Doing Time: Starting School in August

I feel for the kid. It is still summer. Not only the technical “summer ends September 21st” definition of “still summer” but the crucial, cultural “there’s a full-bodied whopping week left in August” definition. High summer. The time to get in a few more days of boogie boarding or sand castle building or nerf wars in pajamas. The time to get bored and possibly even eager for the first day of school to finally arrive. So yes, I feel for the kid when he trudges downstairs this morning, three-quarters asleep with a tortured scowl on his face because today begins the second week of school.

“Yesterday felt like the last day of summer all over again.”

While I feel for all of the kids who headed back to school before the doldrums of summer could hit, I feel mostly for this one, who has proclaimed loudly and consistently his ahborrence of school. Even in the heady, loose days of pre-school, there was something about having to get dressed and leave home and do things all day that vexed his constitution. He does well in school, participates, gets good grades, etc. Maybe it’s all that behaving and rule-following that are the problem? (See, e.g., Calvin & Hobbes, our mutual favorite comic strip.) Elementary school can be a pressure cooker, even under the best circumstances (which, by the way, he has — good teachers, small classes, art and P.E. — The Works.)

He instigated a new tradition, he showed me last week on Day 1. On a blank white paper on his bookshelf, he scratched a tally mark in black ink, an inmate ticking off time served. That’s the spirit.

Off to school we trudged, the first homework project in his hands: a mobile made from a hanger, all about him, including a photo of his family (for love), his grandparents’ dogs (more love), a question mark (for curiosity), a quarter (for charity) (woot woot!), and a Lego figure (for play). It was impressive.

I gotta hand it to the kid, he makes the best of it. When you’re doing time, what choice is there?

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