For kids, it would be the week before Christmas – or maybe the one in June right before school lets out.
For their parents, though, the time is now.
We’re talking about the longest week of the year. Make that looooongest.
You know the situation, if you are like many families across Western New York right now.
School has not started, but most summer recreation programs, public pools, daytime activities and camps – both day and away – have already wrapped up for the season.
Many houses across the region are full of cranky, wound-up children and teens, coupled with parents who are frantically trying to purchase school supplies, new clothing and shoes, get the necessary haircuts and doctor’s appointments, and – whew – still maintain regular schedules at work.
“I don’t dread the last week of summer,” said Michelle Greis, a Clarence Center mother of four, “but it’s something you have to get through.
“I wish I had off this week, but I couldn’t take off of work. I’ve been thinking, ‘How am I going to get everything done?’”
And that’s true even for families in which there aren’t deadlines looming for summer projects that somehow never got done.
Take summer reading, for instance.
Ask Tonawanda public library director Dorinda Darden, and she will tell you that both the Kenmore and Kenilworth branch libraries in the town have been humming lately, as kids and teenagers trickle in, looking for the books that they had been assigned to read in June.
“Some kids will get them done early. But there are some who wait to the last minute,” said Darden, who has been a librarian for 20 years.
“They’ll come in and ask us. They come to the desk and inquire. They need a book to read before they come back to school,” she said.
“It’s more the high schoolers,” Darden said. “Mostly, with the younger kids, the parents keep on top of it.”
Some area school districts open their schools Tuesday or Wednesday. Others, like Buffalo city schools, open next Thursday.
For many parents, the whirl of this last week before the start of school – but after most summertime programs – is a frenetically paced obstacle course in which they are falling behind.
Greis, the Clarence Center mother of four daughters, knows that feeling all too well. She uses two calendars to plan her family’s daily activities, they have so much going on.
One day this week, she needed to get one of her kids to a dental appointment by 8 a.m.
So, she had her 13-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old twins spend the night at her father’s home in Cheektowaga, so that he could help out by taking them to the appointment at the University at Buffalo dental office.
Greis, meanwhile, had to juggle her full-time job as an accounting administrator in Grand Island. Her husband runs a business in Athol Springs.
It all made for a very hectic day – topped off by the fact that, unwittingly, the family had the time of the dental appointment wrong.
That created further stress – and Greis had to leave her job in the afternoon to get her children back to the orthodontist.
“My boss allowed me to leave work to run the girls to UB,” she said.
Amid all of this, the family realized they had forgotten to buy school supplies – so they ended up ordering them through their school in Clarence.
“Now, I’m trying to figure out when we do more clothes shopping,” Greis said, laughing. “It’s one more thing after another.”
Another parent who knows about the crazy pace of this time of year is Jocelyn Ciesla.
The South Buffalo mother had to leave her job early one day this week too, just to squeeze in all the errands and tasks necessary before her two boys, 12 and 17, start school next week.
“It’s a stressor, trying to make sure everything is done, and get everything on their school supply list,” said Ciesla, who works full time at the Erie County Medical Center.
She said that once school begins, teachers often have additions and changes to supply needs – and that will require more running to stores.
The pace of this week definitely conveys the not-so-subtle message: Summer is over.
“We just came back from five days in Letchworth for vacation and that was our last hurrah,” Ciesla said.
Recreation centers that still offer summer programming are in some cases swamped with interest from families.
The Jewish Community Center offers a vacation camp all this week, with full-day sessions ending on Friday. The camp serves children ages 4 to 15.
“It’s pretty full,”said Laurie Greenspan, JCC’s marketing director, of what the center calls “Bridge Week Vacation Camp.”
There was a waiting list for the camp. “It’s always been a very popular thing,” Greenspan said.
At the Southtowns YMCA, late summer programming is also offered, stretching into early next week.
The Y’s “Vacation Club” is geared for 5- to 12-year-olds, and runs right up until school begins for most families. Other programs at the center cater to different ages and interests.
“A lot of the parents call it a lifesaver. It gives the kids something to do,” said Becky Donhauser, a member service representative at the organization. “It’s not day care. It’s camp.”
Yet there are some clubs and centers that don’t find enough interest among families to offer programs this week.
At the Boys & Girls Club of Eden, the last week of August is one of the least busy of the summer.
The final week leading up to the start of school had been the most poorly attended camp session, said club director Debbie Popple.
It got so bad that the club discontinued that last week of camp a few years ago, she said.
For one Buffalo mother, though, the situation could be summed up like this:
“I’m on overload.”
That was the verdict of Jessica Hills, a charter school teacher and mother of a 3½-year-old, who has already gone back to work and said she feels extra pressure, being a new teacher. She said her summers feel compressed to begin with because of her job duties.
“I’m trying to squeeze so many activities in to feel like it’s summer,” said Hills. “That’s pressure in itself.”
But, she said, the time of change is here.
“Summer is over,” said Hills. “I’m waiting for apple-picking now.”