Monday, January 10, 2011

A Three-Week Winter Break? Really, LAUSD?

We have -- just barely -- survived the three-week winter break that is mandatory in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Dear LAUSD school board, what are you thinking?   A three-week winter break?  REALLY?

My friends with kids in other school districts gasp in amazement.  Not one of them can believe it when they hear about it.

Taking kids out of their routine and plunging them into the hands of their exhausted working parents, NOT ONE OF WHOM HAS THREE WEEKS OFF over Christmas, is friggin' nuts.

Here's what happened around here.  Late Blooming Mom and Dad enrolled our kids in winter break camp, which while not outrageously expensive, is still an added strain on the family budget.  Winter camp was held the week before Christmas at a school that's not far, but still isn't our home school, necessitating our kindergarteners getting used to a new campus ("Where's the bathroom, mommy?").  Luckily, our workplaces were closed Christmas Eve day and New Year's Eve day, so we didn't have to pay for childcare on those days.  But there was no camp the week between Christmas and New Year's.  What, exactly, are working parents supposed to do?

Thankfully at least one parent (Late Blooming Mom) had the week off this year, thanks to the company doing well enough to close down for a few days.  A four-day visit from aunt, uncle, and twelve-year-old niece kept the kids happily occupied at least some of the time.   Late Blooming Mom also held her second-annual cookie decorating party during that Xmas/New Year's week, managing to entertain thirteen children six and under, as well as their moms, for three-plus hours.  As I only do this sort of thing once a year, it's actually fun, except of course for the massive clean-up.  I am still finding sprinkles in the oddest of places. 

Over the course of the week, there was much parent-kid, quality time bonding, and while there was some crankiness and crabbyness on everyone's part, we were all doing pretty much okay in each other's proximity.  It helped that Late Blooming Dad at least had the three-day weekend over New Year's off.

Then came Week Three.

Again, I must ask LAUSD:  three weeks? REALLY?

More money was shelled out, for MORE winter camp, this one mercifully held at the kids' regular school.  But it was back to work for both parents now, and though we enrolled the kids in the cooking activities at camp, these activities all seemed to consist of finding novel ways for kids to ingest as much sugar as possible.
By three days into Week Three, we were all acting like three-year-olds who'd missed their naps.  No one was getting along, and grouchiness reigned supreme.

We had a reprieve on Thursday, the kids' sixth birthday.  Late Blooming Mom and Dad finagled the day off and took the kids to Knotts Berry Farm, where canned food donations for the local food bank got adults in for the almost reasonable kids' price (parents take note, this offer is good till Jan. 30th), and we escorted the kids to Camp Snoopy, where they giddily spent the entire, crowd-free weekday, traipsing onto some of the same rides again and again without a wait, just because they could.  This is about the ONLY positive benefit I can think of when it comes to the three-week break:  an amusement park that isn't jammed.

But on Friday, it was back to work for mom and dad again, and by now, the kids were wildly ancy and starting to ask, with plaintive longing in their voices, "Is it a school day?"  Because the camp was charging a premium that day to shove kids on a long bus ride on a bus without seat belts, after which they'd be "treated" to Disney On Ice, more sugar, and another long bus ride, Late Blooming Mom opted to instead take advantage of the company's access to a back-up childcare center.  This less expensive option meant the kids could play in a school-like setting for the day, near Late Blooming Mom's company.  Thank the corporate gods for that one, for sure.  But the center also happens to be located far from where we live, so it meant dinner out on a Friday night, involving a long wait at the pizza place and LOTS and LOTS of cranky kids and parents who were all just itching for the damn three-week break to be over already.  By the time we rolled home, they were hyper, overtired, and just shy of insane.  And Late Blooming Mom could do nothing but turn them over to Late Blooming Dad, relief pitcher, and take Advil.

The by now seemingly unending winter break next saw us at our breaking point.  The worst played out on Saturday morning, when the kids woke each other up (and we parents, not to mention, apparently, the neighbors) far too early, and were behaving as if magically transported to adolescence (sullen, rebellious, full of attitude).  Their lack of cooperation and utter disdain for every request made of them turned both Late Blooming Mom and Dad into Ogres, and not of the cuddly, Shrek variety.  Toys were taken away, privileges too.  Sunday proved a day without any television or sugary treats, and the kids' being denied the wearing of their recently purchased, way cool sneakers.  But apologies were given -- by kids and by mom and dad -- for bad behavior all around, and everyone was more or less civilized, in part because that afternoon, mom spent time alone with daughter, and dad spent time alone with the son.  Apart from each other, with one adult solely focused on them, each of the kids behaved well, and even did chores without complaint (well, kinda sorta). It was a third-week-of-winter break miracle. 

But it was truly only Monday morning, when everyone had had a decent amount of sleep, and the getting-ready-for-school routine had kicked into gear, when peace felt fully restored to the home kingdom.

So once again, I must ask:  a three-week winter break, LAUSD?  Really?


Sarah Auerswald said...

Holly, I understand the policy is in place because so many families leave for Central and South America at Xmas and don't come back for a month. The school district was losing money hand over fist because the kids were dropped from the schools' enrollment. They had to adjust the schedule because families weren't adjusting theirs. In Northern Cal, in districts with many families of migrant workers, they take a full month at Xmas.

Just thought I'd share that...

William V. Madison said...

You're doing an excellent job of tempering those moments when I think, "Gee, I wish I had kids of my own, instead of having to borrow other people's!"

Congratulations to one and all for enduring this challenge.

Uncle Bill