The Last Week of School is the Best Week of the Year

The Last Week of School is the Best Week of the Year

This week is one of my favorite weeks of the year: the last week of school. With fifty-two weeks each year it can be tough to choose the best. The build-up to Christmas is nice. That lazy week between Christmas and New Year’s, when the entire world seems discombobulated and economic production falls close to zero is pretty great. Thanksgiving and its excesses can really hit the spot. And nobody hates Spring Break.

But there’s nothing like that last week of school.

My kids have four days left. The school year ends on Thursday, officially, but what’s really happening these last four days? The high schoolers will have finals, no doubt. There’s plenty of studying to be done, but nothing new to be learned. Woe to the teacher who tries to cover new material this week. It ain’t happenin’.

The elementary school usually has field day – parachute, kickball, tug o’ war – one afternoon this last week, but they moved up the schedule this year for some reason, so it’s already done. Monday is iPad Charger Turn In Day, which seems to imply iPads will use less than 100% of their juice over the following three days. There’s the awards ceremony, which will take up an hour, and the Fifth Grade Send Off, which is Thursday’s big deal. But what happens the rest of the week? Not a lot. Which is what makes it great!

Speaking of Fifth Grade Send Off, this is the end of the line for me and elementary school. My kids are spread out in age such that I’ve had at least one kid in elementary school for 19 of the last 20 years. But this is it. I’ve got four more days as an elementary school parent, and I miss it already.

I could write all day about my nostalgia for something that hasn’t even ended yet, but that’s not what this is.

The last week of school.

I’m so envious of my kids. They’re finishing fifth, ninth, and eleventh grade this year. And when the bell rings on Thursday they’ll know they have the entire summer ahead of them. They’re night owls, and if you’re looking for them Thursday night at midnight, or even later, you’ll find them at home, wide awake, as if trying to milk every second from summer. Of course, that’s offset by sleeping late, and the summer sun is always high in the sky by the time they wake up. But it doesn’t matter. They don’t have to get up for school. Time becomes insignificant.

As I thought about this final week of school, I tried to pinpoint what made it so special, and not until I wrote that last sentence did I put my finger on it. Time.

My daughter is finishing fifth grade and I’m sure that summer will seem so long. She’ll probably be bored every now and then. But she won’t think about summer only being 76 days long. (I feel like summer is ending and it hasn’t even begun yet. But that’s a deeply-held trait of mine: nostalgia for something that hasn’t happened yet.) She’ll enjoy each day, and appreciate not waking up early for school, and no one telling her that she needs to go to bed. These are the nights that she’ll develop her individualism, spending hours by herself, doing whatever she wants with no expectations or responsibilities.

My sons are in high school. My older son is finishing eleventh grade, which means this could be his last summer. Next year at this time he’ll be graduating high school, and then the adult trap of productiveness falls upon him.

I’m torn between my Get A Job tendencies and my Enjoy the Summer, You’re a Kid tendencies. There’s plenty of time for work, but those years of being a kid are fleeting. And he’s old enough that his summer is going to be shorter than his sister’s summer. He knows what’s coming. He’ll enjoy the summer, but he’ll have one eye on that horrendous day in August when school begins again. He is my son after all. It’s hard to enjoy anything with a sense of dread hanging over you.

The melancholy in all of this is adulthood. Nothing ruins a childhood as completely as becoming an adult.

Some adults get summers off. I suspect that’s why many teachers choose to teach. Summers off is a definite perk. But even if an adult has summers off, they’re not really off. They know what’s coming. They know time will have its way with them, and that first day back at work will be here before they know it.

Also, let’s not forget that adults have something that kids don’t have: responsibilities. And that lack of responsibilities may be the biggest make or break factor of the summer. And once it’s gone, it’s gone. Never to return. Until retirement, I guess. Although, youth is gone by then.

I’m going to enjoy this week. There aren’t many of them left.

But don’t tell my kids.

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Brett Baker

I’ve been doing this blogging thing on ChicagoNow for more than two years now. I’m writing some fiction, also. I’ve got four kids, and something to say about almost everything. Blog topics past and future: parenting, politics, cereal, guns, time, toilet seats, films, math, music, and the ridiculous Steven Seagal. If it exists–or if it should exist–I’ll write about it. I hope you’ll read it.

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