I could barely comprehend the letter in my hand …it just didn't add up. … Which, I'll admit, was ironic since the page-long epistle was trying to spell out how my second-grader would surely benefit from summer school.
As I reread the words, I pictured his beloved summer camp and all of our day-trip plans disappearing with the liquid-y snap of a soap bubble.
He needs summer school? I thought he had improved so much this year ...
Of course, his teachers didn't call it summer school.
They called it “Invitations,” and sprinkled the script with colorful words that made it seem like it would be more fun than a barrel of simian superlatives.
They'd have to be crazy to think such a name would fool anyone, (much less a kid) into thinking a two-hour literacy class, scheduled smack-dab in the middle of July, was going to be a party.
Not if it didn't have basketball …
or Knock Hockey …
or ice cream and cupcakes ...
or firefighters, with a big red truck, who would spray all the kids at camp with a cool mist from the hose.
“How am I supposed to sell this?” I asked the dog, who had sidled up to me and dropped her head on my lap as I opened the mail. She was no help, though, and disappeared once she realized the fine people at Milkbone hadn't sent her any samples.
As a parent, I don't have to SELL anything.
It's having to do the unsavory for the good of humanity, or at least for the good of my future grandchildren who should have a father who can read.
No, this is just one of the many moments when parents have to do The Hard Thing.
The Parenting Thing.
The thing that rocks the boat and muddies the water.
The thing that hurts us more than it hurts them.
The thing that will, hopefully, make all the difference in the world.
And, according to the letter, the thing that will make a difference is sixteen more days of school.
I am prepped and ready.
I am talking the talk:
“Of course education comes first, of course it does,” my mother's mind says reflexively.
“Buuuuut … Education shouldn't be punitive,” rationalizes the kinder, gentler, pushover-like being in my soul who yearns for the calm and tranquil waters we will miss if we aren't poolside.
“Perhaps we can make some kind of compromise,” this touchy-feely mush mouth proposes. “Lots of people homeschool.”
“We know so many teachers … and there are so many programs we could use to supplement summer reading.”
Of course, I'm not opposed to threats.
I picture The Talk. The one where I sit him down and show him the letter. I tell him the predicament and give him a choice. He buckles down and does his reading and comprehension from now until school ends, or I sign him up for summer school.
He cries. I stay calm, cool and collected. The world doesn't implode.
I am patting myself on the back at my newfound fortitude. My we-pull-ourselves-up-by-our-bootstraps mantra when … an imaginary bubble hovered over my psyche. In it I can see my daughter vigorously shaking her head.
“Oh ye of modern motherhood's discontent,” her hologram-like apparition warns. “Woe to she who can't say no.”
“I know,” I reassure my tisking conscience. “Home schooling would be a huge mistake. ...”
Plip. Her bubble pops while mine slowly expands:
“But home summer schooling seems entirely possible.”
For a moment, my daughter's imaginary bubble returned, but she was speechless.
I took that as a good sign.
No, really. I can do this. Who volunteered in her kid's Literacy Block every Wednesday since October? I did.
And who actually went to Third Grade and didn't fail? Again … Me!
Who found all these cool, age-appropriate reading programs that even seem like video games? Me, that's who.
“We can do this. It's not rocket science. … it's third-grade reading.”
My mature child's bubble returned … and with it came another proof of my folly:
“And who celebrated a cavity-free dental visit with lollipops and licorice?”
To which I can only respond: “And who doesn't have cavities?”