A math packet. Get to work!

Faster than you can process the sentence “Uh, mom, I think maybe I was supposed to do a math packet,” summer is over.

One minute you are sitting on a beach, your only worry whether to have lobster for lunch or dinner (or both), and the next, you are discovering that not only does a math packet loom, so do three (THREE!) book projects.

Cue the Jaws music.

There are different sorts of families in our area. Some families are on it, whipping through summer homework before swim team time trials are over, moving on to flash cards and SAT prep for their ten-year-olds long before June has become a memory.

I’m not really friends with these kinds of people.

(Don’t get me wrong. I would LOVE to be friends with this group. Think of the organizational benefits I’d gain, just by virtue of proximity! I’d actually know about the existence of summer homework before late August! But they tend to give me a wide berth. I suppose I scare them off, given my cries of “WHAT? There was a letter from the SCHOOL?”)

Another type of family is headed by parents who are aggressively indifferent to such child-centered activities as summer homework. When I mention that “Wow, we really let the summer math packet slide,” they respond casually, “I had no idea there was any. Junior just takes care of everything himself.”

While I am kicking myself for using the pronoun “we,” they are wincing at my presence, as if the chop from my helicopter parenting blades is giving them a bad case of windburn.

I’m not really friends with them, either.

In this case, I’m not sure I’d want to be friends, but I would sure l-o-v-e to be in their shoes. Unfortunately, my being at blissfully unaware of my children’s responsibilities is not an option, at least for a couple of them. Yesterday, my son informed me that he had finished his nonfiction essay. Since he’d only begun it ten minutes earlier, I thought I’d better take a look at it.

It was two sentences.

I looked at him. He gazed calmly back.  He has very long eyelashes, and he was working them.

“This is ‘finished?’” I asked.

“Well, it is for the day,” he responded placidly.

“I don’t think that’s a great idea,” I said.

“Mommy,” he said patiently. “ALL my teachers have always said you should break big projects up into smaller projects, and just do a little each day.”

“They didn’t mean only spend ten minutes at a shot!” I told him.

He shrugged. “It’s just summer homework – it doesn’t really matter.”

“Yes, it does,” I said. “You need to make an effort.”

“Why?” he asked. “It’s not graded.”

“Yes, it is.”

He shrugged again. “I can live with a bad grade.”

At this point he may have noticed the various shades of purple crossing my face. Or perhaps it was the bulging eyeballs. He began to crack — but only a little.

“I’ll do GREAT on everything else!” he promised. “ALL year!”

And, so clearly, then there’s our kind of family. Amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth and cries of “But it’s summer VA-CA-SHUN!!” a desultory attempt was made on the various math packets and book projects just before we left for the beach. And then we returned, with one week to go, to Homework Hard Labor Camp.

Where did the summer go?