It’s back to school: Yikes!

BACK TO SCHOOL starts next week and those following for most local schools and colleges (Shutterstock).

Remember that classic “Staples” TV commercial in which parents joyfully react to the song lyric, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” while kids moped miserably?

It’s back-to-school time in the Garden Grove Unified School District on Monday, with other systems following in coming weeks. If parents are thrilled and kids depressed, then there will come a time when those feelings are reversed.

Going to school is a series of progressions, evolutions, you might say. The first day of kindergarten or first grade goes from apprehension to joy, quickly; the kids make new friends and the parents gain new freedom.

Through elementary school, there is a fine mix of play and learning. Part of what you learn, frankly, is to conform. Be quiet and sit down. Don’t talk.  Do your work. You learn what the inside of the principal’s office looked like. (Surprisingly small, I thought).

But there were also games and goofing off and making new companions from other neighborhoods and backgrounds. Being from the Northeast (Rhode Island), I sometimes found the different word uses puzzling or amusing. What was “soda” in R.I. was “pop” in Iowa; what was a “bag” in Providence was a “sack” in Des Moines.

Eventually there was also the budding of “puppy love.” Two-week romances blossomed and girls started passing notes (today it would be texts) about this boy and that. Boys exchanged more earthy sentiments about girls.

Intermediate school was an earthquake. You went from one or two teachers to four or five. There was the rush between classes, the slamming of lockers (sometimes on your fingers if you weren’t careful) and a steepening of the learning curve. I crushed arithmetic; algebra crushed me.

Puberty worked its magic and the social stakes got higher. All of a sudden status was determined by looks, clothes, athletic or artistic powers and – trailing the rest – academic accomplishment.

In self-defense, casual cruelty emerged. Better to belittle than to be belittled. If I belong in Purgatory, my rap sheet began in eighth grade.

High school for many set the course for the rest of our lives. Romances bloomed that ended up at the altar … or divorce decrees. Skills and techniques learned at Good Old Local High often set you on a career path. Lifelong friends were made, and for the first time, really, you were forced to think ahead. A scary thought for a teenager.

Parents sending their kids off to school may initially sigh in relief, but later will miss the days when Zach or Zoe brought home precious (but ugly) gifts they made in school, instead of the slammed doors and sullen attitudes that may appear later.

For kids, the start of each year of school is going to begin a parade of growth, memories and physical and emotional fortitude. Those are (among) the most wonderful times of their lives.

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