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COLUMN: Happy days are here again

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THE KIDS ARE GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!

Sorry, I just had to get that out.

Anyway, this is a landmark year for me: it represents the very first time that all of my children will be in school full-time. When my youngest daughter went to kindergarten, I was at home with my newborn son. Although I was grateful to be able to have one-on-one time with him, I can't say it wasn't stress-free (to this day, my eyes automatically glaze over when I hear a baby cry).

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I don't want you to think I don't like my children. On the contrary, I actually enjoy being around them. It's just that I think they are getting bored being around each other. And when that happens ...

Remember that saying, "If Momma ain't happy then nobody's happy?" Well, in my house it should read, "If the kids are stuck at home together for days on end with no parent/referee in sight, then nobody's happy."

This really only applies when I have to go to work. Usually I'm at home with them, and, using my highly-developed mom senses, I can tell when an argument is on the cusp of becoming fireworks.

Oh, I've tried to arrange play dates - I mean, "hang-out" times - for my kids with their friends, but it didn't always work out. Since they are too young to drive, it fell on me to try to plan outings for them.

Last year I was on top of the game, planning places to go every week like swimming holes, playgrounds, cheese factories, geocaching, etc. This year, I didn't devote enough time so I simply dropped them off at the pool or nearby playground, but even that eventually started to bore them.

I tried to get them interested by saying we were going to do a horticulture project, but they rebelled when they learned I meant they were going to weed the garden.

I've even thought about shoving them out the door with a compass, bottle of water and clipboard telling them that their new project was to map out the City of New Richmond. That idea got shot down when they discovered there already was a map of New Richmond available.

Gradually, they began to get on each other's nerves. Snippy remarks, mean looks and outright yelling were the order of the day for a while. It was enough to make me want to stay at the office instead of going home, but that only prolonged the agony - especially since they would call me on my cell every five minutes tattling on each other.

I began to count down the days until school started back up again (yes, with a paper chain). They would see other people, make new friends, have their little minds thinking of things other than what TV show to watch or how to get out of doing chores.

It made me remember the times when I homeschooled the kids. It was in Missouri when we lived in a not-so-nice area, so my husband and I decided to teach the kids at home. It was a wonderful experience: we got involved in a homeschool group for field trips, we read "The Magic Tree House" books each week and did projects with it. We even attended a homeschool co-op where they were in a "school setting" with other teachers and classmates once a week.

The idea of homeschooling still appeals to me, but planning activities and outings take a lot of work. One thing I remember when I was considering homeschooling was a parent saying to me that it wasn't enough to just love your child, you had to like being around them if you wanted to homeschool.

Now, the question would be, do my kids like being around me and each other?

It made me wonder since they were bugging me to get their school supplies at the beginning of August. They prepared their backpacks two weeks ago, and when I went into their room the other day, a back-to-school outfit was already hanging up by the closet.

It wouldn't have surprised me at all to see a paper chain counting down the days until school started.

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