May. What a deceptively lovely month. It begins innocently enough, with those sweet little May baskets festooned with ribbons and fresh blooms, but by month’s end, most parents of school children are flat on their backs begging for mercy. Yes, May, you got me again. You’re worse than Christmas. You’re kicking my butt.
Even the teachers are feeling it. Don’t ask me how I know. And my editor, who probably didn’t appreciate getting emails from me while I finished last week’s column on a big yellow bus churning with 49 singing sixth-graders en route to the zoo. I’m guessing she’s feeling it, too.
Final projects, final exams and final field trips. Throw enough of these routine-benders into one month, not to mention all of the rescheduled soccer games that were rained-out in April – including the ones Noah referees – and someone is bound to get a little loopy. Or testy.
“Mom, I’m not going off to war, I’m going to a baseball game,” Holly quipped, after I reminded her to put on sunscreen and pack an extra water bottle, before she left home for a Kane County Cougars field trip. “Uh huh,” I replied, as I made her shove a sweatshirt into her already-full backpack.
It’s any wonder we don’t all have tics. Or maybe we do.
And what about all of those special dances, proms, recitals and graduations? I dodged the bullet, this May. Got none of those to squeeze in. (And thank God I’m a recovering Catholic or I might have First Communions and confirmations to attend, too.)
The thing is, we don’t just have to make time for all of this stuff. We must appropriately clothe everyone for everything, too. May isn’t cheap. I remember, pre-kids, when the only checks I had to write were for rent and Glamour magazine. I laughed (or was I whimpering?) when I recalled that. And then I picked up my pen.
“You’re writing that down, aren’t you,” Holly asked.
I nodded, and then we headed out to spend more money. This time, for a Jane Goodall costume. Yes, my animal- lover typecast herself as the chimpanzee researcher for a biography breakfast at her middle school. And she needed something to wear. And a nametag. Right? Wrong.
“Mom, the chimps didn’t care what her name was,” Holly said.
Haha, true. Poor kid, I needled her all week long, that week, with my suggestion that she include Goodall’s death on her project timeline, as I was certain I’d heard news of Goodall’s death among the gorillas, years ago.
“She’s not dead, Mom,” she repeated, growing ever-wearier each time I mentioned Goodall’s alleged demise, “and they weren’t gorillas. They were chimpanzees. They’re not the same.”
Seems she’s right, on both counts. One of my mom friends, Danice, with whom I chatted while helping to supervise the biography breakfast, had just heard Goodall interviewed on NPR the day before. She’s alive! I almost humiliated Holly by running over to her table to hug her in apology. So, who died then? That afternoon I called my Mom, who knows everything. This time she didn’t, though, and consulted Google, for answers.
“Please tell me someone died at the hands of a gorilla,” I said, sighing, preferring not to learn that I’d lost my mind.
Turns out I was thinking of anthropologist Mary Leakey, who died in 1996 in Kenya. Or maybe it was Diane Fossey, whose 1985 death among her beloved gorillas remains shrouded in mystery. Was she killed by gorillas? Or was it the poachers who killed her as she struggled to protect them? You may recall the movie “Gorillas in the Mist.”
Yeah, that was her. Anyhow, this debate may have happened the last week in April, now that I think about it, but I digress.
And besides, “Mom! They were chimpanzees!” Holly reminded me, again. Right.
I’m thinking a tic may be the least of my concerns.
By the time I helped Noah finish up one of his final projects (“help” might be a strong word, actually), I was giddy from exhaustion. But that didn’t stop me from coming up with a real winner, regarding social customs in Cameroon. Did you know that handshakes between men in this African country are often combined with a snap on the release? Noah, so weary from slogging through schoolwork that he was lying face-down on the floor beside the laptop, didn’t believe it either until he found references to it on another website. Then, naturally, we spent the next 10 minutes trying to perfect the handshake. And laughing. I so love those unexpected moments with my children when pressure seems magically relieved!
But it’s a good thing I only have two. What about moms who have more? Noah’s preschool teacher once quipped that she remembers nothing from the Vietnam War era because she was too busy raising four. I believe it.
I’m just trying to get through May, and it’s flattening me, what with all of the crazy stuff on the calendar. Forget about funerals. Anyone who expects me to show up at theirs had better have the decency to wait ’til June to kick the bucket.
I’m grieving my sanity, this month. I probably won’t remember a thing. It’s a good thing I wrote this column.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.