Since Aug. 12, my kids have been getting up early, strapping on their backpacks and heading off to school.
Please take just a moment to digest that date. Aug. 12. Almost a month before Labor Day, fewer than 90 days after the previous school year ended, summer is over. And it seems like things were just warming up!
I try not to bring to my children’s attention that they are being shortchanged. Growing up, I had a full three months to relax. I watched television I hated (pre-cable) and read until the series I loved were out of books, and lazed in our blue vinyl 3-foot deep pool, sun-heated to the temperature of a hot bath.
Our summers were long and lazy. So long and ridiculously lazy, in fact, that I could not wait to get back to school, pining to be rescued from my imminent fate of death by boredom. Especially once I approached middle school.
On Aug. 12, I would not have been on my way to school. In fact, on that day, young Emily Brown (me) would have stationed herself by the living room window, watching for the mail carrier to bring me the extra-thick back-to-school edition of Seventeen magazine. When it finally arrived, I’d hide away in my bedroom to study its glossy pages full of advice on decorating lockers, colorful photos showing the next season’s fashion trends, the coolest backpacks known to humankind, colorful but overpriced Benetton sweaters, and detailed guides teaching me how to coax my bangs to great altitudes, utilizing only Aquanet and a rat tail comb.
For the first day of school, a day or two after Labor Day, I would insist on wearing a brand new Gap sweater, regardless of the forecast. I’d head off to our unairconditioned school to sweat profusely among a sea of other sweater-wearing students, who may or may not have owned sticks of deodorant.
In the Center School District, where I grew up, school started later than other Kansas City area schools. It came to light that it had been zoned an agricultural region, and therefore, kids were needed by their parents to help with the harvest. If you’re familiar with the district, based at 87th and Holmes Road, you may be scratching your head, wondering, “what harvest?” I’m sure a tomato or two was grown in the district, but hardly anything that required full days of child labor. In fact, this became a bit of an outrage. From my young point of view, my Kansas friends “got” to go to school nearly a full week earlier than I. Not only that, the school district was modeling shady scheduling practices.
And so, the start date was revised to late August. This too, proved to be ridiculous — we’d head to our classrooms for a day or two, only to have a three-day weekend. Labor Day came too soon — before we needed a break, too late to be tagged onto a last-minute vacation.
I really don’t know what the proper day to start school is. Early to mid-August is too early. It seemed starting after Labor Day was too late. Too close to Labor Day isn’t right either.
It would almost seem that school simply shouldn’t start. Yet, ask any parent with bored, unstimulated children romping through their homes, ravaging the cabinets, stir-crazy from boredom. They’ll assure you that school MUST start, and the kids must return.
But I assure you, whatever date is chosen, it will be wrong.
Overland Park mom and freelancer Emily Parnell writes alternate weeks.