Back to school--at last

Friday, August 23, 2002
Ronda Graff

This column is dedicated to my mother and any other working mothers who (stupidly) gave their child their phone number at work.

Across the area, there is a huge sigh of relief as classes resume at most area schools and a summer ritual (thankfully) comes to an end -- phone calls to mom at work.

It's a process repeated daily everywhere and usually involves a brother and a sister and some sort of fighting and goes something like this. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me.)

Ring, ring. "Hello, Acme Warehouse. This is Martha."

Some yelling in the background, frantic pushing and grabbing for the phone. "Mom!!," a shrill voice yells into the phone, "Mike is hitting me."

Mom calmly replies, "You two stop fighting. I have to get back to work."

Another yell as the phone is ripped away. "But mom, she won't give me back my video game."

"I said quit fighting," mom says again, followed by the standard reply uttered endlessly over the summer, "What can I do from work?"

I'm not saying I went through that conversation at least once a day with my mom when I was growing up. I'm saying I went through that process at least three times a day.

Thinking back, I don't know what I thought my mom could do from work. Thinking back, I don't think I was listening when she said it. Thinking back, I probably let it go in one ear and out another and then proceeded to smack my brother upside the head.

While phone calls to a parent at work occasionally have a purpose -- such as the house burning down, the calls are usually a boredom-fighting tactic.

Although most kids would give up three permanent teeth without anesthetic before admitting it, they are bored three days after school is out. There is only so much hanging out a friends house or playing of video games a person can do before they are utterly bored.

Boredom can be inspirational. I was in high school when I built my first official tree-house. Why? Because my friend and I were bored and needed a project to take up the entire summer. Although we wasted quite a bit of wood, lost more nails than we used and "misplaced" and never found a few hammers and screw drivers, it was a small price to pay for my parents. At least, I wasn't fighting with my brother and then calling my mother to tell her about it.

Fortunately for me, my

children are not old enough yet to use the phone, to be home alone or even to realize that summer has ended and school will resume.

This week, our house saw its first official back-to-school child with the oldest starting kindergarten. At this age, kids are still excited about the prospect of school. To them, school means not one, but two recesses, snack time, and a new box of colors that their little brother won't chew on.

The first child leaving for school affects not only that child, but the entire house. The next child no longer has someone to fight with, but soon realizes his younger brother will serve as wrestling dummy. The next child wonders why his sister is not in bed when he goes into her room in the morning to jump on her and wake her up.

And mom? Well, I can't imagine what it's like when the youngest child enters school or, even bigger, when the youngest child graduates and leaves home. Even with three other children running around the house, the quietness was overwhelming. I started to miss my oldest. I started to wish she didn't' have to go to school. I started to wish she had more time at home.

Then, I went to pick her up from school. Her brother immediately grabbed her backpack. She started shrieking and yanked it back. The bickering continued the entire ride home and into the house.

Maybe, it's a good thing all your wishes don't come true.

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