Dear Simcha: Some back-to-school advice

Dear Simcha,

I believe in predictability, order, and routine. The alarm goes off at 6:20. Breakfast is always ready on time. We’re well-stocked with clean clothes, toothpaste, and deodorant. I keep the kids’ shoes in labelled bins and their backpacks on labelled hooks. I give them a ten-minute and a five-minute warning when it’s time to leave. We’ve been doing this exact routine for three weeks, but we are still late every single day, and my children are often partly naked. And they all act like it’s my fault! What is wrong with them?

Signed,
Craves order

Dear Craves,

Well, it is your fault, you know. Don’t you know how important it is to have reasonable expectations?

For instance, you are expecting your children to act like rational human beings, even though the testimony of every mother throughout the course of human history, from the cave matron shooing her hairy little cavebabies off to twig-gathering school to the LuLaRoe’d, overcaffeinated yummy mummy weeping quietly into her suddenly deserted cul-de-sac, can tell you children are lower than the animals.

Animals, at least, respond predictably to stimuli and will act in service of their own self-preservation. Children, on the other hand, can zero in on the least helpful, most self-destructive course of action like a hungry pig after a truffle. Children crave order and predictability. Children are order and predictability’s worst enemy. You must know this.

Still, you have to get out that door. Your only recourse is train your kids to sing out adorably, “Daddy gets us ready every morrrrrrning!” According to the latest research, a kid who turns up wearing a stained leotard, Scooby Doo slippers, and grits in her hair is cute as long as Daddy got her ready.

***

Dear Simcha,

I make a point of serving my kids a balanced breakfast including protein and whole grains every morning. They also bring a full lunch and two snacks, and I keep cheese sticks, almonds, and dried fruit in the car for the ride home. Can you tell me why they are always hungry enough to take actual bites of each other’s arms by the time we pull into the driveway at 3:45?

Signed,
It just don’t add up

Dear It,

Well, I’ll tell you. On that very special day when a brand new baby first opens his eyes on this big, overwhelming world, a tiny fairy comes to him and whispers a very special secret into his ear:

“You’re not going to eat your lunch,” she tells him.

“Never mind why. Just know that it doesn’t matter what your mother packs. It doesn’t matter if she cooks it herself, and you requested it specifically, and it is monogrammed with a special lunch monogrammer purchased at some expense from Hammacher Schlemmer. None of this matters, for, o my child, you are not going to eat it! Your lunch is just there for the ride. It wants to go to school, and it wants to sit on your desk, and then it wants to go home again, to be thrown away completely intact, even unto the granola bar that was produced on machinery that does not also process tree nuts. It is the way of the world, little one. So shall it ever be.”

Your best bet, mom, is to buy a chicken, a goat, or some other non-discerning animal with a great hunger, so at least someone eats all that food. Then, when it’s nice and plump, you can sell it on Craigslist and buy some booze.

***

Dear Simcha,

Wow, you sure do complain a lot about school! It just makes me glad that we home school. So many people believe that home school is going to be hard, but in my experience, a full day of school work can be accomplished in mere minutes a day. I have never met a homeschooler who has regretted their choice or who has found their job difficult.*

Signed,
Just Sayin’

Dear Just:

I may have a public school education, but even I can tell one of two things is going on here. Either (a) You don’t actually home school, but you fully intend to, once you have kids of school age, once you have kids, once you get married to your secret boyfriend, Milo or (b) You do home school, and you do finish in minutes a day, but your kids can’t, like, read. Or add. And the youngest one is nineteen.

I have friends who home school for all sorts of reasons, but not a single damn one who will tell you that it’s always easy. Like every other kind of parenting, including parenting that involves a brick and mortar school, home schooling is sometimes easy and rewarding, sometimes hard and unrewarding, and sometimes easy and unrewarding, and something hard and rewarding. Sometimes it’s some combination of these things within a single hour. So say all my home schooling friends who are not liars.

If you have any choice at all (and not everyone does), you keep on doing it as long as the rewarding part outweighs the hard part. But saying it’s always easy for everyone? That’s just plain . . .

you know what, never mind. I gotta get back to that Craigslist guy about this goat. Baaaaa!
_____
*Actual comment I read on actual Facebook.

10 thoughts on “Dear Simcha: Some back-to-school advice”

  1. Our bus driver dared to politely complain that we were two minutes late to the bus stop one day. We have our 4 school kids, 8 and under, plus a 6 year old neighbor and 5 year old niece (and 2 toddlers) that we haul down there every morning at 7:17 am. I just stared at her blankly. I mean all the kids had matching shoes on and coats and most probably brushed their teeth I hope?

  2. Never…found…the…job…difficult.
    Nope. Those words do not go together. Not when talking about homeschooling. Nope.

    Signed,
    Homeschooled for 14 years and cried at some point for every one of them.

  3. Simcha, thanks for giving me something in my Facebook feed today that doesn’t involve catastrophic hurricane damage! Funny. I’m in the homeschool is usually not hard and I really love it camp, but yeah my oldest can’t read or write or do math. So maybe that really is part of it… 😉 Much love always.

  4. We have three new schools for three kids. Two are primary, one is middle. If I leave the house by 8:10, I can drop one at the bottom of the steep hill, where he walks across a park and over a river to his school. The next drop off spot is in the middle of our little town, and there isn’t much parking, but our little girl is fierce like her sister and don’t need no hand holding like the hot house snowflakes. She basically jumps out of the car. This requires her to roll down a window, and open it from the outside, because the safety lock has always been possessed even when we disable it.

    Our next stop takes us to the little school in the redwoods that used to be pink. Cheerful parents volunteer and open the door, and get to compare what a really old SUV that has withstood the ravages of time, 8 offspring, and one serious vomiter looks/smells like compared to all of the Range Rovers, Audis and Acuras.

    I’ve started making their sandwiches the night before. I cut them into nice clean triangles, and zip lock them so they can choose to take a half or three halves,and sometimes I give them a choice between two kinds. In the morning, I take out their chilled water bottles, get out their Whole Foods bags and line up their choices of: fruit, chips, trail mix, cheese balls (the little white mozzarella ones in water) yogurt tubes and dessert. They pack what they want. I laughed my head off when I perused the hot lunch menu (www.LunchIsServed.com). I told the kids they would get to choose from the menu on Thursdays, but there might not be enough money left over for college.

    I have all of these nice brainy Mommies asking me to come to welcome picnics, brunches and do girl scouts, but my inner, antisocial introvert just wants to be left alone, find drunk Mommy to chat with and not to have to commit to anything, so I don’t have to convince anyone that I’m not a weirdo for having so many kids, because I am. (Yes, their eyes were popping out. I admitted that I am a Planned Parenthood poster child of what not to be. They were still suspiciously nice.)

    Anyway, after a week and a half, and a mind numbing record breaking heat wave, (what’s an AC?
    This is San Francisco dammit!) I’ve come to a few conclusions:

    1. Whoever implemented the homework ban for grades K-5, might get a kiss on the lips from this introvert.

    2. Doing ANYTHING, anything, anything, anything, anything without a toddler and/or an infant is a BILLION times easier. Babies are for people who still need to have all of their sap sucked out. (fertility without children must lead to excessive exercise.)

    3. Everyone is skinny here, even the grandmas.

    4. People are unbelievable service oriented here. Lazy Catholics are far less intimidating.

    5. Saying “Let’s just leave all of our stuff back home, bring some suitcases of clothing, and get the rest from Craigslist and Ikea” is for hopeless romantics.

    6. Go to West Elm for inspiration, and World Market to find the knock-off.

    1. My best to you – that daily routine in SF? You’re brave!

      I would join you in drunk Mommy solidarity (even though I have a completely different life) but I’m in Chicago. I’ll let you know if I’m ever in the area for work! 😉

  5. I wouldn’t call homeschooling easy, but, for me, it’s far easier than getting out the door at the same (early) time every day *and* being on time to pick kids up too. I would be like the first letter, but without the organization. I host things like Little Flowers specifically so that I don’t actually have to leave the house, I can’t be late, and I can’t forget whatever it was I was supposed to bring.

    Our state’s idiotic truancy law is such that if your kids are late more than a couple times, you get reported to the state. Even at a parochial school, even with a note. We’d be in so much trouble, so fast.

  6. I haven’t regretted homeschooling, but I’ve never, ever found it easy. Sometimes I’m ticked that Catholic schools are so expensive and/or don’t provide a good Catholic education. Bishops are going to have a lot to answer for in not providing sufficiently for the sanity of Catholic parents. Just sayin’.

    I went to a parochial school with my six siblings. We were almost always late. Wearing uniforms didn’t seem to speed things up (because what do you do when your plaid jumper smells like sour milk and you can’t find your other one?) Even if everyone else was in the van early, there was always one person (usually the same person) who kept us from leaving on time. I hated going into the office to get a late slip to present to my teacher. It was mortifying to have all those young eyes upon me (and the exasperated ones of the teacher) as they stopped to wait for me to put my things away and get with the program. We never were awarded perfect attendance because perfect attendance can’t be rewarded when it’s accompanied by chronic tardiness. My parents (who operated a family business) always picked us up late too; we were usually the last kids to leave campus. It didn’t produce any neurosis (perhaps some insecurities), but I am insistent with my family about being on time. I always leave plenty of cushion for getting places. We’re rarely late for Mass, and I never let the kids wait to be picked up. The kids don’t like to be late either, and so they cooperate with my efforts. I’ve also explained to them that it’s inconsiderate to others to be late. You are wasting someone else’s time. If you’re supposed to bring the appetizers, dammit, you need to be there before the meal starts, not in the middle of the main course. Major pet peeve.

  7. This is GREAT, glad to see I’m not the only one – and w a fraction of the kids!
    What do you feed them for bfast? I need ideas…

  8. Dear Simcha:

    I only have two children who must be awakened, fed, provisioned, and prepared for a school bus every morning (two more coming down the pike, but I can’t think about that yet). You have, like, three times that many at least, right? The fact that you get your kids to school every day is frankly inspiring.

    Signed,

    An Admirer in New York State

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