Friday, June 22, 2007

Next Week's Summer Activity For The Kiddies? Physics!

Summer vacation officially starts today. I've written before about my girls' aversion to organized summer activities - summer camps, drama classes, craft workshops and their ilk. Add to that my poor organizational skills and it makes for one long summer, endless days where the highlight may be the occasional journey to a warehouse store for crates of toilet paper or the exciting trip to the dry cleaners to pick up pants. This summer was no different - except for a few short weekend trips and some plans revolving around our out-of-town guests we had nothing planned. I was getting ready to clear out the shelves and polish up my Costco card for the exciting ten weeks ahead.

But somehow my conscience got the best of me, and I decided to take a friend's lead and sign the girls up for a class. The guilt was too much, and I couldn't get the image out of my head of the two of them as adults, sitting in a maximum security prison and Stone Phillips' voiceover saying, "Perhaps a pottery class could have kept these two out of trouble in that fateful summer of 2007."

My friend and I decided to sign our girls up for a songwriting class. Her two daughters are the sisters that Kira and Kiyomi have formed their band with, the band that so far has produced no music but has gone through two name changes, a dozen logo variations and three in-band fights. They're hoping to open for Green Day by the fall, so they've been thinking it might be a good idea to start acquiring some musical skills, now that they recently completed their most important task - designing all their touring outfits.

The course is being given through a popular arts center not far from here. My friend warned me that the classes are first-rate but the registration process could be a little hellish, what with every alpha mom within thirty miles fighting to get their kid into painting, baroque chanting or Peruvian cloth weaving. And when I arrived there last Saturday morning and saw the huge line snaking out of the registration office, I had the urge to bolt and just sign the girls up for that online bead-stringing class like I was planning to do in the first place.

I noticed everyone jockeying for position in front of a serious-looking woman with a clipboard who was judiciously handing out numbers to avoid anyone cutting in line. Why, it was as if that shrew had read my mind! Every couple of minutes a class number would be posted on an easel board indicating that it had just filled up, and a frantic murmur would run through the crowd. "129a's closed! That was Batik 101!" "285T! Someone just took the last spot in Advanced Tile for preschoolers!" This would be followed by gasps and anguished cries and then the sight of parents hurling themselves off the balcony as they realized that little Dakota's chance at being the next David Hockney had suddenly vaporized.

I looked down at my number: 135. I tried not to panic.

The woman behind me in line was fretting about not getting her three-year-old into his pottery class. It got me thinking how this whole scene was such a product of our current times, the whole über-parenting thing, the age of Baby Einstein and Baby Mozart and times-table flashcards for fetuses. Were we really ruining our kids chances for a bright future if they didn't get a jump on their fingerpainting now? I don't ever remember my parents standing in line for two hours to secure me a place in an art class, and I certainly didn't have any extra-curricular activities before I was five. I can't possibly imagine what you could teach a three-year-old in a pottery class, anyways, except for, "This is clay. Don't eat it."

But there was no chance in hell I was getting out of line, so I waited, and tried not to get too anxious as more classes filled up. My friend, who had gotten there two hours ahead of me finally made it up to the desk, got her two girls into the class and then reported back to me that it looked like there were still several spaces left. But there were 40 people in front of me in line, and for a few minutes I seriously considered passing out my stash of poisoned mints to prevent any of them from taking those coveted spots.

When I got to the front desk some 1-1/2 hours later and the woman informed me that I had gotten the last two spots in the class, I couldn't help but feel victorious. Who wouldn't, when they had single-handedly ensured their children's artistic future with just a sixty-dollar registration fee? I felt good, damnit, and thought there may be something to the whole über-parenting thing after all. And as I left, clutching my receipt for class #457T in my sweaty palms, I stopped to pick up a flyer for Banjo Camp, 2008. Julliard, here we come!

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  1. Lolol.

    Mine is spending the summer at the beach and in the forest near our home, having hot dog roasts, building forts, picking berries, and riding his bike.

    I don't think I could convince him to take a class. Somehow I think that's okay.

  2. Smugness two posts in a row - it's a very good week!

    Here, in the UK we don't really go for organised activities in the Summer... much preferring to let the little buggers roam the streets, drinking cheap cider out of plastic bottles and beating up old ladies!

    I shake my head and then gaze in wonder at the states. I feel like waving your post at the parents and screaming, "See, why don't you care this much, huh?"

  3. Hey, I've been looking all over for that Peruvian Cloth Weaving class. Are there any spaces open?


  4. My kids are doing tennis camp next week, because it was the only camp that I could sign up for the week before it started. The oldest wants to do Rock band camp, but it's across town and would require getting out of bed before 8-so that's just not gonna happen.

  5. I am the primo slacker mom...with an , & 3 year old...if they can'tfind something to do on 10 acres and chickens to boot...then they can damn well play video games all day..BWAHAHAHAHA...I did buy my 5 year old one of those potholder weaving loom thingies...does that count as self-enrichment?

  6. oops..that should say 11, 5 and 3 year old

  7. I want to move in with bec! I hope she has room for four children as part on an exchange program this summer. However, when her children come here they will spend the summer at my house laying on the couch and bitching about the pool heater being broken. Nights are better, we watch cable.

    In my 16 years of mothering I have always been bad at this stuff. If my kid want to do something I never sign up early enough. My 9 year old really wants to take this "science of cooking class" in August. I tried to sign her up in friggin April and she is 5th on the waiting list. Damn overachieving moms tha obviously signed up in February when the catalog came out. In February I was working on finally getting the Christmas cards in the mail, how could I think of summer?

  8. I wanted to sign Em up for "Existential Angst" for pre-teens, but seems to have mastered it already. So I just went with the French Immersion Camp. Seriously. Cause I like to fuck with my kid.

  9. My kids have taken swimming lessons so far this summer,does that count? And now we are getting ready to move to Hickstown USA and I don't even know what there is to sign up for there! Maybe your girls and my boys could write to each other when they are sitting in prison! :)

    Glad you got them all signed up for that class though, you may save them yet...

  10. Every time I mention camp to DS he grimaces and says he totally doesn't want to be doing something where someone (read: adult) is telling him what to do all day; he gets plenty of that at school, thank you.

    So I get to be slacker mom without guilt. Mostly. I still keep thinking I should force him into something. But he's choosing on his own this summer to take up the saxophone, so that's cool. At least he can grow up to be a penniless jazz musician, right? :-)

  11. I can't wait to flick my lighter at their first concert!

  12. I am home schooling my teen daughters this summer. Who could resist classes like these:

    "How to trash the house in 5 seconds"

    and the ever-popular

    "Redesign your MySpace for the 150th time"

    not to mention

    "Annoy You Mother with Idiotic Phone Calls While She Tries to Remain Professional in Her Office"

    God, I need booze. Is summer over yet.

  13. This just totally stressed me out. It was like flashbacks to college registration all over again.

    Meanwhile: Songwriting! Your kids get cooler with every post.

  14. Hey! I taught a "make your own candy neckelace" class for 3 & 4 year-olds whilst camping just the other day!

    Guess how many times I had to pick up a hundred little candies from the floor?

    Good times.

    Glad you got your number.


  15. ever the existentialists, this summer, my kids will be hog tied to the couch watching old cartoons of "tom and jerry," while contemplating the state of our universe with the "jetsons."

  16. Great post. I think it's like ebay. You aren't even sure you want it, but because everyone else wants it, you feel like you have to have it.

    Enjoy songwriting...what a great idea!

  17. Woman, HOW do you do it? You pack more funny and insight into one post than I have on my entire blog.

    Can I live in your brain? Methinks it would be a fun and interesting place. heehee

  18. and to think of the damage we are inflicting on our imps because we recently argued about who would be taking them to the YMCA...

  19. When Will and I finally adopt, we're going to teach our children how to throw mud at cars and pepper spray your potters.

  20. Better book Julliard now - Bossy hears their Admissions Board is tough as nails. Poking you in the head.

  21. Yikes! That scene sounds like a nightmare. Still, congrats on getting your girls into what sounds like it could be a very cool class. I detest the current model of the overprogrammed childhood, but that doesn't mean an occasional class isn't worthwhile. I myself loved the park district drama class I took when I was 10 or so, which gave me the chance to express my inner Amelia Earhart. But I still had plenty of time left over to torture ants in my backyard and explore the vacant lot down the street, the really educational elements of that particular summer.


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