By Anetta Nowosielska
Chances are if you are halfway decent at that parenthood stuff you’ve been fairly busy these past couple of days. Whether for your kiddie’s sake or for self-indulgent demonstrations of presence, most likely your “back to school” itinerary included a visit to the pediatrician, which probably called for an immunization or two with the obligatory survival reward in a form of a toy from Kmart; a haircut that eliminated junior’s sun bleached hue that, for considerable investment, your own stylists has been unable to reproduce on your locks; a fun three-hour tour of the outlets in Riverhead which produced meager results since your daughter wouldn’t be caught dead in clothes that did not come from Intermix (but that didn’t stop you from making the trek.) Or a personal favorite: endless packages requiring your signature filled with pencils, iPad covers and backpacks that were redirected back to the carrier facility while you made the mistake of leaving to get milk at Citarella.
Yes, it’s been hellish.
But nothing compares to my ordeal that has lead to that glorious day when I saw my kids off to the school bus while high-fiving other uncoiffed and unpolished moms at the drop off as we plotted, like ex-cons, our first days of freedom. My nightmare included kids’ summer homework. Or, more correctly, I was punished for committing grave sins by overseeing my kids’ scholastic efforts when their heads should have rightfully been filled with naughtiness of the summer variety. Sure, they did get to exorcise some of those demons; but each beautiful beach day or bonfire night ended with an hour of hard-core work that included a journal entry, language workbook, reading and penning a debut book filled with self-produced artwork/photography to boot. Daily my seven-year-old was in tears over the injustice as was I over my utter failure as a pedagogue. There is a very good reason why people with less expectation than one’s own parent oversee the academic development of a child. Our hopes and lack of objectivity regarding offspring’s abilities will not only make one want to smash one’s head against the table; they will make your kids inevitably hate you quicker.
Naturally as the powers would have you believe, parents can’t waist time against the forging foreign forces of intellectual might facing our children should they one day sign up for the rat race. Learning Chinese at five, selling lemonade at six and ruling the world by Bar Mitzvah may feel like we are proactive in sharpening their claws, but at what price? Ask any tycoon what they remember about their childhood and most likely it had little to do with getting the calculus problem right. I bet it was about catching the fireflies or falling asleep out on the porch while counting the stars.
To everyone’s chagrin, we’ve completed the summer assignment, which my son proudly brought to his teacher. But throughout it all, this tragic episode felt like a personal failure not only because despite our daily mantras he continues to use upper case letters incorrectly; I failed to keep in mind what’s really important. And it ain’t orthography. It’s the damn fireflies.