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In Back-to-School Mode, There's No One-Size-Fits-All

Carm braces for the new school year with three very different "Back to School" rituals for each of her children, ages 12, 17 and 23.

Walking through the aisles of the local I am struck by the number of Moms and Dads with that "deer in headlights" dazed look as they are dragged by their children because of that time of year upon us again. Yes, it's "Back-to-School" folks. 

Lists in hand, we step-by-step fill the basket with pens, pencils and post-it notes wondering if last year's supplies ever really got used or ended up in the ever popular circular file.  Around me, I also notice that the age of students in tow ranges from the very young to middle school. 

And there I am with my "number 3" child, 12 years old and beaming with tactile glee as he picks out two-pocket folders and pencil erasers.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my "number 2" child wistfully daydreams about the days when he could sleep until noon. As a Middletown High School senior, his concerns are different. He has a summer reading book and assignment to complete, Band Camp starts this week, college applications are around the corner, that elusive summer job he's working his tail off in is making him long for the days when summer vacation WAS a vacation and still, he's continues to deliberate on how he can separate me from the keys to my car now that his driver's license is an entire one year old!

Whew! That was a mouthful. 

The teen could care less if his pencil is sharpened. I am still wondering "when did that happen?"

And then there's my "number 1" adult child, working full-time for a school district with a calendar in his smartphone that tells him that the first day of school is just around the corner and there is still so much to do. His perspective on "back to school" is so different now from when he himself was a student that it almost makes me laugh out loud. Funny, how your outlook changes when a part of the responsibility to create a smooth "first day" rests on your shoulders than when you were the one receiving the educational services.

That's all folks. He's got it under control. He's living on his own and no stranger to the juggling act that he performs on a daily basis, much like I do.

Could there be a light at the end of the tunnel?

Is it possible that my job is done there?

So I ask you, dear readers, why the angst? When did back-to-school become bigger than Christmas? When did we stray from the days when all "Back-To-School" meant was shopping for a shiny new lunchbox with David Cassidy and The Partridge Family stamped on the front, a new pair of shoes, and maybe a new outfit for the first day of school?

Did we do this to ourselves?  Well, my friends, the answer is clear. With a little help from the world's marketing firms and a huge dose of capitalism we arrive to where we are—lots and lots of stuff in the name of something new

So here it is—I will not be fooled again. No, I need to keep my eye on the big picture

"Back-to-school" should simply mean that: Summer vacation and whatever that means to you is over and it's time to go back to the place and time the phrase describes. 

We never stop learning, we never stop socializing, we never stop reading, writing and engaging in some sort of mathematical equations (I hope!) and we never stop working together to raise our next generation. So shouldn't we be at this level of "big deal" all year round?

I will replace the backpack when it needs replacing. I will be more concerned with what my kids are eating as opposed to what their lunches are toted in. I will keep on them about homework as opposed to what their daily planners look like. And I will talk with them about what's going on in their lives as opposed to worrying about whether they are wearing shorts or long pants to school every day. 

So, in the spirit of "Back-to-School," I wish every parent and everyone in a parenting role out there a Happy New Year's Day on Sept. 7 for those of us living and going to school in Middletown. 

It's another opportunity to get it right—for our kids and for ourselves. After all, as parents, school is as much a part of our lives as it is theirs. 

See you at the bus stop!    

kathie Schneider September 02, 2010 at 09:51 AM
I loved this article Carmela! After raising 2 boys who are now 24 and 25 years of age, I agree with the wisdom and love your humor! I wish all a wonderful school year!
Jessica Walsh September 02, 2010 at 09:25 PM
Great article Carm! Glad to have you on board at Patch : )
Carol (Cricket) Meehan September 03, 2010 at 12:16 PM
Well said Carm! I'm fastening my seatbelt for another year at MHS and am sure that the junior class will strive to excel in all they do this year! Hope springs eternal....

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