May is the new December

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.

(No, really.)

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.

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  1. I totally hear you, Beth. We\’ve had/got — formal (8th grade), field day (actually was canceled so I got a reprieve from my volunteer signup), living history museum (had to buy what will have to pass as Abe Lincoln), 5th grade day, 5th grade pool party (not sponsored by the school), spring piano recital, and throw in a Memorial Day party that\’s THIS weekend when I was thinking it was still another week away. And I know I\’m forgetting other events. Yeah, cram it all into one month. It\’s great.

    1. Holy crap. THIS weekend is memorial day? Seriously, I didn\’t realize that. I\’ve been so focused on the following weekend when we\’re going out of town. That\’s a whole extra hour of my day (and one of Mike\’s) where we\’re not shuttling kids to/from school. THANK YOU!

  2. Oh man, those innocent jocular comments. I\’ve tossed off a few of them myself. And unintentionally alienated many. Like the time I innocently said to the gift shop lady at the hotel where I was selling tour bus tickets \”perhaps you could answer the endless questions of how to get to the bank…\” She heard \”you have very little to do\” while I meant \”people can\’t see that bank across the street?\”
    Best of luck with the busy May stuff. I well remember that crazed \”fill every second\” school schedule. Perhaps the solution is to create a 13th month?

  3. 100% with you here too. Today (Tuesday) both girls are on field trips. For the younger one, she needed to choose between two today. On Thursday there is another one. In the last 12 days of school she could have gone on four. The big one, middle school, two.

    After the state testing, work goes to almost zero. Except for all of the projects that got pushed to the back burner because four hours of testing takes 80% of the school day for two weeks.

    I don\’t mind end of the year concerts and award ceremonies. But rest of the fluff could be better used actually teaching something.

    1. The concerts are a highlight, for sure. I also don\’t mind the field trips (although we don\’t have them stacked onto each other like you). Just spread things out a little bit so we can actually do all the things.

  4. I remember those end-of-year parties and socials that became exhausting. I agree May is the new December. And by the way, your remark wasn\’t that earth-shattering or shocking. You were just being funny. Maybe the librarian was afraid to say the wrong thing in reply.

  5. I\’m NOT LOVING May right now either! It\’s nuts! My 5th grader has had so many things going on! Your schedule looks absolutely insane and I hope you survive it! Ha ha! Good luck! Bring on Summer!

    1. I shouldn\’t complain, really. It\’s just when I looked at my calendar, it looked like a freaking war zone. And none of it was work or personal.

      Hope you\’re hanging in there! At least I don\’t have a sleepless baby on top of it all!