School’s out, and not just for summer

The editor reflects on life when it's no longer ruled by a school calendar.

For the last 13 years our household has been governed by the school calendar. It’s something that we haven’t really thought about; it’s simply the way things are, as immutable as the seasons.

Well, all that is coming to an end, as our son Tim graduated from grade 12 last month. Life in the Roden household will be somewhat different from here on in, no longer governed by warnings about missing the bus, reminders about homework, and attending all those events—PAC meetings, Christmas concerts, month-end assemblies—that crowd the school calendar. Part of me rejoices in the fact that Tim is now starting on another stage of his life; but part of me already misses the school days that have formed the timetable of our world since he started Kindergarten all those years ago.

There are things I won’t miss, such as the perpetual worry that is school lunches, the realization that I have completely forgotten everything I learned in high school math (I’m sorry, Mr. Cunningham; you did your best), and the discovery—in the depths of a backpack—of a notice about something coming up the next day that entails the baking of 24 cupcakes or the creation of some craft that Martha Stewart could knock off in an hour but which will cause nothing but grief in our house (the baking and crafting genes both passed me by).

Not that I didn’t give it the old college try. When Tim was in Kindergarten, parents were invited to come in one day near Christmas and make gingerbread houses with their children. Like the eager first- (and only-) time-Mom that I was, I decided against buying a gingerbread house kit with pre-baked gingerbread (yes, these are a thing), and instead found a gingerbread recipe and followed it as best I could. I ended up with several sheets of (pretty much edible, once I scraped off the burnt bits) gingerbread which possessed roughly two straight edges between them. When I took them into school the next day I was taken aback to see that most of the other moms had purchased kits. A quick survey revealed that the moms who had baked gingerbread were almost all first-timers; the others were on their second or third child, and had presumably been there, done that, and decided life was too short.

Then there was the overnight field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium when Tim was in grade 3. I boarded the school bus armed with everything I thought I’d need, and was surprised when other parents boarded clutching pillows. By the time we got to Yale I realized that the pillows were for more than just sleeping with, since I’d never ridden a school bus for longer than a few minutes and had not appreciated how bum-numbingly jolting they are for hours at a time. School bus drivers of the world, I salute you.

And now it’s come to an end, in what seems the blink of an eye, leaving little except memories. Would I change anything, if it was all to do again? Not much; although I’d definitely give those gingerbread house kits a whirl.

Barbara Roden