That most important of educational institutions has once again opened its doors to throngs of euphoric parents and eager young children for what will no doubt be another exciting year of scholarship and discovery.
Yes, it’s that time of year again—when parents young and old, some still wearing pajamas, many with cups of coffee still in hand, dash off to bus stops far and wide with children in tow, for what has become a back-to-school tradition of back-slapping, high-fiving and broad celebration. Not since the advent of fire or indoor plumbing have you seen full grown men and women so delighted. After all, it’s been a long remorseless summer, the kidos are bored and the parents are ever weary of summertime play-dates, daily swimming pool excursions, and senseless sibling bickering.
Yes, the air is thick with excitement and jubilation as gleeful caregivers eagerly await that big beautiful yellow vessel of freedom, whereupon they’ll thrust, plunk, goose or shove, as necessary, their precious children onto it—we stopped driving our kids to school to reduce our ever expanding carbon footprint...you’re welcome, just doing our part—for another season of kido edification and routine, seven-hour, child rearing sabbaticals. Indeed, after 84 days in the muddy trenches of camp tadpole, the beginning of school is a welcomed acquittal.
Yes, on this first day of school, the air seems fresher, the sky seems bluer, the flowers seem brighter, and the burden seems diminished. Smiles emerge abundant on the faces of parents who wave at anyone, giggle at everything, and who skip a skip only parents know how on this, the first day of school…life is good.
Regrettably, however, the typical school day endures as the speediest seven hours of parent’s life. From the moment the bus drives off, the clock ticks at double speed. All previously established concepts of time and space are off beam in what can only be described as a free-time acceleration continuum.
One cup of coffee, a hasty cleaning of the kitchen, a quick workout and…BAM—it’s lunch. Wait what? Only three hours till they get home? Better hurry. Quick, run that errand, make that short but important phone call…BAM, guess what, they’re baaaaack. Already? No sooner are those kidos put on the bus then—sigh—they’re getting off, home again, making demands, competing for attention, fighting with one another, fully arresting virtually all rational conversation and any mom-dad starry-eyed considerations—abruptly. The peace and tranquility is over.
Cue the brouhaha and hand wringing: the stillness has ended, the serenity you’ve delighted in since you hugged, kissed and victoriously elbowed them onto that school bus seven hours earlier has vanished—luckily though, they’ve saved their pent-up angst just for you. All their exhaustion, hunger and a full days’ worth of frustration are all coming home with them to detonate right before your eyes, right in your kitchen. Ah yes, the joy of rearing is magnificent to be sure.
This potentially explosive situation requires a delicate touch, one best handled after having made suitable preparations. By the time the tawpies surge off the school bus, and out of an abundance of caution, it’s helpful to have already begun to fortify your positions, to protect your rear flank. To achieve this you must first establish a comfortable measure of equanimity and endurance, that is, pour thyself a glass of something—for me, it’s a Manhattan, served up and with a cherry that best achieves this most important of battlefield readiness.
Second, do prepare a fine snack for the ravenous youngsters. Healthy fruit, vegetables or peanut butter you say? No, No, nothing sensible, just sugar—thereby avoiding the inevitable (and exhausting) back and forth about the need for healthy eating and a balanced diet, they don’t get it anyway, plus you’ll never get back the effort you expend fighting that fight.
We begin with popsicles and lollipops, move on to candy bars, and from there, on the bad days, simply hand them cereal bowls filled with raw sugar. This seems to satisfy their insatiable desire for all things processed and sweet.
Finally, after gorging themselves on empty calories and thirty minutes of mindless TV, everything begins to line up, to look much better. Now the whole family is serene, everyone’s in high spirits, ready to take on that most maddening of school year routines…homework.