Why God invented grandchildren
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:12AM
It’s August now, and regular readers here know what that means.
As soon as July 4th fireworks faded into the night sky, or in the case of Vernon Hills, simply sputtered out, the annual metamorphosis began. Sale flyers and catalog ads suddenly pushed aside the red, white and blue of summer celebrations in favor of dorm sheet sets, notebook binders and student electronics. Yes, it is now the month for back to school hoopla, and also for my annual rite-of-passage back to school column. I consider it my yearly therapy.
Many years ago, when I was a young mother with three bored, argumentative and rambunctious kids, I started the back to school countdown after Independence Day. By the time we got to late July, it was almost as if the empty Hawthorn school buildings were taunting me as we took our frequent walks around the neighborhood. I always made sure, once the kids were old enough, to build in a lot of camp and summer activities, just to assure that they would fall into bed exhausted each night and sleep like lambs. It’s a universal mom strategy.
But once the calendar turned over to August, I knew I was in the home stretch. We were in a school month! Those were the days when class lists were posted on the doors of the building, and it was always a joyful afternoon, at least for me, each year as we walked to the school to see which teacher would be matched with which Lenhoff kid. And when those beautiful yellow school buses rumbled down neighborhood streets for the first time, it was enough to make me try cheerleading moves I could’t even do in my heyday.
But for every yin there is a yang. Mine came the first year that all of my kids were in full-day school, something I had happy dreams about, something that in retrospect is similar to the wishful but misguided thinking of parents with teens: once they’re 18 they’re outta here, job done. Well, good luck with that, I say. I’m a parent of 30-somethings and I still haven’t been able to retire from that job yet.
But on that day, in the youth of my motherhood, I awaited the arrival of those buses like a cat on a hot tin roof. Antsy, eager, loving my kids but loving the idea of a whole school year, day after day, with no kids to haul around to the grocery, gas station, drug store. After all the buses had left and the bus stop was deserted, I entered my home that was so quiet I could hear the clock ticking and felt a surge of elation. Stopping into each kid’s room, beds made and completely silent, a big smile broke out. Until I reached the rainbow room of the baby, a newly minted first grader. Cherished teddy BooBoo Bear lay upside down and forlorn on her pillow, as it hit me then that no one would be getting tucked in for a nap, grasping BooBoo in small hands while eyes closed for an afternoon respite.
Those day were over, forever. Suddenly, my elation turned into hot tears. An era had passed and would never come back around. I had spent so much time pushing it forward, something I regretted on that very first day. And still do. Guess that’s why God invented grandchildren.
Send email to Pat Lenhoff at: firstname.lastname@example.org