It’s The Most Wonderful Time…

There’s a TV commercial that I absolutely love, and it’s the one I would pick if trapped in a place where I could watch only one ad for all eternity. It airs in late summer, showing despondent children watching a gleeful parent glide on a shopping cart amid office supplies at Staples. Johnny Mathis croons, with irrepressible cheer, “It’s the most—wonderful time—of the year.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I could watch that ad over and over and over.

So, that means that today in Maryland is the first day of school. Yahoo! We survived summer!

I decided a coupla years ago that I would embrace my contrarian self and do the opposite of what Eddie’s buddies’ parents did when all our kids were 4. No weeks and weeks of day camp and lessons and classes. The school year is busy enough, and I get sick of Having To Be Somewhere On Time. All the time.

So we embraced playing with mud, riding bikes until boredom sets in, reading a lot and generally having the unstructured childhood I had when I was a kid. This, however, meant way more work for Daddy. It required constant management on my part.

To wit:

“Dad, can I go ride my bike?”

Well sure, but where do you plan to go? When will you be back? Wear your watch so you can mind the time. Why didn’t you come back when you said you would? Why didn’t you answer when I called?

“Dad, can I have a play date? Right now?”

Well, sweetie, it’s almost lunch time/supper time/time to go to _____. And we have to plan these things in advance. How about I call your friend’s mom and see about a day next week?

“Dad, can we play Wii?”

Is Mommy home? Then, no. It’s her Wii, and you can’t play it without her. I don’t care if so-and-so wants to come over and play Wii. You’ll have to play something else.

“Daaaad? Carla/Eddie’s making a big mess!”

Well, tell her/him not to! Why are you tattling? Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Why don’t you help clean it up? Why don’t you give me half a moment without having to referee you two? Just long enough to rub two brain cells together and produce a complete thought.

Honestly, the summer wasn’t as boring as I had hoped. We didn’t even get halfway through my “Fun Stuff File,” an envelope clipped to the side of the fridge with free or almost-free activities written on scraps of paper. Never made it to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Didn’t go to Sandy Point State Park. Didn’t do a day trip to Washington. We didn’t even go to the library that much.

It was a heavy travel summer, however. Between a beach week in Florida with my wife’s family, a road trip to Georgia to nursemaid my mother-in-law and another beach week in North Carolina with my family, we spent a lot of time gearing up, gearing down or just plain being out of town. (I know, cry me a river.) Only went to the ER once. And we joined a pool in August.

Now I’m back to trying to cram housecleaning and yardwork and laundry and errands and writing and house projects (crown molding, anyone?) into the few hours that really result from having a kid at school. (A guy at church once asked me what I do when I’m home alone.)

Next week, Carla begins preschool five mornings a week.

I can hardly contain my glee.

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3 responses to “It’s The Most Wonderful Time…

  1. Will, explain to me this mystery: why is it that parents wax rhapsodic about the joys of parenthood, and then wax rhapsodic about packing the kids on a school bus and sending them the heck away? I have my conspiratorial, hive-mind theory, but I’d like to hear yours. 😉

  2. Separation gives you perspective on how cool your kids really are. I’ve been whistling “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” for 3 weeks.

  3. Jason, I have to call B.S. on this. There’s no way that a parent’s glee at sending kids packing is really anticipation of enlightenment about how cool your kids are. There are perfectly legit reasons for being happy at sending kids away. This just isn’t one. Can’t be.

    When I relate it to my experience (as a single and child-free person), it goes something like this: there is no person in the world, however loved, I would choose to spend 24-7 with. Wanting time away from loved ones doesn’t mean I don’t love them or value their company; it just means I also value myself and my alone-time. So of course I understand Will’s sentiment, and it isn’t contrary at all to the “joy of parenting” stuff.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy getting parent-types riled up. 🙂

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