Everyday Orinda – August 2019


New School Calendar: Gift or Grift

    On Aug. 14, when we wistfully remark, “Summer went by so fast,” we won’t be observing that with our usual “sand through the hourglass” nostalgia (or, if our greys are particularly showy, our “catapulting toward Rossmoor” paranoia). This year, our fleeting summer will be a reflection of fact. The Orinda and Acalanes school year begins one week earlier, during the second week in August.
     “68 Days,” a Miramonte Parents Club Facebook post announced as the school year wrapped, in an attempt to reduce precious transition time and prod us into “full-on summer mode” ASAP. Hurry up and relax, people! Kids dutifully implemented pool bathing, engaged their “night-wired/day-tired” body clock, and flipped their brains to “airplane mode” right out of the starting gate.
    Fortunately, the Class of 2020 is accustomed to massive shifts in policy, so much so that the class mascot really should be a guinea pig. Our little test rodents will hopefully adjust to this re-calendaring with the same resilience as the introduction of Common Core academics in seventh grade, and shifting to block scheduling as they began sophomore year in high school.
    As long as no one is threatening to restrict their phone use, the kids will accept just about anything. I asked my daughter how she felt about being shortchanged on her last high school summer. I came of age in an era bookended by Grease’s “Summer Lovin” and Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need No Education,” so I was expecting at least a mild expression of either melancholy or outrage. Instead, she only looked at me quizzically, like my dog does when I ask him for advice.
    Then I realized, “Duh. Shortchanged isn’t even a word anymore.” With debit cards and overpriced Mentos, people rarely pay with change. Coins are only useful if you need time on the meter to make lunching in Lafayette that much more expensive. So I clarified what I meant, asking instead if she felt “gypped.” She just shrugged; muttering, “It’s fine. Don’t send an e-mail to Mrs. Parks,” and returned to her phone.
    If it’s not going to bother the students, I shouldn’t let it bother me.  A shorter summer could actually be a bit of a gift. By the time August rolled around, I recalled, most of us parents were getting a bit snappish and wit’s-end-ish after months of a chaotic Denny’s-with-a-revolving-door household.
    The cabinet’s worth of half-full – or half-empty, depending on the state of my blood sugar — glasses littering the countertops. The chronically depleted refrigerator. The endless carpool algorithms. The audacity of our developing offspring to constantly desire sustenance. And let’s not even get started on the resourceful brainpower required to combat boredom, squelch sibling warfare, pry fingers from gaming consoles, or sneak in a cleverly-disguised educational activity. What was I thinking? I should send the School Board a thank you note.
    But yet, despite the rigors of summertime child rearing, I was always especially fond of those last aimless weeks in August. The long days finally started to capture the lazy summertime of my youth, when the heat robbed a body of any remaining motivation, forcing it to slow down and, in an effort to avoid sweating, abandon any ambitious goals.
    August was also an excellent time for the kids to attend Mountain Camp or to take a family vacation, as most of the recreational and club sports had either wrapped up or went on hiatus.
    With school starting one week earlier, it will also finish earlier in the spring. Whereas the kids might be grumpy in August, hopefully we all will be thrilled no one has to attend school in June.
    After growing up in the south, where all schools are shuttered by Memorial Day, my regimented “School Mom” brain shuts down like clockwork on May 28. After this date I can no longer effectively prepare lunches, assist with homework, enforce bath time, care if anyone wears dirty socks or, God forbid, remember to sign permission slips.
    It just feels wrongheaded to send kids to school in June, like watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas in March, or allowing your daughter to leave the house in an outfit she calls a dress, but you call a shirt.
    Another important change that should not be overlooked, especially by parents of seniors, involves the final exam schedule for high school students. Final exams will now be administered the week prior to Winter Break (Dec. 17-20) instead of mid-January.
    Parents of seniors: November and December might not be as joyful for us as in years past, as many college applications will also be due in late fall and winter, in addition to significantly less prep time for finals.
    No one will be singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” at my house, except my high school graduates, as they gear up for Black Friday. This year I’m replacing my Andy Williams holiday music with yoga — lots and lots of yoga. See y’all at ATMA Yoga.

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