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Etc.: On midsummer
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Ever wondered why you go to work Monday morning and you feel as if you’re moving through fog?

Simple: You played too hard last weekend. (The Old Testament commands us to keep holy the Sabbath day, and notes that God rested on the seventh day. “Rest” does not describe what you’re about to read.)

Or, if you have kids participating in various activities, you’re tired because you spent all last weekend following your kids’ activities.

That’s the case with our family. The past two Sundays began with 6 a.m. wakeup calls to get to our son’s baseball games. So far this summer, we’ve killed parts of weekends in Beaver Dam, Neenah, Pulaski and Clintonville, where I watched our son play three games in one day Sunday. He fell asleep in the car on the way back to Ripon; that was not an option for me.

(I am told within this office that it doesn’t change when parents become grandparents. Thanks for the warning.)

I’m not sure when the concept of lazy summer days died, but they’re as dead as the grass on your lawn if you haven’t been watering it this summer. This summer, our three kids are participating in summer school (where our oldest son is learning music for, ironically, his next school’s marching band), Boy and Cub Scout camps, a total of four baseball teams, and visits to the grandparents. Last year, we had one night of the week with no baseball; this year, there are none.

You may think upon reading this that the heavy sports emphasis is because the writer and his wife are, or were, jocks. I’ll pause here while those who watched me play softball in Lancaster in the late 1980s and early 1990s collapse from laughter. They’re playing because our kids want to play, or perhaps more accurately their friends play. None of our three are in high school yet, and already they have achieved more in athletics than their father ever has, or ever will.

In the Platteville area, nearly every weekend from Memorial Day weekend (the true start of summer) to Labor Day weekend (the true end of summer) appears to have something worth attending, starting with the high school graduation season Memorial Day weekend. June featured the Grant and Lafayette county dairy breakfasts and the Livingston celebrations. The Lafayette County Fair was last weekend.

This weekend through the next weekend is Platteville’s Hometown Festival. (Two words: “Hog roast.”) August includes the Grant County Fair and the Potosi Brewfest. And then the students come back, followed by football. And then school is back. And then there’s Platteville Dairy Days. And that list doesn’t include the Music in the Park concerts each Thursday night, or the twice-weekly Platteville Farmers Market.

Overscheduling is not an exclusively summertime phenomenon, as anyone whose kids play on travel basketball teams can attest. (Our family spent last winter in travel swimming, which necessitated several predawn drives. At least this time the sun was up in Clintonville, as opposed to the previous time we were in Clintonville.) Parents seem to have an expectation that the school year is event after event after event. (The number of events children have is the square or even the cube of the number of children you have.) Now that’s how summer seems to be.

One reason is that, to paraphrase Woody Allen, much — 80 percent? — of parenting is showing up. With most parents working outside the home, this is more difficult than it was in my parents’ parenting days. (When I was the age of our children, baseball was held initially in the daytime before moving to late afternoons. This is probably difficult at best to schedule today.) I don’t know if kids remember their parents not attending their games or school events. Parents remember having to miss them.

Perhaps this year people are able to fit in their kids’ activities by eliminating other activities, such as, this year, lawnmowing. Or perhaps people are using their kids’ activities as a reason to avoid their TVs and the campaign ads that appear to be every other commercial since the beginning of the year.

One week ago, guest columnist Majid Tabrizi of UW–Platteville suggested that this country should consider adopting the European model of either working just four days a week or taking off August. I don’t mean to argue in print with a guest columnist, but I find this highly unlikely to be adopted in this country anytime soon, if for no other reason than the fact that, as with a large house, stuff expands to fill the available space.

Work doesn’t end simply because the calendar flips to June. Someone has to work at businesses whose existence depends on tourism. And that’s a lot of businesses, because tourism is traditionally one of the top three employers in this state. (I think readers of your favorite weekly newspaper would not like a newspaper produced by those working just a 30- to 35-hour week.) As I pointed out here two weeks ago, this country is populated with people whose ancestors came here for better lives and brought their superior work ethic with them. Besides that, parents know that family vacations are vacations only for the kids, not the parents. The only vacations parents get are when the kids leave home for good.

Even though my work calendar doesn’t change that much in the summer and our lives get overscheduled, I still look forward to each summer. Summer means to me growing things, particularly sweet corn, watermelon, peaches and tomatoes, plus other things coming out of your garden.

Even a summer with temperatures approaching triple digits (in which, officially, Platteville hasn’t hit 100 yet as of this writing) and heat indices (indexes?) beyond 100 is preferable to me than the converse, below-zero winters where you pile on the clothing to the point of reduced mobility, everything you see is either white or brown and you can feel your face freezing three steps outside your door.