The month of the elderly


In the days when I was still teaching, the first school term was my favorite. The smell of freshly cut grass, late afternoon rain and the beautiful image of grassy green sports fields (literally), the clearest blue sky or blue-grey clouds gathering ominously… I get goosebumps when I recall these old familiar images in my mind’s eye.

Whether the wind blew and the drops fell, or whether the sun left your complexion a little redder, for me there were few things as beautiful as an athletics track full of schoolchildren giving their all for that first place.

However, I am no longer in school and as much as I would like to, I can no longer spend hours at the first term athletic events. These days I spend my afternoons at work, or transporting children to various activities.

I’m not complaining, because I’m blessed with a job I love and an eldest son who is currently studying and earns his pocket money by playing taxi with mom for the youth team.

In place of athletics practices and events, which of course sometimes last late into the night, most of the first term’s evenings are now filled with parents’ evenings – first the 7th grade council’s getting to know each other, then the rugby meeting, the tennis meeting, the mountain bike meeting, the Voortrekkers’ information session for new parents, the grade 4-7 parent information evening and finally the grade 9 subject selection meeting for parents. And then of course the important governing body elections that are still to come.

I hear from my fellow mums that there are still netball and hockey meetings that they have to attend too.

I’m going to imagine for a moment that I’m sitting in a support circle while I raise my hand and confess the following: “Hey, I’m Johnell and I’ve only been to two of the mentioned parents’ evenings and I’m only going to attend two more of them, one of which is the governing body election is. The rest I feel could be an email, a circular or a Google form. Or maybe a Zoom meeting so I can at least cook while I listen to the details of the sports season.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I would really like to be involved in the school as well as the development of my child, but I simply cannot devote one to two evenings to this every week, for the first four weeks of the new school year.

Like any other modern household, we work like a well-oiled machine. Minutes and menus are carefully worked out and each member of the family has responsibilities that he or she must fulfill. We have a cooking grid, a tablecloth grid as well as a dog food grid and then of course individual specialist responsibilities such as who helps mum with the laundry and who picks up the dogs’ droppings from the lawn. Of course, the adults relieve each other where we can and stand in where the others may have to meet an urgent deadline or attend a function (or parents’ evening). Unfortunately, both cannot always be present at everything, because one must be at home to cover books or help with a task.

I don’t rail against schools. Not at all. I understand all too well the hours of planning, preparation, administration and then academic, sports and cultural obligations that are loaded on each teacher’s shoulders. I myself had to work nights just to stay up to date. And now, as a parent, I like to participate and support where I can.

But today, when I had to comb my calendar for an opening for my work function in between all the parental obligations, I realized that term one is definitely not my favorite anymore. I would much rather trade the inside of the hall for the athletics track with its green grass, white stripes and excited children who participate enthusiastically or sing along happily in the background!