I think the people who run the public education institution believe that parents exist solely for their benefit: to produce children and then submit their lives as an offering of servitude in support of whatever particular program they’ve seen fit to implement.
As a working adult with an actual life that includes things other than being the parent of a school-age kid, I often find their expectations at odds with my own agenda.
When you reach a certain point in your life, the one that is full and rich with Stuff To Do (e.g. Work, Home and Yard Maintenance, Food Preparation, Bill Paying, Having Special Moments and Meaningful Conversations With Your Children, Endless Chauffeuring, Dispensing Instantaneous Cash, etc.), you discover that time becomes the most precious resource of all. Like a suitcase, life only works if everything is crammed in there just so. Upset the delicate balance, and it doesn’t all fit. You end up carrying your socks.
Getting Enough Sleep is like clean underwear in that suitcase. It’s a non-negotiable.
So it becomes the life’s goal of any parent to eek out every last nanosecond of sleep possible. This is especially true if you have, for one reason or another, lost about four hours of sleep because you couldn’t fall asleep until 2:00 AM the night before.
I had fully intended to just not bother getting up this morning. Even after Michael came into our room at our normal wake up time, I was going to just sleep through. In my head I had worded a cordial letter to the school: “Dear Educational Facilitators: Michael will not be attending school today because I need
clean underwear sleep. Thank you and good night.”
Then School comes along and says “Nope, we have other plans for you today.”
You see, during our morning rush, Michael’s Mommy came dashing back into the house after dropping off a surly, attitude-marinated teenager at high school.
“IT’S RIDE OR WALK TO SCHOOL DAY!!!” she announces. This information does not travel completely up my neurons to my brain before she continues: “I’m going upstairs to change.”
“Ride Or Walk Day” is another clever device constructed by the educational system to make us Environmentally Aware, and to then provide us a reason to feel smug about how we saved gas and lowered our carbon footprint or something. The fact that the buses would still be running, dumping out their standard issue of particulate diesel smoke doesn’t seem to enter into the equation. Nor does the fact that the kids who live close enough to walk anyway won’t be altering their behavior, and the ones that live too far to walk are very likely STILL not going to walk also doesn’t seem to factor in. It does, however, motivate some parents (such as ourselves) into exercising our cunning.
I immediately put the brakes on whatever it was I was doing to get myself ready to leave.”Oh geez. Michael, do you want to ride or walk?”
“Uh… rrrrriiiiidde?” he asks, as though it were a trick question.
“Okay, I’ll get your bike.”
His bike is hung up in the garage next to his mom’s and mine. It’s like some grim, mechanical abattoir, these poor, forgotten constructions of steel and rubber remain suspended from the ceiling on the off chance that one day they might be taken out and ridden.
Naturally the tires are flat and require pumping up. I set the bike on the garage floor and extract the pump from the tangle of bungee cords and tubes of caulk. Pumping up tires is one of my least favorite chores.
“Why is it (pump) that these people (pump) feel the need (pump) to make me work (pump) so darn hard (pump) just to provide (pump) my kid (pump) an education? (pump) And are we (pump) really saving (pump) the environment (pump) in any way (pump) shape or (pump) form?”
I disconnect the pump, drop it on the floor and hurriedly put Michael’s bike in the back of the car.
You see, we’re going to cheat and drive Michael and his bike to a convenient spot and then ride the rest of the way. If we had to ride from home, it would take hours. But this way, we ride/walk up the hill to school. Probably won’t take but ten minutes. Then Michael does his bit, we all look like we’re Good Parents, and everyone goes home with that nice Environmentally Aware Smugness that we’re all after.
Once we get to the parking spot and start heading up the hill, I notice that suddenly the distance between where we are and where we are going is a lot farther than how it looks when I drive along that stretch. And the hill is a lot steeper.
Michael manages to keep a fairly stead 0.03 MPH on his bike, steering wildly to keep himself upright, spending most of his leg’s energy alternating between back-pedaling to brake and putting his feet out to prevent himself from tipping over. I have my hand on his back providing all of his forward thrust.
“Michael, stop hitting the brakes!”
He continues his serpentine crawl. I’m concerned about the time. We only have a few minutes before the bell rings and others are passing us by: walking, riding, pushing strollers.
At long last the hill begins to level out. ‘Surely he’ll get going faster,’ I thought.
No… the possibility of increased velocity intimidated him all the more. His zig-zag path grew more wild, and I began to worry about the others on the path. I grabbed on with both hands and steered him myself, while providing still more forward momentum.
“Michael! Stop braking! I promise you’re doing less than 20 miles per hour in the school zone!”
Slowly but surely we plodded along, passing the chain link fence and eventually coming to the entrance of the school.
Panting hard after our formidable trek, I said: “I figured this would be a ten-minute jaunt up the hill! I had no idea it would take this long to get here.”
“Actually,” my wife said, “it only took us seven minutes.”
“So, it just seemed like an hour?”
At the door, they gave him a pencil and a lanyard, tangible evidence of his Environmentally Good Deed. We kissed him goodbye and in he ran, leaving his bicycle for me to carry back. All the way back down the hill. Well, at least he’s not on the bike this time.
I’m calling this my exercise for the day.