About this time a couple years ago, I made what I thought was a funny, innocuous comment, and an instant enemy of the school librarian. Actually, probably the whole elementary school faculty and staff.
I was a chaperone one of Colin’s field trips to a neighboring town. It’s a relic of the Civil War-era Boise Basin gold rush, and its 400 or so current residents go to great lengths to retain its Wild West appearance for tourists.
The kids spent much of the day split into groups with parents who led them around, pointing out general historical stuff while being ignored. Afterward, everyone met in a shop for a scoop of ice cream. On the way out of town, the busses pulled into a picnic area where we roasted hotdogs for lunch.
I sidled up to my friend, the librarian, and made small talk. She’d always been chatty and sociable.
The kids had finished their hotdogs and were chasing each other over picnic tables. We agreed we were looking forward to summer.
“What’s with this whole last month of school, anyway?” I asked. “I mean, there’s not much actual school going on, right?”
At the time I thought I was being mildly funny and a little conspiratorial. I can’t have been the only one to notice there’s not much productivity after April. There’re probably multiple reasons. Kids, itching for summer since spring break, start reverting into the little ruffians they were when they filed in to find their desks the previous fall. Teachers are trying to catch up with the grade-thing and urging all the procrastinators to get their stuff turned in. I get it.
But if there ever was a reason to do away with the ridiculous sacred cow of summer vacation and the associated slide that inevitably consigns September to nothing more than time to review everything forgotten from last year, it’s the entire month of May, and with it all the associated cram-everything-into-the-last-thirty-days thing it’s become. That’s all I meant.
My librarian friend didn’t respond to my comment, and fell into an icy silence before moving off to talk to someone else. I realized I sounded like I was picking a fight about what the school districts were doing with all those gobs of taxpayer dollars they were raking in, all the while ignoring poor Johnny who supposedly Can’t Read.
I wasn’t. I was just making conversation. Sometimes I’m not as funny as I think.
May is on my list of arguments in favor of year-round school. Only then would it lose its unearned significance. As it is, May is the new December on my stress-o-meter. May is the new month we’re supposed to do ALL THE SPECIAL THINGS.
May is the last five minutes of a crappy sitcom where everything is resolved and loose ends are tied up and we all have a good laugh as we reflect on everything that’s happened that episode.
We fill up our calendars in May with expensive, time consuming, stressful activities because SUMMER’S COMING, and we must celebrate!
As exhibit A, I give you a few of the items on our calendar for this month:
- End-of-year bowling party (volunteers needed. This activity involves adolescents lobbing ten pound cannon balls across a room. Bring bring cookies. And Xanax)
- All school music program (volunteers needed to record the performance)
- School talent show (not my kid’s cup of tea, thank God)
- An Evening of the Arts show and benefit auction
- Volunteer appreciation picnic (one for church, one for school, skipped both)
- End of year party for everybody who participated in Safety Patrol (the crossing guard squad – basically everybody in sixth grade – goes to the arcade)
- Yearbook-signing party (with a note indicating this is only for the kids who purchased a yearbook, which is followed by ten frantic minutes of my looking for evidence that I remembered to send in the yearbook order last fall)
- Regional Track Meet (which, if he placed in his event, meant …)
- District Track Meet (which, if he placed in his event, meant …)
- City Track meet (he didn’t place. Whew)
- Sixth Grade Recognition Wall: Submit labeled photos (early school years and current) and a little note (don’t go overboard, but heartfelt, funny story works well, or maybe a sonnet calligraphed in tears of nostalgia mixed with cord blood)
- Sixth grade graduation (Parents URGENTLY NEEDED. Bring cookies. And Xanax)
- Orchestra recital (arrive early to get a good seat)
- Junior high school orientation and breakfast
- End of year conference with high-school counselor
- Career day
- End of year school field trip (chaperones needed. Wear good walking shoes. Bring a flask)
- All-school graduation celebration (in Jack’s small school, everybody goes to graduation with their families, even if you’re not graduating. This is something we learned after failing to bring the whole family last year)
At this point, I’d like to remind you all that WE HAVE BUT TWO CHILDREN, and while the timing of these activities may vary from daytime to evening, parents and various and sundry other members of the family are expected to contribute, participate and party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine for Every. Single. One.
We have been getting email reminders labeled URGENT, to sign up for snacks and send photos and make sure people are dressed in collared shirts and long pants since about mid-April. We have been losing track and sending calendar reminders and missing deadlines this whole time.
And all the while, the rest of our lives continue unabated: our professional and volunteer duties, training for another half marathon, planning our family vacation, yard work.
So, if I see you and we’re making conversation and I make an outrageous statement that thoroughly pisses you off, please know that in the throes of May Mania and I’m likely to have done away with any personal filter I may have had.
I’ll calm down around mid-June.