31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Summer Slips Away - It's Time To Dive Back Into A New School Year

Single with Children: Summer slips away as school looms ahead

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 08/08/01

The clock is ticking and the days are swiftly passing in these waning days of summer vacation. Intellectually, I know that the months of June, July and August have the same number of days as the other nine months, but could someone please tell me why these three months seem to pass with something resembling supersonic speed? Of course, that's no doubt the lament of every school age child in the world. Even at 41, I find it absolutely true.

That's not to say that the looming first day of school is a "bad'' thing, and, in fact, it's a chance for a new beginning, much like New Year's Day, complete with the chance for new resolutions, promises and the opportunity to set new goals. Those are all positives and not to be discounted! I still find it bittersweet because the fact is, once summer is spent, a great deal of time remains until it can be savored again.

Perhaps a little of my trepidation and disbelief could be that I am facing the reality that both my kids will be in high school. Not a day goes by that I don't ask myself how this could be possible. I am unable to grasp the fact that I will never again be called upon to act as a homeroom mother. The days of Valentine's Day parties, homemade Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving plays are now a part of my past. Such a great and memorable past it has been. It's a funny thing about memories: at the time we are making them, it doesn't always dawn on us that we are engaged in something that, in the future, will become so very precious.

I remember both Katie and Justin's first day of school. I recall thinking that it looked very much like a press conference with all of us giddy parents staked out, cameras in hand, filming our offspring as they made their way toward those huge, imposing school doors. My ex-husband and I stood by, filming as our two kids, clad in shiny new backpacks and brand new, still white sneakers, walked toward the double doors of a building in which they would learn their ABC's, multiplication tables, history and science, as well as the equally important lessons of making, and being, a friend, abiding by rules and the concept of responsibility.

On the morning of their first day of school, I smile as I remember how much their dad and I reassured them that everything would be just fine. As Katie enters her last year of public school and Justin begins his first year of high school, it will just be me seeing them off, though I'm sure their father will no doubt call and offer his support through the magic of long distance. I have a suspicion that we will still feel those familiar lumps in our throats that are so indigenous to parenting. Though I might get lucky and talk them into one or two photos taken in the privacy of our home on the morning of their first day this year, they no longer require that I watch as they take those steps toward another school year. But if being there in spirit counts for anything, I will most decidedly be present.

In the 12 years leading up to this point, it has not been simply an education for my children. I have learned a great deal as well. Along with the scholastic subjects required to arrive at this point, we have learned valuable lessons in tolerance, adjustments in family dynamics, patience with ourselves and each other, and, even though our nuclear family now consists of one adult and two teen-agers, we have learned that the love within a family is quite an amazing and dependable thing. Resiliency might have helped us arrive at this point, but love and faith in ourselves and each other has been the powerful, essential force that enabled us to move forward and look optimistically ahead. If we do it right, education doesn't end with the school year, and growth doesn't stop at some magical age. How lovely that it works out that way.

The other evening, after a long, frustrating and exhausting day of work, I was sitting in the back yard with my son, when he suddenly jumped in the swimming pool with a splash that landed right on me. I was in no mood for an impromptu shower. Irritated, I started to walk in the house when he dared me to join him. Still in my work attire, I pointed out that I wasn't quite dressed for a swim.

He stopped me cold with a challenge and a reminder to live "in the moment.'' "Mom, would you rather make a point or a memory?'' I turned back for a moment, considered the wisdom of his query, and did exactly what I've been doing in these four years I've been a single parent. Much to our collective amazement, I jumped right in. I've a sneaking suspicion that the memory will be much more valuable and cherished than the dress.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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