Each Year, as summer draws to a close and the school year is upon us, I find myself with bittersweet emotions. I love the way in summertime I can enjoy the company of my children without a report or project looming. The responsibility of homework is replaced by sunscreen and popsicles. Summertime parenting is wonderful because it’s so much easier to say yes in the summertime. Yes, you can have a sleepover. Yes, you can stay up late. Yes, you can have ice cream for dinner.
The week that follows the last day of the school term — the transition into the “summer of yes” — is a confusing time for kids. As I watch a late-night Orioles game with my son, Matan, I know he is wondering why he hasn’t been sent to bed.
“A three-run lead is not safe from a Jim Johnson implosion,” I tell him. “We’d better watch this through.”
Matan is stunned when I make no mention of bedtime, and I enjoy watching him head to bed on his own when the game is over.
By mid-July, the universal sign that summer is coming to an end — a fully stocked back-to-school aisle — appears. I first notice it at Target when we are shopping for last-minute camp items. The kids are surprised and a bit disappointed by this sight, but I assure them there is still plenty of summertime left. I point out that Shoppers supermarket puts out its Passover food well before Purim. My daughter, Emuna, deduces that stores keep a different calendar than we do.
Now that school is imminent, the shopping has to be done. I’m all for having well-prepared students, and I follow the supply lists from the teachers even though the 2-inch ring binders that I purchased last year came home in June untouched. Unfortunately, last year’s binders can’t be used this year, since now the teacher is asking for the 3-inch variety.
In the store it’s a war zone, piles of notebooks are strewn about, many of them adorned with playful kittens or Justin Bieber with the words “Hot Stuff” printed below his chest. Boxes of rulers and glue sticks intermingle, book bags that were once neatly displayed on wall hooks are littered across the floor. I notice a woman who has the same list.
“Have you seen the 3-inch binders?” I ask. An instant kinship is formed since, indeed, misery loves company.
“I found some at Office Depot,” she says, in a hushed voice.
Now the kids, each with shopping carts of their own, appear. I look over the supplies piled high in their carts: a box of 60 oil pastels, a package of pencils with two different colored tips and a plastic Powerpuff Girls book bag are only a few of the items they have collected and deem essential. I quietly take out my “no” and dust it off. The “summer of yes” has officially come to an end.