That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When sitters to their far-off homes hath fled,
When camp and health forms make my blood run cold
And all I want to do is lie in bed.
In me thou see’st the frenzied wide-eyed stare
Of one whose work time has been cut in two
And yet cannot resist the year-end snare
Of read-a-louds, teacher gifts, and hot glue.
In me thou see’st the envy, vile and green
Of those who smile while Spring turns into heat
Suiting up for tennis, Pilates, too
And sporting perfectly manicured feet.
This thou perceiv’st, all around me I hear
Others expressing their equal ill cheer.

I have, there’s no question, gone off my gourd. (That still scans.)

It always happens at this time of year.

In recent weeks, we’ve had two grade-parent cocktail parties, one all-school gala, a Spring Fling, three music recitals, a camp open house, a working moms’ lunch (missed it; had to work), two overnight camping trips, a “cereal breakfast,” an “authors’ tea,” a baby naming, a birthday party, a pool party, an end-of-year party and various teacher appreciation tidbits to buy, bake, embroider and accidentally burn in the oven. (“Mommy, how could you!”)

These are all, individually – burnt clay baby dragons aside – very nice things.

But taken together – and in the absence of my eight-hour-a-week student babysitter, back home for the summer in rural Pennsylvania – they can get to be a little bit much.

I know that you know what I mean.

I know this because I hear the chorus of complaint all around me. Every day, on the school steps, on the phone, in the office, there is the gnashing of teeth, the exchange of grimaces: Surviving? Just barely. Can’t wait for it all to be over.

Chill, everyone, I want to say, with the horrific condescension of one who has confronted her demons and passed over to the other side. Don’t sweat all the silly stuff. Embrace it. Surrender to it. At the very least, consider it material. I’ve been doing that for the past couple of weeks. And, on the whole, it’s been working for me.

Of course, I didn’t start out at this level of Zen.

(I cannot reach any kind of level of Zen. I tried yoga nidra the other night and, when relaxation hit, I immediately burst into tears.

“What an overachiever!” the instructor cried. “The very first time – and she hits nirvana!)

I discovered it in a chance encounter with my two-doors-down office neighbor, David Brooks. Who, on or around May 8 (VE Day in Europe; D – for departure – Day for my sitter) had the misfortune to stop in the hallway right before school pickup time and ask how I was doing.

“I wake in the morning and go to bed at night stalked by a feeling of incipient failure!” I stopped hyperventilating long enough to almost scream.

He blinked for a moment, impassively.

“Some people thrive on that,” he said.

Yes, I thought, I’ve built an entire career in just that way.

So, after that, I started looking on the bright side. Less babysitting, more parent-involved activities, meant more time with my children. It meant more fun and more peace and more pleasant relaxation.

This focus on the upside lasted a couple of weeks, which was quite pleasant. Lately, though, I’m sorry to admit, a downside has also become clear. And that downside is this: more time with my children has meant my children are spending more time with me. The way upped Mommy-dosage has, I fear, started to reach a level of potential toxicity. The symptoms: they’re starting to act and talk and dress and think a lot like me.

There’s a big ugly house.” Emilie now likes to provide real estate commentary as we drive around the neighborhood on what has become our daily supermarket run. (I forget the milk. I forget the orange juice or the paper towel. Sometimes, I drive away and forget the grocery bags.) “There’s a great big new one. Isn’t it tacky? And there” — pointing to some sad structure, smaller, even, than our own cute little house, “is a cute, cute little house.”

The line, ‘I gotta work it’ has no meaning,” Julia now likes to tell anyone who will listen, every time Hanna Montana’s “Nobody’s Perfect” comes on the air. “It’s a cheap rhyme. Well, at least,” she then tells the dead silence, “that’s what my mom says.”

That makes me cringe. You want to teach your children by example. But what if the example you set is, well, maladaptive? A little bit sub-optimal? A little bit … weird?

I’ve spent a lot of time, in this period of extreme togetherness, taking the girls out for ice cream. You see, I’ve found it’s an excellent way to multi-function: put the leash on the dog, a helmet on Emilie, get out the razor scooter (Not a book, Julia; you don’t read while you’re walking. You Talk to Me About Your Day) and you mix exercise, a form of nutrition, care for the dog and meaningful connection.

Or, if you’re so inclined, you can just zone out.

I took Emilie alone one day while Julia was at a violin rehearsal. We walked to Ben and Jerry’s. We got ice cream, then sat on a bench. Emilie looked off one way, I looked off the other, and the dog closed his eyes in yet a third. Fifteen minutes passed in silence before a passerby sent us a quizzical look and I startled back into consciousness.

“Em,” I said.


“Are you okay?”

“DON’T INTERRUPT ME WHEN I’M STARING OFF INTO SPACE!” she shouted. And then, eyes fixed on a blank wall: “I never realized how interesting it is around here.”

Camp’s starting soon. It’s 9-to-5 childcare coverage, I think.

More’s the pity for me.