And those who need adventure, they can sail the seven seas
And those who search for treasure, they must live on grander dreams
–From Mary Chapin Carpenter and The End of My Pirate Days
Some days around 3 p.m., a faint tinge of sadness comes over me. I leave my office to pick up my kids from school and the entire time I circle down the eight floors of the parking garage I think about the years and the hours that Juliette, my 13-year-old, spent in aftercare from Kindergarten through 5th grade.
These hours I will never get back. I always thought of her and wondered what she was doing, especially during bad weather. I wished I was home taking care of her; baking cookies and helping her with homework.
One of the advantages of my current work situation is workplace flexibility. This shouldn’t be confused with a reduced work schedule, however, as I work more now than ever. Generally, I work 5 to 7 a.m.; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m., about 10 hours a day.
I really appreciate the fact that most days I can pick my kids up from school. I’ve discovered a part of our society that engages in a whole set of customs and norms between 3 p.m. when kids get out of school and 6 p.m. when most parents get home. It begins with the carpool line, a tradition that was completely foreign to me throughout most of Juliette’s childhood. By the time I arrived at the school to pick her up the parking lot was empty.
Kids Just Want To Come Home
Sometimes, I have meetings that run late and I have to put the kids in aftercare. A feeling of utter dread comes over me when I pull into the empty parking lot. The absence of idling cars, nervous crossing guards and buzzing children creates a pall for me. I stop and pray and thank God for the blessing of a flexible work schedule.
With three kids, the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. can be challenging, but I cherish them. No parent wants to hear this, but the kids stuck in aftercare really don’t want to be there. No matter how great the program or workers are, most kids just want to come home when the school bell rings.
Last year, I began a new after-school tradition with my kids. We call them after-school adventures. I want and need to make the most out of these hours. I never know when I might be faced with returning to a traditional work schedule and I don’t want to have any regrets. So, at least once every couple of weeks we have a little adventure after school. The most beloved of these was our trip to the Asian market last year. Sullivan freaking out over the fish-on-ice was captured on video. I will always treasure it.
I think that fun and adventure should not always cost money. We did a lot of free or nearly free things last year that my kids really enjoyed. One of our best trips was to Budget Carpet on 10th and Villa in Oklahoma City. They were thrilled to see the giant rolls of carpet in all different colors, even movie theater carpet stamped with confetti and popcorn.
Yesterday, was our first after-school adventure of the year. My creative juice is running a little dry lately, so I took them to Ingrid’s Kitchen on NW 36th and Villa, also in Oklahoma City. We eat brunch there on Sundays sometimes, and for the last couple of years we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving there. While it wasn’t our first time to visit this awesome place, it was the kids’ first time to taste an Ingrid’s Turkish macaroon. I wanted to order a cream cheese hamantaschen, but I had to save something for next time. Juliette ordered an almond danish; Bridgette ordered a maple-leaf cookie with red frosting and Sullivan ordered something called a chocolate whoopie.
After-School Care and Work-Life Issues
I’ve written before about how the collective persona of Generation X bears the scar of an unprotected childhood. There were few if any after-school programs when we were kids. As if enough bad didn’t go down at the bus stop, on the bus and in the classroom, even worse things happened on the walk home from school and in the empty house beyond the latchkey door.
This is one of the reasons Gen Xers have been called the most devoted parents in history and as such have demanded after-school programs, and value workplace flexibility more than any other generation. Some have suggested that this is how Xers seek to heal their own childhood wounds, but for me, I’m just trying to prevent wounds in my kids altogether. Here are a couple of articles that further address the issue.