Joco Diversions

Emily Parnell — Remember when the school year started in fall? Our kids won’t

Updated: 2013-07-09T23:01:42Z

By EMILY PARNELL

Special to The Star

“It’s a lie, mom!” my son wailed. “Stop lying to me.” He threw himself dramatically onto the couch, in need of smelling salts, I’m sure.

“I’m sorry to tell you, honey, but it’s true. Summer is two-thirds over.” No amount of pleading and protesting can change the fact that soon, he’ll be sitting in a fourth-grade classroom.

He wasn’t the only one to question my summer vacation arithmetic. A friend, another mom, also thought my calculations must be faulty.

“How do you figure that summer is two-thirds over? Summer’s only half over.”

It should be a lie, right? Joking words to torment my children. An exaggeration of some sort. But alas, it is true. School will be starting in just five weeks.

Why in the world does school start the second week of August? The monkeys were released from their classroom cages in mid-May. We zoomed through June. And now, we’ve just celebrated Independence Day. That leaves us one month left, and time is flying.

Do you remember the last few weeks before starting school? The excitement of seeing old friends, meeting new teachers, and the fun of organizing new school supplies? I spent hours thumbing through my extra-thick “Back to School” edition of Seventeen Magazine. Its glossy pages were filled with kids toting plaid backpacks, wearing jean jackets and thick, fall sweaters in front of backgrounds with autumn oranges and golds. I was excited for fall. Because, back then, school started in fall. Not smack-dab in the middle of summer.

Our classes resumed right after Labor Day. I remember a rumor that purported that our school district had sneaked in under some “farming” clause, and we started in September so that all our farm kids could help with the fall harvest. To my knowledge, not one of my south Kansas City friends helped with any sort of “harvest” aside from mowing their suburban lawns, but the result was that we enjoyed a long, full summer and were raring to get back when time came.

Most of our schools weren’t air conditioned. But even though classes usually started soon after Labor Day, we could count on temperatures in the 90s. This was unfortunate since I, and many other girls, often carefully chose a special first-day of school outfit that resembled the photos in the magazines. I remember a particularly steamy first-day-of-school wearing my brand new, super-cool, thick, itchy, wool sweater vest. I’ve not worn wool since.

I guess my astonishment at an early August start date for school is my version of “Back in my day, we walked barefoot to school, uphill, both ways.” The adjustment is mine to make. I have to drill it into my brain that the Fourth of July is now the kickoff of back-to-school season.

We have to take full advantage of these last days and cram them with a schedule full of leisure. Afternoons at the pool, play dates with friends, and fun, local outings are on the agenda. But I suppose the kindest thing I can do for them is to stop complaining that summer’s not “really” over and help them get excited for the school year. (And help them find first-day garb that is wool-free.) Because like it or not, the start of the school year is right around the corner.

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