Over the summer, my family took a road trip. Seven hours of confinement with three other people who would rather be anywhere else. It’s a lot like prison, except you have to pay for your own meals and in prison it’s generally expected that someone will get shanked. Society tends to frown on fathers stabbing mouthy nine year olds. Thanks, Obama. But even if being around my kids for seven hours leads me to write jokes about murder (And it was a joke. I promise it was mostly a joke), they’re great kids. They crack jokes, good jokes, they listen to Michael Jackson, and love horror movies. So even though I have to pinch the back of their legs to make them stop kicking each other, I enjoy having them around. Am I alone in this? I only ask because school is starting back up and once again parents are losing their minds over no longer dealing with the crushing weight of raising their kids. It’s got me wondering, Why Are You So Happy To See Them Go?
Why Are You So Happy To See Them Go?
My two little nose-goblins are going back to school on Monday. This Monday will officially be the worst day of my life, this year. I hate watching them go. Just yesterday they were playing with the water hose and riding scooters and Pokemon hunting. Yesterday they were kids with missing teeth and scrapped knees. Feel like lying around in your pajamas all day and play some board games? I can have Small World set up in five minutes. Want to have a late night movie night? Pop some popcorn and watch Harry And The Henderson’s.
Come Monday? Gone. All gone.
When Monday comes you can say goodbye to the road trips. Bye-bye matinee flicks at the dollar theater. No more drive-ins on a hot, summer night with a can of grape soda in one hand and a can of mosquito spray in the other. Starting next week, our simple living will be engulfed in a barrage of homework, football practice, soccer practice, piano lessons, and Girl Scout meetings. Cruel bedtimes will be strictly enforced. Ear-piercing alarms will buzz through the hallways every…freaking…morning.
Now, before you think I’m unreasonable, I kind of get it. The house will be cleaner. It takes my wife and me all day to wash, dry, and sort the laundry. It takes my daughter the length of a Cher concert to run through about as many wardrobe changes. We’ve got skirts and dresses and glitter in almost every room. Meanwhile, my son is hoping we haven’t noticed that he’s on his third day of wearing the same underwear. And, sure, the electric bill goes down, but…actually, I don’t have a witty retort to that one. My kids leave every light on in the house and it drives me crazy. You win that one. You’ve also got daycare costs, higher grocery bills, time off work. There are a dozen reasons that the summer is a financial burden on folks and I know we’re all relieved when those burdens are lifted. But I think we’re missing the bigger picture; the time spent with our kids and the time our kids will have spent with us.
I feel like time stops for every summer. Every summer our children stay little just a while longer. Every day is cartoons and friends and swimming and fun. But come Monday my son will be a fourth grader, my daughter a second grader. And come August of next year, he’ll be a fifth grader and her a third grader and on, and on, and on until they graduate, and move out, and get careers, and begin living their own adult lives. We’ll send them off as kids but they’ll come back a little more grown. What grade will my son get too big to sit on my lap? When will my little girl stop laughing at my stupid jokes? Even worse, when will she realize they’re stupid? When will they get a broken heart? Or worry about paying that month’s mortgage? I don’t wish that on any kid, but there will come a day when those giggly, frustrating, little monsters that we created will be gone. So what about that is worth celebrating?