© Jackie Papandrew 2008 All Rights Reserved

By Jackie Papandrew

Watch the famous Staples commercial here:

My all-time favorite commercial is the one from a few years back where a father with an ear-to-ear grin is pushing a shopping cart through a Staples store, gleefully tossing in school supplies as his dejected children follow glumly behind and “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays in the background.

“They’re going back!” the announcer tells us. Sweeter words were never spoken.

Last May, in the calm quiet of my house before my kids got home from school, I made a stupid decision. I decided my little darlings needed a slacker summer. You know the kind of summer I mean – the kind we had. An unstructured summer spent running through sprinklers, lying in tall grass deflowering dandelions, watching the Road Runner never fail to foil Wile E. Coyote.

I envisioned euphoric days where my children, their imaginations fired by boundless freedom, would write their own plays, rediscover the innocence of youth, perhaps dip into Tolkien or even Tolstoy (it could happen). I wanted them to savor their summer before it slipped away like a melting scoop of ice cream.

That was in May, when I clearly had too much time on my hands and would appear to have been smoking something.

In June, the bloom came off the rose just a bit. With school out, we went on vacation, enjoying round-the-clock togetherness as we attempted to bolster our family bonds while simultaneously blowing our budget. By the end of the month, our family bond had been bolstered to such an extent that it felt like an iron collar around our necks. My husband, his face wearing the liberated look of an escaped convict, went back to work.

But I, still deeply in a delusional phase, recommitted myself to giving my kids a season of sloth. I was determined that my fantasy of summertime fun and creativity, unencumbered by a schedule, would come to pass. Only it hasn’t gone quite as I planned.

Oh, my children have definitely been slothful. They’ve slept until noon, then stirred themselves just enough to move to the couch, where they somehow have summoned the energy to fight over the TV remote. And they have shown some true creativity there, managing -- while still lying down -- to punch, kick and bite each other without ever assuming a vertical position. They have unfortunately not dipped into either Tolkien or Tolstoy, but they have read the words on Popsicle wrappers before tossing them on the table.

With the onset of August, the lazy days of summer have begun to really drive me crazy. My laconic teenage son – the one destined for a job as a comedian or possibly a member of Congress – tells me his religion forbids any activity between sunup and sundown. I congratulate him on his faithful adherence to his faith. Even our Labrador seems nearly comatose in these dog days.

My lay-about lot has been deeply involved in endless, banal bickering. They argue over the color of the sky or which one of them is the biggest brat (dead even, I’d say) or whether Mom or Dad has more wrinkles (wisely, they chose Dad). They’ve become hibernating bears, apparently storing up fat for the winter by barely moving. They’re even too weak, poor things, to feed themselves.

“Mom!” they will wail from the living room, where they have actually become part of the furniture and now require dusting. “We’re hungry! Can you bring us food?”

Fortunately, all this annoying inertia is about to end. They are, indeed, going back to school. And next summer, so help me, they’re going to camp.

© Jackie Papandrew 2008, All Rights Reserved
Visit Jackie’s website at
Cartoon by David Brown.

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