Thank you for the ride, and the great friendships

August 30, 1998|By SUSAN REIMER

IT IS THE START OF school, and for the first time in a couple of months my kids and I will be doing the same thing every day for longer than one week.

That is, for the next nine months, we will be grousing at one another as we stumble out the door at some ungodly hour that qualified as the middle of the night during summer vacation.

It will be unpleasant, I'm sure, but at least it will be the same every day.

Summer vacation feels more like a sitcom to parents like me - a different script every week. Only I never found anything amusing in reinventing child care every Sunday night.

Each Monday morning, I left for my same old job. But my children began a week at a different camp or a different class or in a different state.

And they did it with a different friend from a different neighborhood with a different mother who had a different job. Bottom line: different car pool.

I came to understand what people mean when they say they live one day at a time. My children would ask about their schedule just a couple of days hence, and I would respond: "I don't know. I'm not there yet."

Each of their activities began and ended at a different time, but the most meaningless schedule was 9 3 p.m. What is the point of 9 to 3? All 9 to 3 means is that you have to find child care before 9 and after 3. I think 9 to 3 is more trouble than it is worth.

The alternative was leaving my teen and my preteen at home during my workday, but I did not want to return to an unholy mess. There would have been dishes in the sink and blood on the floor.

How did I handle this patchwork of teams and games and camps and classes and trips out of town? I stitched it together with the help of my friends.

I am related by car pool to some of the finest men and women in the world, and I could not have made it through the summer without them.

Indeed, I could not make it through the rest of the seasons, either.

These parents are so generous that they would drive one of my children whenever I asked - even when their own children were not riding that particular circuit.

There is no greater sacrifice than driving somewhere your kid does not have to be, and these parents did it for me again and again.

They gave of their precious days off. They gave of their precious peace of mind.

And they performed supplemental parent services on my behalf.

There is nothing like spending a hot day in a car with a bunch of cranky kids to blur any lines between a mother and children in whom she has a biological stake and children in whom she does not: Thanks for barking at my kids.

Even if you did not successfully convey manners, respect and personal responsibility, you caused them to consider the possibility that maybe their mother was not so bad after all.

Thanks, too, for comforting my daughter on her first nights far away from home. Thanks for knowing she would need your tenderness.

Thanks for feeding my son - for driving through the drive-through windows and calling for the pizza, and for knowing that he likes his noodles plain.

Thanks for saying, "No problem," every time I called. Thanks for never being late and causing my child to worry.

This summer, I have felt the affection you have for my children, and for me.

It is a chain of generosity and trust that is repeated in communities across this country among working parents.

The international community could learn from us. I hope our kids are paying attention, too.

Pub Date: 8/30/98

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