A Tale of Two Report Cards

School, it is over. Well, almost over. It will be over as soon as I head over to the school this morning and chaperone one (1) kindergarten celebration and one (1) lunchtime pizza party. THEN school is officially over.

When the kids return home with their backpacks full of the desk detritus of the past nine months, I plan on taking their lunch boxes into the back yard and reenacting that one printer scene from Office Space. I am DELIGHTED to no longer have to stuff the same (mediocrely-received) granola bars, cheese sticks and cream cheese bagels into lunch boxes that probably should have had a really good scrubbing sometime around spring break.

With the school year wrapped up, I now officially have a fourth grader, a first grader and a preschooler.

This picture belies all of the fighting over Lego pieces that is about to occur this summer.

Coonskin cap because: LAST DAY! Also, I think it’s pretty evident from this picture that Millie is going to be that one friend in college, the one who always knows where the really good parties are.

Henry had a great year at school. He is an enthusiastic learner and you could almost see his brain growing exponentially as he learned more difficult mathematics, wrote more complicated stories and started reading books with barely any pictures in them. His teacher bemusedly explained that sometime in May, Henry politely grilled her about what eras of history they would be covering for the rest of the term. He was eager to know what he had to look forward to. Outside of some complex social issues (that seem to dramatically increase around this age), Henry thoroughly enjoyed third grade.

Juxtapose Henry’s eagerness to learn about Roman history and requests for additional multiplication worksheets against Charlie’s look of utter devastation when he learns that, “Yes, son, today is a school day.” Imagine his absolute dejection as he, literally, drags his feet towards his backpack.

Charlie is not a fan of formal education.


Contrary to our hopes, Charlie’s attitude about schooling hasn’t changed much since his pre-k days. He struggled this year to learn the big concepts that kindergarten reinforces and introduces. Reading and writing and vocabulary and telling time and counting money – all of these things took work for him this past year. Work he only grudgingly agreed to do. Charlie would much rather be home, surrounded by his favorite things, playing outside in his favorite places, riding around on his favorite Gator. He completed his school work mostly because he HAD to, not because he WANTED to or had any INTEREST in it.

It’s not a behavior thing for Charlie. He adjusted well at the beginning of the year and seems to get along swimmingly with everyone. It’s just an effort thing. He simply would rather be doing something else entirely.

Since I like to fret about all of the wrong things, I was quick to assume Charlie’s kindergarten performance meant he would be living in our basement well into adulthood. Bob, non-fretter, kind of rolled his eyes in my general direction and stressed repeatedly, “It’s… KINDERGARTEN.” Which, he’s totally right, of course. It’s just kindergarten. But, I wouldn’t be a modern parent if I didn’t place in an inordinate amount of importance on what happens to Charlie when he’s six as a precursor for future success.

Charlie seemed to get with the program towards the end of the last quarter of the school year. He still complained bitterly about having to go to school but his final tests showed marked improvement and effort. Like, he was legitimately trying.

He’s going to have to legitimately try throughout the summer, too. We’re running a bit of a Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good around here. We want to keep the skills he’s acquired sharp through a little summer school. We haven’t told him that yet though, so keep it hush-hush for now.

We also haven’t explained to him that in about ten weeks from now, his half-day of kindergarten turns into a full day of first grade. I anticipate Charlie will have some thoughts about that as well.

My Feelings, They Are Complicated

I had a commitment this week that took me away from home for a couple of days in a row – gone from mid-morning until dinnertime – leaving Bob at home with the kids. I’ll be gone in a similar fashion this coming weekend when I head south to visit friends in our old town. Neither obligation takes me away from home for a substantive amount of time by any means so you’d think I’d feel less guilty about being gone. I don’t. I still feel terrible about leaving for an entire weekend. Like, I’m somehow skipping out on my duties.


I consistently surprise and frustrate myself at the amount of guilt I can muster up over having outside responsibilities and interests that leave Bob bearing the brunt of the childcare and household chores in my absence. I inevitably find myself fighting this deep-seated mom guilt every time I head out the door to do something that’s just for me. Whether it’s antiquing in town or dinner with friends or even just daily exercise, I feel bad that I’ve left Bob to manage the kids and all of their needs.

I have no idea why I feel this way and have no idea how to stop feeling this way.

Every time I’m getting ready to leave the house, I grill Bob on whether or not he’s alright with my absence. Over and over, I repeat my questions, “Are you sure you’re okay taking care of the kids while I’m gone? Maybe running to the grocery store since we’re out of milk and kid carbs? Think you could handle that? Maybe? Is it asking too much?” I mean, I’m ridiculous. The whole dialogue is ridiculous!

Also, ultimately, a double standard.

Bob doesn’t nudge me awake every morning at 5:15 when he leaves for work to ask, “Hey, you sure you’re alright to watch the kids today? It won’t be too much on you to care for three small children for the next twelve hours, will it? To make three square meals and two half-hearted snacks? To wipe faces and hands clean of crumbs and peanut butter? To empty and reload the dishwasher of the same cereal bowls, IKEA plastic plates and juice glasses? Can you handle sweeping the floor in a Sisyphean cycle of despair? To finally deal with that crumpled load of sheets in the dryer that you’ve been ignoring because folding fitted sheets is still the absolute worst? And, don’t forget about homework, okay? Everyone will cry but you just have to persevere, alright? Are you sure you can take three kids to that eye appointment where you’ll all be crammed into a tiny room for way too long while everyone complains that they’re hungry? And, you haven’t forgotten that you’ll have to take them to soccer practice after that have you? Expect that one of them will have to use the suspicious porta-potty next to the parking lot, okay?”

Bob certainly doesn’t ask, “You sure you can handle all of that plus a hundred other things that will arise throughout the course of the day?”

So, why do I ask those questions of him? Why do I fret so much about what he can and cannot deal with? Why do I handle his lone wolf parenting with the most gentle of expectations? I have literally walked out the door before, looked at Bob and said, “Just keep them alive, okay?” Like, somehow, I’m the only one that can do what I do. Which is true, but also, not, you know? Bob is an extremely capable parent that deserves to be categorized a few notches above “babysitter” when I’m not around.

One of the side effects of all of this is that I’ll curb my time away if I feel like I’ve been gone too long or if I think he might be getting exhausted at home or if it’s close to dinner time and I know he could use my help. I abort my time off in deference to what he may or may not be going through with the kids in my absence. Which is kind of sweet in that marriage-y way but also totally sucks for me at the same time.

It’s all just so complicated.

I suspect all of this is a result of being a stay-at-home mom. It’s because mommying is my “job.” I’m the default parent. All day, every day. But, Bob has a job and even he gets guilt-free paid vacation days. Why should I feel any different about my vacation days? Why do they have to come with so many qualifiers and concerns and military-style logistics to ease his burden?

I have so many questions and not nearly enough answers. I think, ultimately, I need to learn how to walk out the door without so much guilt. Without any guilt. Without worry about what Bob can handle and how the kids will behave and will the house still be standing upon my return.

Instead of asking earnestly, “Are you sure you’ll be okay, Bob,” I need to learn to say, “Listen, let’s acknowledge that there’s a slight risk I won’t come home tonight. And, you’ll be just fine.”