Summer is coming. The parent/teacher conferences are happening, the end of the year exhibitions and recitals are being arranged. My inbox is flooded with summer camp reminders and class party plans. There is much to love about summer, but man—the last two months of school really make you earn it.
My kids have approximately 342 projects and events between now and Memorial Day.
Their schools haven’t inundated us with a million projects or assignments; the extra-curricular activities are only planning one end-of-the-year performance or recital each—I just have too many kids for it not to feel like a lot. Four Easter class parties, four end of the year class parties, countless egg hunt options, two field days, end of the year gymnastics exhibition, end of the year mommy-and-me Little Gym exhibition (those are actually different), a school project on North Dakota that apparently needs to be on wheels? Like a float? I’m not sure but my daughter is pumped about it.
As the temperature is rising, my standards are dropping. The balanced lunches I was packing have fallen by the wayside in favor of cafeteria hot lunches prepared by someone who is not me. The requests for a ‘fun hairdo’ in the morning are met with incredulity and a brighter colored ponytail holder than normal. The signed papers we used to go over together so I could heap them with praise and use insightful lines like, ‘A bad grade is just showing you what you need to focus on, we can work on this together,’ are now flipped through so quickly and signed so recklessly that I might have signed over my life savings to my second-grader. The spelling words we used to review nightly are now called out in the car en route to school the morning of the test, permission slips are signed at stop signs, and I haven’t seen the math flash cards in weeks.
I showed up for one kid’s spring parent/teacher conference and saw my child heading down the hall with a leopard print, cat-ear headband on her head that I’m pretty sure is not within the dress code and I’m 100 percent sure she snuck in her backpack to school. Softball season has started and with three kids playing, we can have anywhere from one to four games a week. Because my husband is a great dad and an idiot—he’s coaching or on call to fill in for all three teams. By the time we get home from a 5:30 and 7 p.m. double header, we’re all too tired to feel that strongly about how dirty the kids might be and send them to bed with red-tinged knees from the ballfields and (almost always) wake them up earlier to bathe before school.
Back in August, when I was so happy my kids were about to be back in school and no longer telling me they were bored or complaining about the quality of snacks in our home, I signed up to help plan the Easter party in my son’s class. Another mom was helping as well and she planned the table decorations, happies for the kids, and carrots and ranch because: bunnies. I was in charge of paper products and a nugget tray. Please note that I don’t sign up for cute or creative things—Party City and drive-thru orders are within my skill set. I bought the paper products on my fourth trip to Party City this month (the first three were to procure rainbow-themed attire for my kids for the school’s Color Run, and then to return what we didn’t use). I also got the items needed for the Easter Egg Hunt at church—I was so proud for thinking of that a whole week in advance.
It wasn’t until 9:00 last night that I remembered I was signed up to provide ‘festive napkins’ for my oldest daughter’s class party. Keep in mind that the room mom had emailed and texted me with plenty of lead time to remind me of this. I had been to Party City at least twice since her first reminder—but festive napkins never crossed my mind. I have no shame for signing up for festive napkins because it was a blank on the form that went around the class—according to the teacher that made the list of things needed for the party, it was a need and I was willing to fill it. Apparently, napkins are even too tall an order for me to remember. I dug through the pantry and found enough sad, leftover green and white polka-dot napkins for the students in her class and called them festive because the green was very springy. As I said—my standards are falling.
I began writing this while my children were still at school, but hadn’t finished it up yet when I left to go pick up my third daughter from dance. In fact, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to end it. I hadn’t figured that part out yet; I just knew that End of the Year Fatigue is real and I was going to start there. Silly me, there should never have been any doubt that my children would handle that.
My car battery died for the third time this week at dance pick up. I own and know how to use jumper cables; I used them just yesterday but was late already and didn’t bother to wrap them back up into their case to put back in my car. After campus security jumps me off and we are on our way, my daughter informs me that she has a ‘seed’ in her ear because she put it there. Fabulous. I wasn’t all that worried yet, though, because she did this once before with a pink, but otherwise unidentifiable, object and I was able to get it out with tweezers very easily. But she really jammed this ‘seed’ back up in there. I tried with tweezers but quickly saw I was going to do more damage because they weren’t the right tool for this job. My next-door neighbor was outside playing with his kids, and a few of mine that wandered over, and has the misfortune of being a very friendly orthopedic surgeon. He offered to try with a hemostat he has used for popcorn kernel retrieval in a nose or two in his house. He tried with a flashlight, an otoscope, and a head lamp with no luck. I called another friend who is an ocular plastic surgeon and he brought home something called ‘lash forceps’ that look wicked and are much thinner than the hemostat. My neighbor tried with that but still—no dice. My child’s cooperation level varied. She stayed really still a couple times, but mostly rejected the idea that she couldn’t will it out of her ear instead of allowing metal tools to get it out. She might have almost kicked our neighbor in the face, she definitely rode away on her bike once and claimed she wasn’t coming back, and then she said she wanted only me to try again but then freaked out on me each time I got close. We gave up and planned to see an ENT in the morning.
As I put my child to bed with a foreign object of unknown origin wedged in her ear canal, she said, “Will you please ask them to put me to sleep?” She is five years old. I’m not even sure how she knows about being put to sleep—but I should have honored her wishes. Because it wasn’t pretty. I’ve never had to put one of my children in a headlock, wrap a leg over her legs, and repeatedly apologize to the staff she kicked and threatened to bite. The Scotts in her heritage came out as she channeled William Wallace in Braveheart and screamed, “Never!” when they would ask to simply look in her ear.
The three adults eventually prevailed and a tiny acorn was flushed from her ear. I head locked her again so the doctor could make sure all was well only to hear him say, “What is this blue stuff?” Sweet Jesus, save us from five-year-olds. We recommenced the full body hold down for more flushing and screaming and kicking. We weren’t sure what the blue substance was that came out and the child wasn’t offering any answers. It wasn’t until she was regaling her sisters with the tale that she admitted it was blue Play-Doh and that she had put it in her ear at church on Sunday. It was now Thursday. The acorn joined the party on Wednesday. My child had Play-Doh in her ear for four days.
So, this is where we are. Hanging in there by a thread. Surviving on hot lunches, wearing cat-ear headbands to school, calling polka-dots ‘festive,’ and walking around with Play-Doh and acorns in our ears for days. But summer is coming.
Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.