Can We Please Stop Making The End Of The School Year So Damn Extra?

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 

It’s 3:51 p.m., and I know that I’m seconds away from chaos. I take a swig of my caffeinated tea and try to muster up as much energy as I can.

I hear the bus come around the corner. The brakes squeak and the door opens. My kids come barreling down the steps and toward me, their backpacks pounding against them with every step.

We have the same routine every day. The kids unload their lunch boxes and folders from their backpacks and place them on the kitchen counter. Then they wash their hands and have a snack while I sift through the stacks of papers they bring home.

There’s so much there. Field trip permission slips. Notices for special dress days. Reminders of project due dates. Homework. Graded work. Spelling lists. Wadded up pieces of notebook paper.

It looks like New Year’s Eve just puked on my kitchen countertop with giant, colorful confetti. Another mess for Mom to clean up. Every single day.

I resist the urge to recycle it all. I mean really, what would happen if I did? It’s not like I’d go to the principal’s office or earn a detention.

It’s that time of the year. Don’t talk to me about half-assing it. If you are half-assing it as a mom, I call that winning. I, on the other hand, cannot even one-fourth ass it at this point.

Moms are so damn tired. A venti latte cannot even touch our fatigue. I find myself waking up later and later each morning, then we madly rush around like the McCallisters from Home Alone who realize they will probably miss their flight.

We get to the bus stop, me in wrinkled pajamas and a crooked top knot. The kids are wearing mismatched clothes that they picked out themselves, and I’m trying to zip up their open backpacks and make sure they threw their lunch boxes in.

The other day I called my mom to check in, and I couldn’t even come up with anything to say except how tired I was. I couldn’t even remember what I had for lunch a few hours before. My eyelids are so heavy from mental exhaustion. I have a hard time remembering what day of the week it is.

In fact, just last week I had to take the baby to an appointment. I arrived five minutes early (go, me!) and was promptly informed that I was a full twenty-four hours late to our scheduled appointment. I think the woman felt sorry for me and ushered us back to an exam room. She was probably thinking, Lord, have mercy on this mother!

All this frantic nonsense has me wondering, why can’t our kids have an end of the school year like we did?

Here’s what used to happen. On the third to last day of school, we watched back-to-back movies while consuming too much fake-buttery popcorn and caffeinated soda. Our parents didn’t have to sign permission slips for us to watch the movies. The teacher showed us whatever she damn well pleased.

The next day, we had to help our teacher straighten her bookshelves, organize supplies, wash the chalkboard, and take down bulletin boards. Our teacher had spent the entire year putting up with all twenty-two of us and our ridiculousness. The least we could do is toss the broken chalk, gather sticky tack from behind the 1980s inspirational wall posters, and stack our textbooks.

Then on the last day, we had an artificially-dyed-sugar-and-reckless-antics fest on the playground, organized by the parents. Were they interested in our monkey bar stunts? No! They stood around gossiping with each other. They didn’t take a thousand pictures or videos, because the only way to do that was to lug around a twenty-pound camcorder or giant camera.

Voila. School is out. Happy summer, kids! Buh-bye.

These days, the end of the year celebration starts in late April and goes until the last day. Every single day there is something special, out-of-routine, and depleting. And if I’m honest, I hate it.

I have four kids, three of whom are school-age, and one of whom is homeschooled. If you did your math correctly, you realize I only have two kids in public school right now, and I still can’t keep up.

I think educators do an amazing job trying to give our kids awesome memories and learning experiences while juggling their numerous job responsibilities. Seriously, teachers do not get paid enough. Not even close.

This time of the year, I feel for them even more. Because I know it’s not just one of my kids who cannot deal with changes in routines and schedules. It’s a lot of kids. And once they’re off their rockers, parents and teachers are doomed for days afterward. Teachers have a solid month of what I call Dysregulation Station.

And as for the parents? So many of these special events such as field trips encourage (and sometimes require) parents to participate. This is nearly impossible for so many of us. Some parents work full or part time outside the home. Others, like me, work from home and are parenting younger siblings. And of course, many of us don’t have family nearby to step in and rescue us.

We’re stuck. Alone. And exhausted. Parental guilt eats at us.

There are the few “good parents” who show up to everything with bags of non-generic treats and Pinterest-style crafts in tow. I bitterly assume all four grandparents live nearby to help whenever they’re needed.

The least the rest of us, the majority, can do is make it to an event or two and not grumble about the vacay days being chiseled away or the babysitter we’re paying $15 an hour for, but it’s hard.

Plus, when we show up, our kids decide that it is their opportunity to cling to us or completely ignore us. More times than not, when I’ve shown up to be a “good” parent, I’ve asked myself, why am I even here? I’m guessing our little angels are paying us back for the fact that their lunch that day was an overripe banana, an orange, and a pack of broken peanut butter crackers.

At this point, I’m beyond over the madness. For example, yesterday evening, my daughter asked if she could make her own lunch. And I was thrilled. Normally, I’m a bit of a control freak about organization and preparation. But those obviously expired in April.

Pick out your own clothes? Um, yes.

Need a permission slip signed? Ask your dad.

Need to study for your spelling test? Also ask your dad.

Need your green shirt washed for tomorrow’s Green Day at school? You know where the laundry room and detergent are.

Need a sack lunch for tomorrow’s field trip? Did you not hear me tell you to ask your dad?

I feel like I’m reaching, slo-mo style, toward summer, but I can’t quite grasp it. So I just brew more coffee, set another alarm, and stay up too late preparing all the odds and ends for the next morning’s chaotic circus, including clean up all the crumbs and dishes and spills from the kiddo who made her own lunch.

We’re almost there, folks. But until then, we really need the odds to be ever in our favor. If you figure out how to make that happen, let me know.

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