Seven Reasons I’m Singing the Back-to-School Blues
I’m singing the back-to-school blues—but it’s not what you think. I’m not one of those moms who wants to be around her kids 24/7 and dreads when they go back to school. In fact, I’m not one of those humans who wants to be around other humans 24/7. I need my space.
You can notice easily when the first day of school begins, because on that glorious, bird-singing, sunshine-filled morning, Panera Bread needs a bouncer for crowd control with all the exuberant moms on coffee dates. I am one of those moms. Now that summer is over, I am thrilled I no longer have to listen to my two teens fight with each other all day or rouse them from their screen-induced comas and force them outside to inhale some fresh oxygen and soak in some sunshine.
Nevertheless, as happy as I am that school is back in session, it does bring its share of hassles that drive me crazy.
- Supply lists. I agree that teachers are underpaid and education is underfunded and we all need to do our fair share. And I don’t mind chipping in for classroom supplies of tissues and hand sanitizer so my kids don’t haul home some awful virus from school and infect the whole family quicker than the latest Zika outbreak. However, the level of detail that goes into these lengthy, very specific supply lists borders on insanity. One teacher required an oddly over-sized notebook that even Office Max didn’t carry. I could have hunted down a first-edition of Beowulf more quickly than I found this 10” x 12” spiral-bound, college-ruled, acid-free, archival-quality notebook. . .for middle school geography. Another teacher listed “two calculators and four three-ring binders” on her required supply list for algebra. When I questioned her about this, she replied, “I’ve found that the students often lose their calculators halfway through the year, so I recommend buying a backup. Also, the students need to bring one three-ring binder to class and keep the other three at home to store their work after each quarter.” So just because a few irresponsible, disorganized 13-year-olds can’t get their act together means all parents until the end of time need to overbuy specialty graphing calculators at $50+ a pop? Uh, not gonna happen, even if this means deducting 20 points from my son’s “classroom participation grade.”
- Fundraisers, football games and food service accounts, oh, my! I need a full-time job just to pay for the onslaught of wallet-draining expenses in a typical school year. From extra lab fees to uniforms, from art supplies to testing fees, from field trips to coaches’ gifts, from game tickets to lunch accounts, school fees add up more quickly than a two-year cell phone contract. And if, on top of all these extra fees, schools still decide to do a few fundraisers, why don’t they sell things that parents might actually use, like a Wine of the Month Club?
- Crazy-early start times. I can almost hear the collective snore of my neighbors when we leave the house for school in the dark at 6:45 a.m. Does anyone on the school board know anything about teens, adolescent development, brain functioning or sleep patterns? Teens don’t do mornings, but hey, let’s just throw them into lit. analysis first period.
- Pictures. What photography think-tank got together to price these portrait packages and write and design an order form that only Sherlock Holmes can decode? The cheapest package, which includes 24 fingernail-size photo stickers that I will never use, a photo magnet and two 3”x5” photos, costs $28. I can literally get a 20”x30” poster at Costco for $9.99. And the order form is like a shell game, leaving parents bewildered with confusing-but-similar options that require a Ph.D. in logic to figure out. Package 1 includes two 3”x5” photos, a photo magnet and 24 photo stickers, while Package 21 includes all of Package 1 plus four large wallets and basic retouching (does this mean only one to three pimples?) plus digital downloads, and Package 7 includes all of Package 1 plus Package 21 plus premium retouching (perhaps pervasive acne scars?) plus personalization.
- Drop-off/pickup lanes. From the get-there-first parents who park in the carpool line two hours before school lets out to the parents who double-park their cars, block all through-traffic and run into the front office “for just a sec,” this free-for-all drop-off/pickup process simply stinks on all levels. (And no, rebel mom, that safety rule doesn’t apply to you—you just drop your kids off on the main highway in busy morning traffic so you don’t have to weave through that safe, slow-moving car line like everyone else. It’s all about you.) While I’m still working on a danger-free, beat-the-system drop-off procedure that could shave 15 minutes off my morning, I did finally wise up for the after-school pickup plan by arriving 10 minutes after classes end in the back of the school.
- Backpacks. In sixth grade, when my son weighed about 80 pounds, his backpack weighed 22 pounds—about the size of a small toddler. The brilliant architectural planners of his newly built middle school decided not to put in any lockers, so the kids must carry around a quarter of their body weight on their backs all day long with oversized notebooks and college-sized textbooks for every class. Throw in a jacket, umbrella and lunchbox, and the kids practically tip over in a gentle breeze.
- Dress codes. I’m all for kids expressing themselves and I am not pro-dress code, but I do think a little common sense needs to prevail, as kids head to school with backside baring low-rise jeans and see-through crop tops. Kids (and their parents) do need to use good judgment so school districts don’t need to adopt four-page dress code manifestos that prohibit the weirdly inappropriate “slippers, pajamas, trench coats, bathing suits, bike shorts, dog collars and chains that connect one part of the body to another.” Because of a few extremist, overly self-expressive rebels, my kids can’t even wear a baseball cap or sunglasses on campus.
So, while I’m thrilled with seven teen-free hours of quiet, uninterrupted writing time five days a week, these public school hassles are almost enough to make me yearn for summer break. Almost.
Lisa Beach is a freelance writer, humorist, mother of two teenagers and recovering homeschool mom who lived to write about it. Check out her writer’s website at LisaBeachWrites.com and visit her humor blog at TweeniorMoments.com.