Saturday, September 18, 2010


As September approached, I was dreading the start of school. Seriously, even more than Mr. Mixed Media, whose entire vocabulary during the month of August was reduced to seven (and a half) words: “I do not want to go to school, duh.” The Percussionist, on the other hand, was counting down the days in avid anticipation—“I just want to find out what third grade is like.” His enthusiasm for the structure of school quashed my fantasies of just skipping the whole thing, continuing the summer schedule of relaxed long mornings and fluid bedtimes. If one of them is in school, then we have to get up anyway, so I might as well get some kid-free grocery shopping time. But I wasn’t looking forward to the rushed mornings, the last-minute packing of lunches, the picking up and shuttling to after-school activities, just the whole school year routine, which tends to leave me exhausted and cranky, escalating the ceaseless “PLEASE put on your shoes NOW,” like a CD on repeat with the volume slowly turning up.

Early in the summer, my mother presented me with what she thought would be a question requiring some contemplation to answer. She had been reading “green living” exhortations to simplify as a means toward living more sustainably, and she wanted to know what that really would mean. So she asked what would be the biggest thing that would both simplify my life and have ecological benefits. My mouth answered before my brain even registered the question: “Stop all after-school activities.”

“Because of the driving, right?”

“Well, that, but really because when we are running around all afternoon, we are not only driving, we are also away from home.” As the boys would say: Duh, mom. I tried to recover from my self-evident & idiotic previous statement by adding, “So, I don’t get time to work in the garden, or to prepare non-processed suppers, or hang out the laundry. And we end up grabbing non-organic burritos or pizza way too much. And the kids don’t get time to work in their gardens, either, and it defeats the whole purpose of them having gardens if I do their harvesting while they are at school. ”

So, two months later, there I was, dreading the school year, and the “duh, mom” lightbulb went off: extracurricular activities are actually optional! We can just skip them, and afterschool can be a time to hang out and garden and cook and play. Whoa, Nellie! Who knew? It totally rocks. And the kids still haven’t harvested their gardens very well, which means their main crops will be seeds for next year, but we are all so much more relaxed and fun, not to mention well-fed on cooperatively cooked suppers.

So to my own mom, for giving me that “Duh, mom” moment, I owe you a “thanks, Mom.” (Well, duh.)