Advice & Features Articles

6 Reasons I’m Singing the Back-to-School Blues

by Lisa A. Beach

You can easily notice 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 almost over, I am thrilled that I no longer have to listen to my two teens fight with each other all day or rouse them from their screen-induced coma to 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 we all need to do our fair share with classroom supplies, and I don’t mind chipping in for basics like 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 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 quicker than I found this 10” x 12” spiral-bound, college-ruled, acid-free notebook . . . for middle school geography. 

Fundraisers, football games, and food service accounts, oh, my! 
From extra lab fees to uniforms, from art supplies to testing fees, from field trips to coaches’ gifts, school fees add up quicker than a two-year cell phone contract. And if, on top of all these extra fees, schools still decide to do fundraisers, why don’t they sell things that parents might actually use, like a Wine of the Month Club?

What photography think-tank got together to price these portrait packages 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 and a photo magnet, costs $28. 

Drop-off/pick-up 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 thru-traffic and run into the front office “for just a sec,” this free-for-all drop-off/pick-up process simply stinks on all levels. 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 pick-up plan by arriving 10 minutes after classes end in the back of the school.

In 6th 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 any lockers, so the kids must carry around a quarter of their body weight on their backs all day long. 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, but I do think a little common sense needs to prevail, as kids head to school with butt-crack-baring low-rise jeans and see-through crop tops. Kids (and their parents) 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, bathing suits, bike shorts, and dog collars.” 

So, while I’m thrilled about seven teen-free hours of quiet, uninterrupted writing time five days a week, these school hassles are almost enough to make me yearn for summer break. Almost.

Editor’s Note: Lisa Beach is a freelance journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Eating Well, USA Today, Good Housekeeping, Parents, and of course, Good Life Family. 

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