So it is the start of a new school year and my eight-year-old twins have returned to their classrooms, eager to meet their friends and teachers, and ready to begin the all-too-familiar rhythm of school days. As an educator of young children, I am thrilled to witness such excitement, as they return home each afternoon, eager to complete their homework because they state, "second graders are ready for more responsibility." I am hoping this energy never wanes, and my fingers are crossed that the evening tears and frustration are a thing of the past. They are both ready for the work ahead of them, and life is good!
As a parent, however, I have to admit a guilty secret that I have been carrying all summer. It is one that I am not so proud of, but I will continue to wear the cloak of shame unless I get this off of my chest. Over the summer, my kids had fun. Finally... I said it. There were weeks at a time when I forgot to have my children read a book, write in their journals, or practice their math flashcards. They often waited until the day before music lessons to practice their instruments, and I was secretly relieved when their instructors did not notice. On occasion, I didn't even follow up at night to make sure they brushed their teeth adequately, and they fell asleep in their clothes. A few evenings, the twins stayed up hours past bedtime, usually playing their Kindle and Nook, and watching all the movies they wanted until they fell asleep on the couch. My son even watched a PG-13 movie with his father one night... and loved it! We enjoyed cupcakes with layers of icing before dinner, and forgot to shower one night after coming home late from a pool party. I surprised myself one day when my children overheard me using a "bad word" (stupid) in front of them during an UNO game, and we all laughed hysterically. Fingernails and toenails occasionally grew to claw-length proportions, and it was not until I was scratched by one that I considered reaching for the nail clippers for a quick grooming session. And yes, I will admit there was one week when my husband was off-island and my kids and I dined out nightly for dinner, with hamburgers, pizza, pasta, and fried foods often being our dinner of choice, not to mention any dessert that had chocolate in its name.
My secret is out, and you know what? It actually feels somewhat liberating! As a principal of young children, I often spend much of my time giving advice to families as they try to raise respectful, responsible, and happy children, and yet I am juggling the parenting balls as well, and realize how the role of a parent is the most difficult job of any other I've known. We often find ourselves engaged in that tricky balancing act of providing structure, while encouraging our children to become independent and creative thinkers. I find it interesting that parents are often criticized by others when family rules are relaxed, and yet I think about the comment my child made at the end of summer when she was writing in her journal: "This was the bes sumr evr bekus I ate 3 cpcaks and wnt to bed at mednit wif mom and dad." If the highlight of my child's vacation involved snuggle time with her parents over a late night movie and chocolate mustache, I'll make cupcakes every weekend.
I am told that these early years with my children will be fleeting, though the stories we create with them will be everlasting. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the stories our children remember involve late nights with loved ones, endless summers playing UNO and Monopoly, frosting-smeared family faces, and belly flop contests with mom and dad? If the memories my children walk away with lead them to create similar ones with their own children, I'll push the repeat button on last summer over and over... how about you?