The joy of going back to school lasts exactly one day.
After that the schedules kick in.
And now that my kids are older, it seems their activities in and out of school have become wildly demanding: games here, extracurricular activities there, rehearsals at this time, practices at that time.
September should be declared National Conflict month.
During the second week of school my three kids must attend five different activity meetings. They are all mandatory. Three of the meetings are at the same time on the same day, and if they don’t attend they may not be allowed to participate in whatever activity it is they are attending the meeting for.
The purpose of the meetings are to reinforce attendance policies.
This year I prepared for the onslaught of September early. I spent the last two days of August combing through all of the important emails and letters and post cards I have collected related to the start of school and overlaid all the upcoming events and schedules on my calendar.
Every Wednesday between 6:00 and 6:30 PM there is some white space.
When I lay my wife’s schedule on top the white space disappears.
Generally when I need to be three places at once it makes me feel important. Where my children are concerned, it makes me feel panicked. For some inexplicable reason I believe their futures will be jeopardized if I can’t get them where they need to be.
I mean, how would you feel if your child missed cross-country practice and was subsequently rejected by Harvard?
It occurs to me that I may take my responsibility as a limo driver too seriously.
Nevertheless, there are some solutions to my emerging scheduling crisis, although most are impractical.
For example, home schooling the kids and chaining them to an Amish bedpost, while freeing them from the ferocious grip of school activities, is not only counter-productive, it is beyond my sanity.
Conversely, buying three cars for three kids to get them where they need to be is out of the question. Especially since two don’t drive.
Yesterday I even asked my daughter if she could Skype into her first soccer practice. Apparently that won’t work either.
That leaves the only known solution to modern day scheduling conflicts: carpools.
Carpools work well, except when I am expected to reciprocate. Because the down side of carpools is that they require some degree of advanced planning, a firm commitment, a large car, and a distribution list of participating parents, all of which I don’t currently have access to.
I had an anxiety dream the other night in which I was operating a carpool Ponzi scheme, continually trading my driving turns for a date in the future.
I was busted when I ran out of parents to trade with and failed to pick up my daughter and eleven of her teammates at soccer practice. My carpool partners were not impressed when their daughters returned home late for dinner in taxicabs.
In my dream I had no car because while I frantically arranged transportation for the girls, I ordered my older son skip his SAT exam to hold down my end of another driving pyramid involving his brother and the entire middle school band.
As I desperately waited for everyone to return home I received a call from my wife. She was waiting at the train station for a ride home. It was raining.
A short while later I found myself standing in a lecture hall in my underwear trying to figure out where my final exam was being held.
I have those kinds of dreams.
When did things become so hectic? When did parenting equate to a full time job in logistics? When did attendance become mandatory and tardiness a capital offense?
And when did travel distances exceed bicycle range?
When I was kid I walked and rode my bike everywhere. To friends. To school. To practice. Sometimes I got dropped off in the car knowing that it was my responsibility for finding a ride home. And sometimes my parents picked me up and offered my friends a ride home because they didn’t have one.
And in the winter, I dressed very warmly or did less.
It all seemed to work fine. If it hadn’t I would still be standing at a practice field somewhere in Chicago waiting for a ride home.
But I also remember there were times when I just couldn’t go to wherever it was I needed to go. I couldn’t get ride was a legitimate excuse in an age when no one could be reached unless they were home near a telephone.
Years later, I was rejected by Harvard.
And that, my friends, is why I have become the Wimpy parent I am today.
I’ll gladly drive Tuesday for a ride today.