The blogosphere is buzzing, the web is whirring, and TV and radio commercials are in overdrive about back-to-school. Every fall you’d think parents had never done this before. Surely there can’t be that much controversy about what to put in kids’ backpacks, how to dress kids coolly but economically, or preparing healthy lunches! Yet, every year the same stories, with the same theme, asking the same questions, and giving the same answers appear, heralded with enough fanfare to make you believe the writers are discovering America or inventing oxygen. “Top Ten Back-to-School Tips!” “12 Back-to-School Essentials!” “5 Back-to-School Pitfalls to Avoid!” Sheesh.
Here’s the story I’d like to see: “What to Do When Your Kids are Old Enough to Get Themselves Back-to-School without You.” We have a wonderful collection of pictures of our kids over the years, posed with their backpacks on the front porch on the first day of school each fall. Spanning from kindergarten through high school, this gallery is visual testimony to the wonderful experience of parenting kids when they’re at home, tucked in their beds each night and groggy before school each morning. But, alas, there comes a time in their lives when all you do for back-to-school is drive them to the airport or make a deposit in their bursar accounts for the new semester’s tuition. Back-to-school becomes empty bedrooms at home and a lonely dog. This is NOT sadness you’re reading. Or regrets. This is warm nostalgia about days that were long, years that were short, and times that we remember like they were yesterday because we were there with our kids every step of the way.
And this is also about the great pride we have that our babies are now packing their own backpacks, picking up their own luggage at baggage claim, and returning to their own apartments where they now belong.
Cherish every backpack you pack when they’re young, and then be grateful when your kids reach the stage where back-to-school doesn’t involve you much anymore.