Autumn has officially been upon the Carson household for more than two weeks now. The kids went back to school in late August--Michael started at the Athens Middle School and Olivia started kindergarten at East Elementary (also in Athens, though they don't bother to make that explicit in the name; if only they had talked with Bertrand Russell first!). Both of these are rather Significant Beginnings for us, since we're pretty big on the whole education thing and the kids have pretty much picked up on that. I'm sure they're both going to have huge psychoanalysis bills when they grow up, but for now they're working hard and performing well. The seventh grade, in particular, has brought about a massive change in the home life, because now Michael has to be at school before 7:30 a.m. For the past seven years we've been allowed to sleep in until 8:00 because the elementary school doesn't start until 9:00. So now Michael and I both get up at 6:00, not only because I often say the Office at that time but even if I didn't Michael doesn't like to be downstairs in the dark house all by himself. We don't live far enough away for him to take the bus, but we do live far enough away that he has to start walking at 7:00 in order to get there on time, and he has to carry a trombone the whole way every day. Well, but in my day I had to walk three miles in the snow, uphill both ways....
Olivia loves kindergarten the way all little kids like school at first, before they realize what a bloodthirsty life-stealer it is. Right now it's all coloring and "sharing time" and other fun and games, and they enjoy it because they don't know yet that all of this stuff is just intended to indoctrinate them and socialize them and fit them into a mold so that they don't become sociopaths later on. Once they're wise to that aspect of the game they start to rebel. Olivia is fairly spirited, but she's still in the dark about her socialization, so she's loving the whole thing. I like it too, since I can schmooze with the other moms when I pick her up at 3:30 and she insists on playing "for just 5 minutes" in the playground. You'd be surprised at how much stuff you can find out about just by schmoozing with the other kindergarten moms. I don't know why I'm the only kindergarten dad this year--when Michael was in elementary school there were always one or two other dads picking up kids, but this year it's all moms.
Michael's schedule is not only moved forward by an hour and half, it's also jammed with extra-curricular activities. In addition to playing the bone for his band, he's also on the soccer team, which practices from 5:30-7:00 every freaking night except on days when they're actually playing a game. I don't mind taking him, though, because the practice fields are located right on the bike path, and I can get in a good 20-mile ride during the practice. By the time I get back I'm as sweaty and stinky as anyone on the team. They don't mind telling me so, either.
Classes also got under way here at Ohio University this week, and my department has already had a faculty meeting. It was blissfully short as such things go, only 45 minutes, but you can imagine how interesting the whole thing was when I tell you that we spent fully 15 of those 45 minutes discussing whether the name-plates on our office doors should be changed (presently they all say "Dr. Your-name-here", and there has been lobbying to change them to read "Prof. Your-name-here" or just "Your-name-here"). In spite of appearances it was not a complete waste of time, since I was able to schedule a tee time during the meeting using my Blackberry.
Summer is a beautiful time here in Athens County, but there is something salutary and indeed joyful about getting back into the rhythms and routines of a new school year. I suppose the sense of pleasure that I'm feeling will dissipate once I remember how I'm just being indoctrinated and socialized by my administration, but for now it seems good to be alive.