It’s that time of year again! That cheery festive time for blessed thanks and happiness!
No, I’m not talking about Christmas or even Thanksgiving. I’m talking about that yearly ritualistic celebrating by grateful parents of hyperactive tweens and bored teens who are heading back to school.
It’s that September ceremony of compulsory education known as “getting the kids out of your hair,” when pathologically pooped parents boot their kids out the door or taxi them to the nearest educational facility and then fall face down on their nearest couch, exhausted from a summer of trying to keep their egocentric offspring constantly amused and away from hanging around the 7/Eleven.
You just survived two months of not only keeping up with your children, but also entertaining and feeding most of the neighbourhood’s three dozen kids who seemed to show up at your place on a daily basis.
But while September school may be great relief for some parents, there are those soulful rookies — seriously sensitive moms and dads who are snipping those frayed apron strings for the first time.
Sending their little cherubic first graders out of the nest to fly or flop on their own. At least until mid-afternoon.
You can pick those parents out of a crowd every time. They are the shell-shocked nerve-bundles stumbling around at work or other public places with flushed, worried faces and upset stomachs, a tear in their eye, unable to focus or concentrate on the simplest tasks at hand.
There they are, constantly checking their watches, desperately fighting the urge to phone the school every 15 minutes to check on the health and well-being of their precious little one and ask what exactly their Jane or Johnny is doing at each precise moment.
“Hello? Joseph Welsh School? This is Jane’s mom and it’s 9:35 a.m. and that’s the time Jane usually has a snack and watches Hanna Montana on TV and I was just wondering if she’s missing her slices of apple and cheese and her favourite song that they sing on the show and. . . .”
Gradually, these possessive parents, who parenting expert Barbara Coloroso calls “helicopter parents” because they are always hovering around their children worrying about something — these pathetic parental units eventually adapt so that they begin to accept that their little Emma or Matthew isn’t going to start smoking in Grade 1, or join a gang (other than a Tim Hortons soccer team) or move out to their own apartment any time soon.
In fact, the rookie moms and dads do finally accept that sending their perfect little ones to school, throwing their children into a world of uncontrolled influence out of the vise-like grip of the only two people who know one hundred per cent what’s best for their cherished offspring, is in fact a legal requirement punishable by substantial fines, jail sentences or, heaven forbid, home schooling.
Meanwhile parents of junior high, middle school and high school students are celebrating September by emptying their bank accounts to buy $300 text books and $100 calculators.
They are holding their breath, hoping against hope that their pre-adult children who used to love them and used to hold their hands on the way to school but now refuse to acknowledge their very existence in any public place, that these beloved offspring that they barely seem to know anymore will somehow stay out of detention most of the time and out of the malls part of the time and may actually graduate someday.
Upon which time, these same haggard parents get to shell out their life’s savings on grad clothing, gifts, limos and other wildly expensive one-time accessories.
And at that time, when their kids are suddenly heading off to see what life holds after Grade 12, the poor moms and dads stare back down that treacherous narrow path of compulsory education, gazing aimlessly to the distant past and long for the simpler days, when the kids were children, and parents only had to worry about a thousand small things instead of a million big ones.
And that’s exactly when the trauma of sending your little runny-nosed gaffers off to Grade 1 doesn’t seem so bad.
Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer.