(This is the Tantrum, in which Dadwagon’s writers debate one question over the course of a week. For previous Tantrums, click here.)
Of all the ‘wagoneers, I am the one probably least prepared to answer this vital question, and not just because my daughter, Sasha, is only 2, and has yet to embark upon an academic schedule so rigorous that interrupting it precipitates a dilemma on par with the Venkman-Spengler “crossing the streams” conundrum.
Because for me, it’s a non-question. Of course you interrupt school! Yes, school is important, but school is preparation for life, and life happens when mom and dad pluck from the drudgery of Social Studies and plop you down on, say, an organic fruit farm in Malaysia or take you trekking across the frozen tundra of Kazakhstan. Homework, schmomework. For the smart, talented child (and I have no doubt Sasha will be one), it just won’t matter.
But remember! I am also a hypocrite, and in fact Jean and I are struggling to deal with the preschool version of this problem. Which is: Two years into Sasha’s young life, we’ve established a damn good routine for her. Up around 7, milk, a bit of playing, get dressed, off to Preschool of America, home from Preschool of America, a bit of playing, bathtime, 25 minutes of quasi-educational videotainment, milk, teethbrushing, bedtime stories, bedtime at just about 8 p.m. With very subtle variations, this is how it works, and it works beautifully. No fuss, no fighting each step of the way, no lingering feelings of guilt or inadequacy when the kid’s finally wrestled to bed. Many parents would probably kill to have such an easy time of it.
The problem with schedules is that they’re also prisons. Disrupt them enough and you create havoc among the inmates, and so you do everything in your power to make sure the schedule is maintained.
And yet, we need to disrupt them sometimes, and we’re finding ourselves wanting to more and more often, whether it’s dinner out at a friend’s place (we could bring her, but how to handle bed, etc.?), or odd mealtimes on weekends, or the temptation to, once in a while, skip the bath or, if she’s been naughty, put her to bed without a reading (in a funny voice) of “The Monster at the End of This Book.” But most of the time, we don’t. We bow to the schedule. It’s easier for Sasha, and easier for us, even if we’re sacrificing our social lives to an arbitrary agenda.
I hate it, though. And not just because it constrains our non-Sasha lives. I hate that principle, that as parents we sacrifice absolutely everything for the good of our children, that the benefits of regularity outweigh those of erraticism. Hell, my life has been based on randomness and unschedulability for decades, and things have turned out all right for me. Surely it’ll be okay for Sasha, right?
Maybe. Maybe we’re just waiting a little long, until she’s older and, we hope, more capable of handling sudden changes in routine. Till then we can just give her a taste, on occasion, of randomness and cross our fingers she doesn’t freak out, and someday she’ll be ready to be whisked from first grade onto the snowy Alps or the Great Barrier Reef. To hell with her teachers—she’ll be okay. After all, it’s public school.