If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.
—Edgar W. Howe.
Edgar W. Howe was a novelist and magazine and newspaper editor who, with his wife Clara, raised five children in Nebraska 140 years ago. I reckon he knew the hazards of raising kids.
When our last child finally got on the old yellow school bus in September, the driver asked her what her mom was going to do now that all the kids were in school.
“Cartwheels” was her answer.
Some may shed a tear when they see those little legs trot off to school, leaving the daytime nest empty. Before pulling out the hanky, however, consider first that one must balance what might be a bit more free time during the day with the extracurricular activities and the dreaded after-school homework that is about to begin.
Remembering my kids’ school days makes me think back on mine. I am thankful for my education. It was critical to my development and future life, but all the same, I hated homework when I was a kid. For me homework was an acronym for Half Of My Energy Wasted On Random Knowledge. Mind you I did learn how to read, write, add and subtract, which I’ve found quite useful over the course of my life. But my math education did not prove its worth when our eldest would bring home his math homework and ask me for help. My advice when you see the jumble of numbers that bear no resemblance to what you learned way back then? Just nod, look busy and tell them to go see their father.
When I recall my school years, I mostly remember my teachers and friends and not the coursework. When our kids came home from school, I don’t recall them raving about what they just learned in math. That’s because they didn’t rave about what they learned in math. If they raved, it was about something that happened in school, not what they learned.
I recall some of these moments of excitement from when they were young because I used to write them down before they were gone from memory. One conversation that our son Spencer shared with his siblings upon arrival from school one day went something like this:
“Hey! Kelsey threw up at school today!”
The tragedy drew swift, enthusiastic response from his siblings.
“All over herself?” squealed Stephanie, thinking of the worst possible scenario for a third-grade girl.
“On her math book?” piped up a hopeful Warren who was thinking more in terms of the ideal landing spot.
“Nope,” gleamed Spencer. “On her lunch!”
“Gross!” came the delighted chorus.
Detecting comedy in tragedy is an art form kids have mastered. No textbook needed.
Faye Lippitt is the author of “16 Chickens on a Trampoline” and the children’s book, “The Great Caribbean Chicken Caper.”