Day 8, 2013



I am sitting sideways in the chair in my bedroom watching my second consecutive episode of “Wife Swap.”  I haven’t seen this show in a few years and the premise still fascinates me.  Match two completely opposite families, swap out the wives and let the bitterness and judgments ensue.

The only reason I am still watching, aside from the fact that it is akin to a circus freak show, is that I am too tired to get up, walk across the room and get the remote to change it to something more suitable, like “Toddlers and Tiaras.”

Trying to coerce my children into completing their summer work has sapped all of my energy, so here I sit trapped in my own inertia. I have decided that each summer packet should come with a signed, sworn affidavit stating that parents have nothing to do with summer homework. It should detail how each June, we too, are shocked at the amount of work assigned for completion in the approximately 70 days we have until school begins anew.

My kids are convinced that I am in cahoots with the teachers in an evil plot to ruin their summer and possibly their lives with academics. How can a woman who would rather watch reality programming than do pretty much anything else productive be accused of such a thing?

On the television, the two swapping families meet for the first time.  They always pick some back woods, granola mom who hasn’t had a haircut since 1989 and farm her off to the Jersey suburbs where a shallow mom has standing manicure and massage appointments after her Pilate’s class each week.

I remember that I haven’t had a massage since the week I got married back when I had no stress or book reports to speak of. During a commercial break, I call to Drew in his bedroom and ask that he bring me his math packet. I am, ostensibly, upstairs to supervise the completion of the remaining homework but I am running out of creative ways to threaten and bribe to actually get work out of the kids.

The episode has returned and one of the husbands who is employed as a professional yo-yo performer who favors a tutu as his costume of choice, is detailing how they let their 12-year old son set the tone for his education.

Hmmm, really now. Maybe this yo-yo twirling, half-dressed guy isn’t so crazy after all!! He elaborates saying that his son will never learn responsibility and ownership if they coddle him and check up on him all the time. As the explanation plays out, I glance sheepishly at my lap and the math packet Drew just dumped on me that I am carefully re-checking for him.

I stop mid-calculation to listen to the visiting mom freak out on the yo-yo dad. This is a mom who stops by her kid’s school twice a week for discussions and updates on progress. Whose husband goes to school and helps his son organize his desk and who grades her children’s’ chore completion on a letter scale just like in school. I bet she has the summer homework all completed the first week of break and presents it to the teachers in shiny, labeled folders with extra work tucked into the back. I would not like this woman if I knew her.

The yo-yo guy is not crazy about her either.  Just like I am not crazy about math and realize that I have no idea if half of Drew’s math answers are correct. I don’t’ even remember learning this stuff. There is an answer key on the school website, but I never printed it out for fear that one day I would just throw it at him in desperation so he could copy the answers thus ending the vicious cycle of nagging and whining.

The teachers say “Pace yourself,” with the summer work and I swear I am going to do that every year. But it takes us at least a week of negotiating to decide which award winning book we are going to read if one is not assigned. Then any book we do not already own, assigned or otherwise, has to be ordered from Amazon because nothing is available in the library once school lets out. Then, your books get shipped from different vendors because you forgot about the shipping difficulties and bought the cheap used version for $1.99, thus they trickle in over the next two weeks.

So by then, school has been out for almost 3 weeks and we have not started reading any of the 3 or 4 books assigned. The timeline has been shot and it is all downhill from there.  We carry the summer packets around with us to camp, on vacation, in restaurants and eke out as much as we can on the move. By the time we turn it in, the final product is splattered with ketchup and missing a few staples.

My kids apparently don’t need to be proud of the end product, they just want to get it done. By August, I am on board with this. This would not sit well with the overbearing tv mom who is now creating a chart for the unsupervised 12 year-old with stars and decorations drawn all over the dry erase board.  This exercise, according to her voice-over, is designed to make him an active participant and advocate in his education. This scene would be truly heartfelt if the dad was not gleefully erasing the carefully crafted chart with the seat of his pants as she speaks.

I know parents who pay their kids to finish summer work before vacation, some employ charts and rewards and I struggle to remember what my parents did. Oh, but wait, we only had to read during the summer. Because there were no computers for 10 minutes of work on a language website every week. There was no Amazon so the librarian stamped the slip in the back of the book that bore the marks of summer readers that had come before you. We had to hand-write book reports with no spell check so if you made a mistake, you started writing all over again in heavy, curly cursive. We read our books at night after a day of playing outdoors and swimming and let the words lull us into a blissful state of unconsciousness.

Which is my current state as the mind-numbing “Wife Swap” episode comes to its predictable conclusion. Each family learns a little bit about balance and new experiences that can be enjoyed if you keep an open mind. One of the four parties always stomps away from the joint meeting designed to reunite the husband and wife while trading the positive aspects of the experience. Yet, they always return to the table, albeit begrudgingly, to finish what they started.

Much the same with summer work. Somehow we manage to balance it all. Camp, swim team, vacation and books, math and websites. Everyone, including me, stomps away from the table on occasion but we always return to begrudgingly finish what we started.


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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

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