I am going to be straight with you. This is a recycled post (with a few updates and edits.) But it's all I can manage as the last few weeks of the school year collide with a crush of work obligations, camp forms, summer vacation planning and the rest of life. And, the details aside, the end-of-school frenzy seems as relevant to me this year, as it did last.
This year, though, there are countless celebrations for not just one school-aged child, but two. Already, I've volunteered at K-2 Field Day, the all-second grade pizza-making party, and our after-care's cookout, and begged off a slot at the day-long kindergarten read-a-thon. (I do promise, however, to read a lot to my son this summer!) And there seem to be more parties, performances, special events and other activities than there are days left in the school year. (Nine, in case you're curious.)
The end-of-the-year insanity is challenging for working parents, and a lot of it seems manufactured, but there are some true upsides to the madness for parents and kids. Read on and see if your recongize your life in this post, and let me know how you handle the annual end-of-the-school-year frenzy.
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It's June. The end of the school year. Which means that over the next eight days or so, my first-grader will attend the following events: the Daisy Girl Scout's mother-daughter ice cream social, a first grade "Beach Party," a "Budding Authors" celebration, an end-of-soccer-season ice cream celebration, and our after-care provider's splash party/BBQ. That's on top of a birthday party, camp orientation, and the bounty of end-of-the-year activities we've already checked off.
Most of these events require some sort of parental participation. Some call for purchasing and hauling food and/or supplies. Others involve extensive but unnecessary outfitting. (The packing list for the "Beach Party" includes "3 of your favorite books, a beach towel, a water bottle, a bathing suit (optional), and sunscreen" but cautions that "we won't be playing in the water.") Still others request the pleasure of my company. Often, but not always, smack in the middle of my work day.
I was trying to figure out how to handle all this, when I came across Lisa Belkin's Motherlode blog about The End-of-School-Year Scramble. (N.B., Belkin is now the Huffington Post's Senior Columnist on Work/Life/Family.) She featured a column from a writer (who just happens to live in the next town from mine) lamenting the pre-summer scene, a "mad vortex of celebration and arm-twisting. I mean, volunteerism." (The quote is from the underlying article by Maura Mahoney, which you can find here.)
Reading the article, I felt a stab of recognition. That's not too surprising, as Mahoney and I are part of the same school system and live in nearly identical communities. I was, however, startled by how rampant this end-of-year trend has become. At least, for the Motherlode demographic. As many readers pointed out, this end-of-year celebratory abundance is not a problem in poor, under-resourced schools. One teacher (comment #31) wrote: "I work at a low-income elementary school and my students have one year-end party - thrown and organized by me."
I was also struck by the number of readers who felt, strongly, that the plethora of parties and celebrations is, indeed, out of control. Many observed that the constant parade of events diminished the importance of true milestones. Some advocated limiting or skipping events, and even having their children miss them, too. A lot of working parents, mostly moms, decried the incursions on vacation and family time for totally trivial events. (Not for significant graduations or concerts, but for the "pancake breakfast because we finished our class book." See comment #52.) They (and many others, including stay-at-home moms) argued that parents should say "no thanks" and work with the schools (and other organizations) to scale back events.
But other readers promoted parental involvement, noting that the various occasions give parents and kids the opportunity to be part of the larger school community and create connections with each other. They pointed out how excited elementary school kids are to share their school life and their school environment with their parents. And how fleeting that impulse is!
I'm not sure what I think. My sympathies fall naturally with the working parents who rue the expectations and pressure of the end-of-year frenzy. A lot of it does seem pointless. I don't want to miss important meetings at work or blow all my leave on manufactured, meaningless parties. (As it is, I work a reduced schedule, so my work time is precious.)
Still, I've enjoyed getting to know the teachers, other parents, and kids at my daughter's school, at her after-care program, and on her soccer team. I know that my daughter truly appreciated the time I took off from work to chaperone the first grade's recent field trip to a local theater. And, let's face it: Do I really want my daughter to be the only motherless kid at the "mother-daughter" ice-cream social? (Fortunately, I was able to arrange my schedule and telworked.)
So far, I've improvised, choosing the events I do attend. I map out my work schedule, my husband's work schedule, and our other family committments to figure out coverage for worthy events. And, frankly, I miss some of them. Seems like a strategy that might work going forward although I'm concerned that the second kid entering kindgergarten will throw me off-balance. (Update: The second kid in elementary school didn't throw me off-balance, but I did need to point out that I couldn't run the kindergarten and second grade Valentine's Day parties at the same time.)
What do you think? Do you find the close of school activities excessive or celebratory? How do you handle the end-of-year frenzy?