Finish Line.

It’s May.  The air is becoming thick with humidity, warmth, and the scent of late spring flowers.  The days are getting longer and kids are back out at the neighborhood basketball courts.  There is an electric buzz of anticipation around us as long hot days creep closer. Me? I am desperately clinging to any sign of summer I find.  I’ve almost gone as far as to ban jeans from everyone’s wardrobes and I’ve already switched from red to white wine in the evenings. It’s all an act though, because it’s not summer yet.  Look a little closer, yep see those dark circles under our eyes?  See the defeated glances we send as we glance out the window daydreaming about the sunshine?  Yep, here we are yet again limping through the end of the school year . Crying a little on the inside from yet another year of soul crushing education (sorry I might be a little dramatic).  I saw an article recently about a marathon runner who collapsed in view of the finish line. The runner then proceeded to army crawl the remaining yards just to be able to say they completed the 26.2 miles.  That’s us right now, except the finish line is that magical last bell of the school year.

I’m a decade into this school thing from the parenting angle.  I remember the excitement that surrounded that first day of school for Oldest Kid.  I have these pictures of her with a beaming smile on her face with little pigtails in her hair, dressed in pink, and holding a glittery lunch box with a puppy on it.  It was such a big kid thing, going to school, she wasn’t a baby anymore and she was freaking excited. For me it meant a few hours with one less kid hanging off my appendages, a freedom that at that point seemed like a major luxury.  Both of us had this fantastical view of school, it was going to be the best thing ever! Obviously I was never one of those moms that cried at drop off on the first day. I was always kind of like, “peace out, don’t do something that’s going to get you expelled.”

Back then I had no understanding of the effect eleven years of elementary school was going to have on me.   Just the act of getting these kids to school each morning has been torture enough. Look, I am not a morning person by nature, plus I’ve been sleep deprived since Oldest Kid was born.  Waking up at six twenty in the morning for all these years is slowly killing me, I am sure of it. Why our school district feels the need to punish students and parents with starting school at an ungodly hour I will never fully understand.  My brother once told me that the number one way to stay healthy and keep your body running at peak performance is to make sure you get plenty of quality sleeping hours. He didn’t have kids yet when he said this. I kind of wanted to punch him.  I’ve been told It’s a bad idea to start fist fights with professional athletes though.

So since everyone is horribly sleep deprived our school system has also decided that the end of the year is definitely the best time to dole out standardized tests.  Keep in mind the school has also spent the entire year putting the fear of God into these kids over these stupid tests. It starts in third grade, the kids come home in like January with wide eyes saying, “If I don’t pass milestones I’m not going to be able to go to fourth grade!”  Yah, it’s a ton of BS. Middle Kid with all her anxiety and dyslexia was a mess the first time these tests rolled around. There was no way in hell she could pass them, especially because spelling is graded on the written content. Her teacher explained how this all actually works to me, if your kid fails you have to meet with a team of teachers and administrators to go over recommendations for the upcoming year. If the option to hold the child back presents itself both the school and the parents have to sign off on the decision.  Despite what these kids are being told they don’t just get held back because they bombed a stupid standardized test.

Technically we do have the option to opt out of the test, but that is not exactly advertised.  I like to say that I don’t opt my kids out because they need the experience of taking these tests before it really matters, like for the SAT’s.  But in reality I just don’t want to be linked with the one crazy “Opt Out” mom. You know, the one that probably spent all of college protesting global warming and mistreatment of refugees somewhere in Africa.  She goes all out on her very own “Opt Out” movement, tagging every other parent at the school on Facebook when she posts crazy anti testing articles and meeting with school administration. She’s convinced she’s going to single handedly build an army that takes down the evil standardized testing system.  I’m pretty sure she thinks there is some greedy corporate mogul behind the whole thing. He’s tucked away in an office somewhere rubbing his hands together with an evil laugh watching as the profits for his scantron production company go through the roof. You end up blocking her on Facebook after the five thousandth “Opt Out” thing she’s tagged you in and you just tell your kids to suck it up and take the damn test.

Once the testing is over the kids don’t give a shit about what they are being taught anymore.  As far as they’re concerned as long as they passed the milestones they passed the grade. Really the teachers aren’t giving so much of a shit at this point either.  Neither am I. I’m not totally sure why we can’t just cut our losses and call it for the year. Instead I ask my kids if they have homework when they walk in the door, but don’t actually check their bags when they say no.  At this point I just tell them to not fail anything. My A’s and B’s expectations from earlier in the year fly out the window. Just pass your classes, I don’t want to deal with summer school.

On top of school all our end of the year performances for extra curriculars happen in May.  So far we’ve gone through the school play, a chorus concert, a piano concert, and a state meet for gymnastics.  None of their sports really have much of an off season, and swim actually picks up in June. Middle Kid’s training is revving up for nationals which occur in June and Older Kid starts rehearsals next week for recital.  Youngest kids swim team practices start next Monday, I think. Add on to that all of middle kid’s fifth grade graduation events in a few weeks and we have a situation where I am checking schedules day by day just hoping I don’t screw any of it up.

It’s worth it though, the party that’s waiting for us at the end of our sprint is epic.  We live in one of those neighborhoods where everyone ends up drinking at the pool all summer while our kids run rampant from house, to pool, to park, to another house.  The first couple weeks after school lets out is like a pool party free for all. We should probably supervise the kids a little more than we actually do, but whatever, we know where they are.  If someone gets pissed off they know where to find us. At this point they’ve all got iphones with find my friends, and as long as they stick together and don’t go take candy from the back of some guy’s van we’ll be okay.  Besides Middle Kid is the one who’s got the biggest propensity for trouble, and I just send Oldest Kid with her as a spy. We’re officially on summer countdown guys, fifteen days. That’s me, over there, army crawling to the finish line.

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