Recipe for making sweet memories: You provide the ingredients

school_kids_groupWhere does the time go? … She went back to school this week, to first grade. She’s crossed over into the time zone that marks the beginning of my own significant memories. Certain deep impressions of first grade left lasting creases in my brain. Will she look back in 50 years and know this feeling?

At face value, first grade is the same, simply a pick-up from where we left off two months ago (virtually to the day) since kindergarten graduation. I like the fact it’s a short summer break. Someday, our school systems will catch up with the 20th century, and implement a year-round schedule. (Yes, I know it’s now the 21st century — but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.)

This “summer vacation” was fashioned when we were a primarily agrarian culture. Want to hear parents really complain? “It’s bad enough they started sending the little buggers off to the multi-grade one-room school. You better leave ’em home for the summer, dang it, or we’re not sending them at all.”

So today we spring kids loose from academia and positive social interactions for three months.

The video game industry and summer day camps are grateful. Not the same for parents who are suddenly left juggling dependent children while tap-dancing on the edge of a desk.

Sure, some folks are fortunate enough to have a grandparent or two in the vicinity, who can provide parental relief by taking on full-time child-caring duties. It’s usually at a great price, too: Free. (You guys don’t know how good you have it. Seriously. These relatives are saving you thousands of dollars. You better take them out for dinner once in a while and buy REALLY nice birthday gifts.)

Academics and social scientists have documented how hard-won knowledge vanishes in the heat. Most teachers will tell you they spend the first month of the school year covering topics from the previous spring.

Our school sent home a fat work packet in June. It reviewed kindergarten work and stretched a bit into the next year’s curriculum.

We didn’t have time to do it all. We did a lot, but we couldn’t finish. (There were other parents, ahem, who said it wasn’t their job to make their child do schoolwork during summer vacation. Whatever.)

We had our beach vacation in July; we went music festival camping for several days later in the month; August was devoted to spending time with her grandparents in Florida, who were unable to make their annual trek north this year due to health problems they’re battling through.

We barely got her home and settled her in for two days, until school began.

You remember what it could be like going to stay with your grandparents. Staying up late. Eating less-than-healthy food. Watching too much TV. It’s supposed to be fun, right?

Besides, as a parent, if you yourself aren’t willing to accept that, you know you need to do it for your child and especially for your child’s grandparents. These are the times that good memories are made — or can be made, if you let it happen.

We do have one grandparent living almost in the same state. We’re fortunate that she and her grand-daughter love to spend time together. Our daughter shares the same love and appreciation for the beauties in life that are significant to her grandmother. Museum trips, reading, coloring, creative play. These are their memories.

It’s with my own memories in mind that I have watched her grow this summer. She’s changing, right before our eyes. While she was in Florida, we swapped her Princess bed for a big-girl loft bed in her room. She’s growing in every way.

I’m coming to terms with that — at least as long as she still holds my hand while we walk to the bus stop in the morning.

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