08/14/2012 11:05 am ET Updated Oct 14, 2012

Back To School: A Guide For Husbands

It's August. The kids are headed back to school and your wife is most likely rushing around with a shopping list, looking for the specified width of three ring binder and the specified brand of calculator to equip your wonderful progeny for another year of learning and fun. Or maybe she's trying to cram everything she can into this last month of summer -- beach trips, museum visits, picnics, and camping. Maybe she's lying in a heap in the middle of the kitchen floor, so exhausted from wiping up watermelon drips and laundering pool towels that she's told the children to play video games until their eyes bleed, as long as they don't ask her again what they can do to pass the afternoon.

Here's what you can say to your excellent, longsuffering wife this August, to completely kill your chances of ever receiving another loving kiss or fond caress, and then what you should say instead, you know, just in case you wanted to keep on living.


"I bet you can't wait until the kids go back to school."

Whether or not she can wait until the kids go back to school, your wife or any other woman with children will hear this as "You don't enjoy being around your children, much, do you?" She may nod and smile at you and say something casual like "Ah, it's been a busy summer" or whatever. But what she'll secretly hear is that she's projecting bad mother vibes, acting like someone who dislikes her kids, and since she's a great mother, and really does like being around her kids, that's not going to feel good.


"I can't wait for those lousy kids to go back to school."

This puts her in the righteous position of defending the children, professing to love them and cherish the moments of their childhood. Style yourself as the villain, and her as the hero. Then you can waggle your eyebrows suggestively, grin foolishly at her, and make it clear that you really like her. Women appreciate that sort of thing. Especially from villainous husbands.


"I guess when the kids go back to school, you'll get a bit of a break."

No, she won't get a bit of a break, because then she'll be taxiing them to and from school and activities, overseeing lessons and instrument practice, supporting sporting events, and all the rest of it. Motherhood is a never-ending cycle of jobs that are never finished, and there are no breaks, unless you run screaming down the street, board a plane to anywhere, and leave your family standing slack-jawed on the sidewalk, wondering what happened. And still, there are really no breaks, because you're calling from your undisclosed location to see if Jimmy made it to his trumpet lesson or if the informative poster got made and transported to Suzy's school. And then going home just to make sure.


"I threw a load of towels in, and I folded what was in the dryer."

Any time you fold clothes, you are a prince among men. Especially if you then take them out of the laundry basket into which you folded them, and place them into the drawers and closets where they belong. In terms of romance, this is on the level of writing epic poetry about your wife. In fact, don't write epic poetry. Fold and put away the laundry.


"Holy crap, you spent how much at Staples? I hope those folders are made from pressed teak and that stapler dispenses shards of unicorn horns!"

The teachers send out lists. Okay? You have to get what's on the list.


"Hey, I'll take the kids school shopping for supplies and clothes."

And have fun. Really. Especially clothes shopping with the teenager who can't be seen talking to you and therefore mumbles its disagreeable comments in an undertone you can barely hear, while you're standing in the middle of a mysteriously unlit clothing store that's pumping Moroccan dance music at deafening decibel levels through pipes in the floor. Oh, did you say she needed a medium? You poor, poor thing. And you spent HOW MUCH at Abercrombie? I hope that hoodie is made of organic fleece from artisanal lambs!

Cheer up, soldier. August is a tough time for everyone -- kids and parents trying to fit it all in before school begins once more. But keep cool! You'll soon be sailing through the sweet spot of early fall, while the weather is still nice, before the winter recitals and holiday shopping trips start weighing down your wife again. "October is coming." You can say that to her safely, as she's searching for green ink pens and vacuuming sand out of the minivan for the third time this week. And this year you volunteer to handle Halloween costumes. I guarantee that will cheer you both up.