounds were alive with the glow of neon, the hum of diesel engines, the smell of fried potatoes. But by Sunday afternoon, you could hear the crickets chirping. Four more interminable weeks of summer stood between me and the beginning of school, and THAT is when I became impatient. Sure, the swimming pool was still open, but even it was losing its appeal. I was starting to miss the daily interaction with friends and, yes, the rhythm of the school year. I began reading the local weekly, anxiously awaiting the issue that would list our homeroom assignments.
So. I suggested to the boys that it might be a good time for them to start on their summer homework packets. (What, already??) Yes, our schools issue them, and in middle- and high school, they count for a grade. Each kid needs to find and read a book or two and write about it. Easy, right?
I loved reading when I was a kid. I tore through books. I still do. But my boys are, I’m afraid, a product of their times. They don’t love reading. Yes, we read to them when they were little, before they could even sit up, and they loved it then. But now? They’d rather do anything else. Anything.
If and when they ever awake today, a note awaits them on the kitchen island. It says:
SETH: Please unload the dishwasher.
BOSS: Please do your laundry. Also? No Xbox or computer for you. Midnight does NOT mean 2am. [Note to readers: I hid the controllers and disconnected the power cords. SO THERE.]
BOTH OF YOU: Choose a book TODAY and start reading it. Read your summer packet for guidelines on choosing an age-appropriate book.
Which I had to say, because both boys threaten to select something by Dr. Seuss. And I’m his biggest fan, but that’s not the point of the summer homework, kids. At least during the school year, they have deadlines and structure and grades to maintain and those help to keep them motivated and on-task, and when that structure's there, my job is actually a little bit easier.
I’m so ready for that.