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Joseph: The most wonderful time of the year … or not

Posted: August 13, 2015 4:35 p.m.
Updated: August 14, 2015 1:00 a.m.

About this time every year, there are three words that mean different things to different people: “Back to school!” I noticed several days ago where someone on Facebook posted that very amusing Staples’ back to school commercial, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” I have to say it’s one of my favorites, though not necessarily because of the obvious. It’s because of the manner in which the dad is frolicking through the aisles of Staples as he tosses miscellaneous school supplies into his shopping cart as his rather unhappy kids stand by and watch. Their faces are priceless. To those just waiting to exhale, this “most wonderful time” is a good and welcomed event; to others, it represents the absolute “most worst time” of the year.

For me, it’s the latter.

Other than “paperwork” and household “duties” piling up a bit, I am quite fond of school being out for the summer. I believe it’s fair to say I share most teachers’ sentiments about time off from school. I like it. Actually I love it. No six o’clock (a.m.) alarms, no paper-bag lunches, no homework stress, no left-at-home gym clothes, no early bedtimes -- all serve as positives in our house. And these all pertain to my middle and high schoolers. Let us not forget our college-bound children. 

Ah, the college students. Now that group brings quite a unique and exclusive set of instructions. Deciphering the “self-service” websites of colleges is enough to push a parent right over a steep cliff. “Self-service?” Are you kidding me? Trying to pay your child’s tuition, adding meals to an already existing plan or doing a “what-if” GPA scenario for your student is about as easy as decoding some ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Seriously? I just want to pay my bill. How can they possibly think my son is an out-of-state student? Colleges should dub their “self-service” and “user-friendly” websites with names like Hunger Games, Sticker Shock or perhaps Da Vinci Code would be suitable. OK, it’s not quite that hard, but start early when learning to navigate the sites. Schedules can literally disappear overnight when a bill is not promptly paid. That can make for a grim move-in day. 

As the tide of every school year comes and goes, we -- as parents -- live closer to days of “letting-go.” And these days are not easy. We spend years influencing, inspiring, motivating, shaping, affecting and encouraging our children. We let them fly, falter, try again, see them stumble and get up. We are not perfect; neither are they. We will make mistakes; so will they. We will do our best; they will, too. As parents, we have to trust the curfews, the restrictions, the occasional forced plate of broccoli, the time-outs for them (and us), the long talks, the one-sided conversations, the punishments, were all for a reason. We send our students back to school whether its high school or middle school or college with hopes they have been listening. 

As I send my students back to school, I will try to remember to be in the present. Life is good, but life is short. Live in the moment. We give our children roots and we give them wings. The wings are for flying on their own and for flying home as well. They will be back. I am confident my kids know where to find home base and know the dugout sits right behind that.


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