The problem with the month or so that ended last week is that it’s a collision of two seasons.
On the one hand, the school year is ending, which includes projects that have to get done, schoolwork that should have been finished before now, end-of-the-year arts performances, field trips, final exams, and, for some, graduation parties.
On the other hand, such summer activities as baseball usually start before anyone’s definition of the start of summer. So for up to one month, families try to figure out how to get everyone to everything after the immortal parental question is asked: “Is your homework done?”
The "sprummer" is all the logical result of Wisconsin’s far-too-short nice weather. The unfortunate reality is that whatever the meteorologists tell you, this past “spring,” with cold and rain, is more typical of this state than the previous spring, when it hardly ever rained and temperatures ranged from normal to above normal. We have less good-weather days than bad-weather days. (How do I know this? I’ve lived in this state my entire life, that’s how.) Because outdoor activities by definition are dependent on the weather, your choice when the weather is bad is (1) cancel the event or (2) press on regardless.
One example, as you know from page 2A, was Friday. Students at Westview Elementary School and Platteville Middle School had a pool party on their last day of classes, rescheduled from a day inappropriate for swimming to a day barely appropriate weather-wise for swimming. (I remember at last year’s party for students of the late St. Mary’s School seeing kids in the pool and their parents wrapped in blankets on the pool deck.)
Some might harrumph and irritably grumble about the educational value of a pool party. What those people are really saying is: Why didn’t I get to have a pool party on a last day of school? (The grumblers, I suspect, are also people who haven’t been in a classroom during the last week of classes since they were students themselves.)
I wrote here a year ago about last summer’s insane family schedule. This year’s here includes the Platteville swim team, baseball (bizarrely, both our sons wear number 6 for their respective teams), church camp, Scout camp, and, as you know from last week, “Fiddler on the Roof,” plus, if it fits, child visits to the grandparents.
That is a considerably longer list of activities than I did when I was my children’s age. Then again, my generation didn’t have activities after our high school prom. Those don’t seem related, but in a sense they are — the idea seems to be that keeping kids busy will keep kids out of trouble. Much of that may be because, as was noted in a conversation with one of our children’s teachers, there are more and more dangerous ways to get into trouble these days. The increase in single-parent households and households where both parents work means kids potentially have more unsupervised time, and so, as with a larger house, stuff (activities) expands to fill the empty space (that is, time).
The swimming season starts Saturday at Monroe. In my early Grant County days a quarter-century ago, I covered the yearly conference meet, which appeared to me to have 4,000 or so participants ages 6 to 18. (At one, I met one of my eventual future in-laws, who knew me before I knew her. That was before I announced an entire group of future in-laws self-eject themselves from a high school basketball game.)
My brother was a high school swimmer. My swimming experience (other than several years of swimming lessons) was the indignity of having to get up on a summer morning at the ungodly hour of 8:30 a.m. to pick him up from swimming practice (which began at 6:30 a.m.) in the days when I had a driver’s license and he did not. The irony is that after avoiding his swimming meets, I now am required to go to my children’s swimming meets.
Why do we parents do all of this? (If I were channeling my inner Tevye, I would say I will tell you why we do this ... I do not know. Having heard one rehearsal of “The Rumor,” a line from that song is already reverberating around our house, and might end up somewhere in your favorite weekly newspaper: “No! Terrible, terrible!”)
The right answer is because our kids want to do all this. I was having a discussion with a Platteville High School parent, who doubles as a high school classmate of mine, whose daughter went to a music event in Madison. The other high school students there, mostly from the Madison area, were in the event, because that’s what they do — music. The PHS graduate, who has been in your favorite weekly newspaper repeatedly over the past year, has a large list of activities beyond music.
I probably should have brought this up closer to the start of summer sports season, but I commend to anyone involved in youth sports “Matheny’s Manifesto,” written by a youth baseball coach, that really covers what youth sports should be about. It’s available at his website, mikematheny.com. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Matheny became a youth coach after a 13-year Major League Baseball career, which began with the Milwaukee Brewers. Matheny is, by the way, now the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.
On CB radios, that’s a 10-100: On Saturday afternoon, a local law enforcement officer radioed in to say he had stopped at a pulled-over motorcycle whose rider was relieving himself. The motorcyclist was not intoxicated, the officer said, but the officer told the rider to find a more appropriate place to obtain relief.
“10-4, the corn’s not quite tall enough yet,” the dispatcher replied.