Sunday, July 31, 2016

Back to School Sales and Other Religious Holidays

Remember the line "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"?  Yeah..Tale of Two Cities.  Ring a bell?  While I am fairly certain that Charles Dickens wasn't speaking specifically about getting children back to school...he could of been.  

 Yes, it's that time of year. Where I live, we are 16 days away from the big "send off" for children to return to the classroom. I not being sensitive to all of you that are crying in your kid's Cheerios at the very  thought of your precious spawn heading out the door?  If that is you, I apologize for my insensitivity but I am fairly confident that you will not only "get over it" and at some point in the future you will be actually pushing your child out the door ten minutes early (more or less) while telling them that they are close to being late for the first bell.

(NOTE: Sending children off to school gets easier with subsequent children and  time.  Sending your first child to kindergarten might be gut wrenching but by the time the last one leaves for college you are pretty much resigned, smiling, perhaps giddy at the idea. Your level of joy depends on the "ease" of the child.)

I have always had a love/hate relationship with the beginning of the school year.  When I was a little girl  starting school, you might remember in a previous  post (Whacks and Whackadoos) I didn't take an immediate "like" to school...but my love for it soon followed.  However, the days leading up to my "less than stellar" start were fairly exciting.  I remember the thrill of going "back to school" shopping. (I know I have said on numerous occasions how I despise shopping, but it was much more tolerable when someone else was paying for my stuff.)  I loved, not only the avalanche of all new clothes and shoes but picking out my book bag crammed with assorted goodies like paste, crayons, #2 pencils and such.  It all just made me  so happy.

While I doubt that today's kids can relate to the euphoria of picking out their lunch box de jour (well..actually that would be something along the lines of sac pour l'année I suppose..), one's lunch box in the late 50s required the same decision making skills as choosing one's Halloween costume.  I nearly feel sorry for the youth of today for not having the experience of picking out a metal tote with a theme. We had the glorious agony of deciding if Zorro, the Mouskateers,   Dale Evans. Roy Rogers. Lone Ranger or Davy Crockett would be appear on our  lunch box and thermos.   Sadly the cheap plastic knock off version lunch box or the cute little Pottery Barn insulated bag might have their merits but it's just not the same. (Does anyone, anywhere still use brown lunch bags?)

Even with all the sweet nostalgia related to  getting new school supplies in my youth, this time of year brings to mind the good and bad aspects associated to all the calendar school years that I have lived through as an adult, as a parent and (now) as a grandparent.

For the most part, I always looked forward to school starting when I was a student.  I loved school and could hardly wait to get back at it each year.  The first time I can say that I remember dreading that part of the year is the very year I got married. Back in those days, my hubby managed retail stores for what was an early version of the "big box" stores.  I, as you long time readers, might remember, was a teenage bride-to-be and obviously not quite equipped with enough life experience to realize NOT to plan a big wedding during September. I am fairly sure I must of mentioned this to future hubby that the date was going to be the first Saturday in September but he might of not made the connection between "back to school" and "getting married" as a major conflict of interest.  In fairness, he was working so hard for his then company he might of been mentally doing an inventory or some other boring task and not thought about the fact that his company was in NO WAY going to give him any time off during "BACK TO SCHOOL" season.  It is, after all, a major retail holiday.

After some serious pleading and groveling that included us detailing that there was a church booked, a reception planned and money to be lost if they didn't at the very least give him Saturday off, we did manage to have our wedding. AND out of the goodness of their mercenary little hearts they gave him a little time off for a honeymoon as well.

Fast forward  to around 7 years later...having to deal with "back to school" season as a parent.  One minute you have a infant and the next you have a kindergartner.  By the time our first born was ready to start school, I had developed a real hatred for this time of year thanks to my husband working for a retail company.  He basically left for work on some random August morning and came home after Christmas.  OK... maybe that is a slight exaggeration but if you ever managed a retail store, you would have to admit, I am not far from wrong.

Not only did going back to school take away my spouse thanks to the retail season of Back-to-School-Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas and Year End Clearance,   but this time of year was now going to deprive me from my precious little children.  Luckily for my kids they were far more grown-up than I was and seemed eager to escape go to school. Turns out that my little daughter who was only 4 days past turning 5,  could barely wait to get out the door.  I try not to take her enthusiasm as a personal assessment of my less than perfect parenting skills... but there is that possibility.

Anyway.... even though this time of year worked for my kiddos, my routine took a real hit once school was back in session every year.  Getting kids up and out the door on time is one thing but all the requirements of being an involved parent is like taking on a second career. Back in those days, I seemed incapable of ever actually verbalizing the word NO.  PTA president, sure no problem.  Bake cakes and cupcakes for parties and fundraisers...sure...happy to help.  Volunteer in the classroom because the class is larger than one would hope for this year....of course I can because the word NO escapes me.

So over the years, I did what I could as my own work schedules allowed and most of the time loved being part of all that went with the ins and outs of children heading back to the classroom.  It was with some sadness when my children grew up,  got into their cars and drove away to go to their assorted colleges.  There is nothing quite like a child loading up their car and driving away to remind me what a wonderful time it was back when we got to pick out their lunchboxes and backpacks.

Today, I am somewhat removed from being in the fray of the shoppers looking for multi-packs of #2 pencils and craft glue.  I suspect it has gotten so much harder than it used to be.

Every time I listen to my daughter discuss her "tasks" enrolling, participating or volunteering with her two sons' schools, I realize how easy I had it.  Today my grandsons go to a school where everyone is assigned an iPad and all communications from the classroom come "home"  on the computer.  School menus are subdivided into meal choices,  A, B, C, or bring your own. In today's schools if you want access you have to be "buzzed" in but only after you have your ID scanned and tell someone via the intercom who you are and what you want.  I appreciate the reasons WHY things have evolved as they have but sad that the world required it to happen.

My sweet memories of chicken noodle soup and bologna sandwiches seem horribly outdated when my daughter was saying that her son, who likes PB&J sandwiches for lunch, has a little lunch buddy, who's mother makes her own hummus so her child can dip his kale chips into it.  We are united in the idea that this child's mom would probably not want to be our BFF....
me, more so than her.  At least my daughter would have provided some organic grapes with the PB&J.  My own kids might of had a Hostess Cupcake.  I like to think nutrition was optional when my own kids were in grade school. (If it wasn't an option, people had the good grace not to mention it to me.)

So here we are just 16 short days out before the first day of school.  I feel the holiday cheer in the air as I move around town. I smile at the thought of being on the cusp of my gym's weight benches being clear of texting teens.  Kansas families are planning their routes and lists in preparedness for Missouri's  tax free weekend festivities (no sales tax on clothes, school supplies and electronics in the first weekend in August) that results  in the  mass migration of Kansans to pour into Missouri, and while I might be wrong ..probably means Hobby Lobby has to get their Christmas displays up. (or are they already out???).

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