Now that my daughter's first year of school has come to an end, I can't believe what a wreck I was back in August. Kindergarten would take her from my side for the first time ever, and at the time, I wrote much tearful prose about my sorrowful plight. How would I ever survive without my trusty sidekick? She was the Tonto to my Lone Ranger. The Tattoo to my Mr. Roarke. The John Rich to my Big Kenny. Except nicer.
Oh, the agony I suffered as I anticipated our painful separation. The tears I shed as I filled out her kindergarten paperwork. The ugly cry I barely held back as I balanced atop a ridiculously small chair during a parents' planning meeting.
My husband and I took my daughter to her classroom that first morning, and when we got home, it was no surprise that I cried a little. Okay, I cried a lot. But once the tears dried, I felt something I hadn't anticipated.
Freedom. Sweet, sweet freedom.
It wasn't total freedom — her brother was still home with me and would be for another three years. But he was a quieter, more docile boy when his sister wasn't around to antagonize him, and it didn't take me long to figure out that her days at school were really a blessing in disguise. While my daughter spent her days in a cheery environment with good friends and a great teacher, I was actually getting stuff done, as opposed to spending every minute of my time reading her the hard words in her books and getting out her art supplies and making her snacks and opening her Play-Doh and closing her markers and answering her questions about octopuses and robots and Antarctica and playing yet another round of Candy Land and letting her win and helping her with her spelling and taking her to the playground and the park and the zoo and, and, and ... you get the picture.
I didn't just survive her kindergarten year — I loved it. And in the end, it seemed that hardly any time had passed before I looked at my calendar a few weeks ago and noticed with horror a date I'd written in red ink nine months earlier: LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!!
The last day of school?! Already?! What on earth was I going to do with the kids? I hadn't made any plans, hadn't signed them up for activities, hadn't hired babysitters. It was all on me. At a loss, I went to some of the more experienced moms I knew for advice.
"So," I asked my friend Judy, "What are your kids going to be up to this summer?"
"Sport camps, day camps, art camps," she replied. "I've got them signed up for a different one each week.""Wow," I said longingly.
"It's only because I have to work," she muttered. "If I were home with them, we'd spend the summer going to the pool and to the library and having fun." We both were silent for a moment, each desperately wanting what the other had. This wasn't going well at all.
After listening to a few more tips from moms about day camps I couldn't afford, I had all but resigned myself to a summer of slavery. Heaven knows I love my kids. But 76 straight days without any kind of break was going to be hell. And then suddenly, just when I'd given up all hope, I spotted a solution while driving down Highway 70.
JOIN US FOR VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL, a gaily decorated sign read outside a suburban megachurch. Of course! Vacation Bible School was a time when churches across the city offered free childcare in exchange for the opportunity to indoctrinate local kids with possibly heretical theology! It was a win-win! I spent the next few days noting the dates and locations of every Vacation Bible School in the area.
I'll admit, I felt a tad guilty about my summer plans — until I began tentatively sharing them with other moms.
"Do you want to meet at the pool next week with the kids?" a mom asked me after Sunday school the other day.
"I can't," I said. "They're going to be at Vacation Bible School.""Really?" she said. "I thought that wasn't until the week after next."
"It isn't," I stammered, blushing. "I signed them up for Longhill Community Church's Vacation Bible School, too." (Church names have been changed to protect the indoctrinators.)
She grinned. "What about Woodfield Baptist?" she asked. "I send the boys there every year. Glen Hollow Church of Christ is great, too, and it's not until July!" She pulled out her iPhone. "Hold on, I'll give you the date. I've got a whole list of Vacation Bible Schools in here."
That's when I realized that the Vacation Bible School Summertime Sanity Plan was one of the oldest tricks in the mom handbook. And why not? No one can criticize it — because I'm pretty sure that if Jesus had had kids, he totally would have done it, too.
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