For some writers, the school bus pulling up to collect their children is a welcome sight, as they’ve had to piece together camps or daycare situations all summer. My girls are older, with jobs to work and arts camps to attend. Also, I’m one of those callous mothers who abandon them to their boredom. They don’t tend to complain, because if they do, they know I’ll say, “Well, the dishes need to be done.” Or: “There’s wood you could stack.” The threat of household chores, I find, inspires the creation of some great comics, paintings, short stories, and songs.
School means long days for my kids, but it also means many activities that require I complete paperwork or drive or wait around. This year, there also will be FAFSA and CSS to deal with. Because, apparently, if you aren’t well off enough to save $40,000/year of tuition, or even $25,000/year of tuition, you obviously must have enough time in your life to fill out 30-40 pages worth of financial forms. Also, you obviously must have the money for the fees to send the forms to the schools, in addition to the fees you have to pay to send your kid’s applications to colleges and the fees you have to pay to send your kid’s SAT and/or ACT scores. Some of these fees can be waived – this takes, of course, more paperwork, because not all schools provide waivers in a standardized way. And it takes time, because was I born knowing how to do all of the above? No, apparently I don’t have that college-application-finances helix coil of DNA.
All right, so this year Mum will juggle FAFSA and CSS, along with the usual household management tasks.
And she will teach. Some say that those who don’t do, teach. If you really want that kind of teacher for yourself or your child, you’re welcome to her. Personally, I prefer to learn from, work with, and be one of those who teaches writing because she writes. Also, I care. I find caring is actually the most difficult part of teaching. If I didn’t care about what my students wanted to know and learn, about their fears, disappointments, and triumphs, teaching would be a piece-of-cake gig. My students could fill out worksheets on some computer program, worksheets that the computer program could then grade, and I could eat bonbons while I supervise. Or, actually, I could squeeze in more writing time each day. Of course, I’d also have to hide my face every time I encountered colleagues I respect and the teachers who once cared about me when I was a student.
Amongst all these commitments, Mum has to find time to write. I’ve been lazy this summer, rising at 6:30am and sometimes, on weekends, 8:00. I have to set that alarm for 5am, and when it rings, or in my case whistles, I have to get out of bed and into my office. I have stories to complete, and ideas to begin.
It’s fall. For me, like for many of you, it’s time to climb on the balance beam, to toss everything into the air, and to juggle as I walk the narrow surface all the way to next summer.