If you’re younger than me (and you know you probably are) and you have young children in school or you’re still popping them out, I know that you have your doubts that you’ll ever find yourself at your youngest child’s last day of school forever.
Well, trust me, you will. I hate to be one of those Just wait parents, but I’m telling you, Just wait. You’re gonna love it. I didn’t think I would ever be done helping with vocabulary word searches, covering books, signing permission slips, and having an arrhythmia when seeing School on the caller ID.
Not only will it happen, you won’t be as upset as you think. Is this the first time you’ve heard Empty Nest portrayed in such a glowing, rosy light? That’s because the other moms didn’t want you to know how cool it was. But I’m here to spill the beans. It rocks.
By the time you get to this point, you’ll have grown accustomed to closing out phases. The last bottle, the last diaper, the last bike training wheels, the switch from “Mommy” to “Mom” to “Hey, yo,” it’s all practice for the last day of school, when you can close out not only a chapter but a whole set of encyclopedias.
There was a time when the last day of school just for the year was worthy of a party. Our Last Day of School parties were fun and fabulous. We invited all the kids’ friends and all the neighbors and we let them run half naked through the sprinkler, use up all the sidewalk chalk and bubbles, eat all the candy they wanted, and spill chocolate milk all over their clothes. One year it rained and the kids all played in the front ditch, which had filled with filthy muddy water. It was a celebration of all things not-school. Once or twice we invited the kids’ teachers, and that’s when I learned that the last day of school is even more fun for teachers. They didn’t play in the mud, but some of them celebrated right into a designated driver for a ride home.
As a mom, I loved the last day of school, because I loved having my kids home with me. They were the funniest, most entertaining people I knew and when school was out, I got to spend the whole day with them for a couple months. Plus there were tons of things I didn’t have to do, and very little that I did have to do.
So right now, I’m enjoying this last last day of school feeling and celebrating that I will never again have to:
- Wait impatiently for the school board to release the school calendar, which they dangle in front of you like methadone to an addict. Then transfer all the half-days, late start days, early dismissal days, and days off onto my calendar, including all the tentative make-up days for weather, holidays for religions that haven’t been invented yet, and block scheduling days when selected grades are feathered in and out according to a schedule that only Einstein and John Nash can understand.
- Run around town like an escaped mental patient looking for materials to build the foreign language project. My kids always chose the ‘build a model’ project over any of the written or multi-media choices, because they knew I would make it my Christmas break mission to find the materials perfect for building a scale-model of Fuensaldana - complete with moat, horses and drawbridge - lightweight enough to get it into the school in one piece.
- Check Edline, the online grade posting designed to keep parents in the loop. In actuality, Edline just makes parents wish they had remained childless. Many of my kids’ teachers didn’t report grades until it was too late to do anything about them; the ones who did keep up with their grades made mistakes or didn’t quite get the concept of grade reporting. (One teacher entered all the future grades for the grading period and gave everyone zeros, explaining that she would give the points that they earned as the assignments came up. Starting out the year with an F- is enough to give a parent a small stroke.) Checking Edline never made you happy with your children; it only made you worry and want to ground them or trade them in for more studious kids.
- Buy cheesecakes, cookie dough, frozen pizzas, $1 candy bars, magazine subscriptions, coupon booklets, Christmas ornaments and other crap I don’t have room for. I was always happy to buy school fundraiser stuff, but I’ll be happier to not buy school fundraiser stuff.
I know this makes me sound like I didn’t like being the mom of school-age kids. I did, really. There were good parts - more than the bad parts even - that I will miss terribly.
But the last last day of school is another reason for a party and I’ve got a ditch that’s filling with rain, so life goes on.