Back to school ... bliss?
Tanya Leach-Haye, Contributor
The beginning of September (or late August in the United States) signifies one thing to commuters and parents: Back to school. Back-to-school traffic. Back-to-school routine. Back to going to bed on time. Back to first-day excitement and complaints. Back to discipline. In other words - back to reality. So, as I read different Facebook friends' postings about the horrors of back-to-school traffic and its accompanying drama, I thought maybe a different perspective could help us to embrace it.
Back to school could actually be a good thing. Even though the stress of traffic and the demands for new books, binders, and backpacks slap us every September and shake us into our new reality, its entrance ushers out the stress of summer. Summer stress? Ah! How soon we forget.
Have we forgotten that back to school means we no longer have to be entertainment coordinators and event planners? You do remember that was your role ALL summer long? Which parent hasn't dreaded the desolate look that children can adopt just to emphasise their summer anthem: I'm bored! And who hasn't said 'Bored? When I was your age, I didn't know the meaning of the word - bored. Read a book! Write a poem. Create a dance.' (Ha! We know we may as well keep those sentiments to ourselves.)
So we put on our event-planning hat and we begin to scout the Internet and leaf through brochures looking for possible summer camps and activities. Maybe a weekend in the country at a resort. OK. One week of camp. A few sleepovers here and there. A few north coast runs. Maybe squeeze in a trip abroad and burden the relatives. Yes, let them pick up the grocery bill for a while. Good. That leaves what .. Ugh! Five more weeks?
So, think of it: back to school changes all of that and you can save on your vacation, casual, and mental health days off from work! Back to school means you won't have to use anymore 'sick' days for their summer entertainment!
And let's not forget about their food consumption. Have you forgotten how your food bill soared during the summer? I mean, where do they pack all that food in the summer? It's as if eating becomes their favourite pastime.
'Mom, we need milk.'
'But I just bought two days ago.'
'Well, remember I made that cake you suggested, and I was (here comes that word again!) BORED so I've been having cereal more than usual.' (Yeah. Bored. That word again.)
'And Mom, can you get some snacks on your way home today. There's NOTHING to eat.'
'What do you mean nothing to eat? There's rice.'
'Yes, and some leftover chicken?'
'Left over from when, Mom?'
'Couldn't be too long.'
'But that's not a snack.' And so the food demands continue all summer long because they need variety to not be ... BORED with the food; and so the grocery bill inches up more and more. But back to school means you get the house back and grocery bill down! Oh joy!
And I know we remember the extra money we had to produce during the summer. Money, money, and more money! Money every time they went to the movies. (That helps to beat boredom, doesn't it!?) Money to hang out. (What's that? Oh yeah. The shopping centre, McDonald's!) Money for extra activities run by novices who need money to placate their kids for the summer! Money to order pizza. And money to cover those technology-related bills. Texting, tweeting, and Facebooking - these all increase when they're BORED, so we need a different data plan! After all, now is the perfect time to tweet their moment-by-moment boredom: #Justwokeup. #Goingtowashmyface. #OMGmybrotherdidn'tflush. #Eeewwww! (TMI!) #Cerealagain? And on and on this goes ALL day ALL summer and so they use their smartphones even more. (Admit it. You swore you wouldn't but you bought them a smartphone better than yours!) Depending on the data plan you bought, increasing data and home Internet use may mean increased cost. And there's more downloading when they're at home all day BORED, so the computer may crash or slow down or need to be fixed.
We absolutely love our kids, but the bottom line is children plus summer holidays mean more dollars! When you put it like that, doesn't back to school seem not too bad?
So, maybe back to school could begin to mean something different to us, parents. Maybe it could mean bliss? Maybe we could begin to do the happy dance when we hear back to school, you know — the way they do the happy dance on the last day of the school term. Maybe next year when summer bids us farewell and September meanders towards us and we wake up to groans and moans about how it's 'just too early to be going anywhere' (As if they were not aware that September was coming. After all, didn't you repeatedly say that staying up until sunrise would catch up with them!?), and when we see the long traffic lines that tempt us to bang our heads in frustration against the steering wheel, we can meet the early back-to-school days head-on, and on the top of our voices triumphantly shout, "Back to school? What? I'm not afraid of you! You're not the boss of me. Back to school? BRING IT ON, Ba-bee!"