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School Dazed

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August 19, 2011 by wcobserver

Let’s face it… it doesn’t matter if you love your kids with all the power of an exploding super nova. There are those little moments… those split seconds… that allow the faint whispers from the back of your mind to creep forward and say, “hmmm… how obscenely rich would I have been if I’d never had kids?”

I didn’t say they were blood curdling screams… just the little nagging murmurs… the “what ifs,” that hit you when you realize the monthly cost of having kids is roughly the same as a payment on a Learjet.

For some people it happens at Christmas. But I look at Christmas as more of a head on collision that you can see coming for miles away. You might not be able to get out of the way, but at least you can brace yourself for the impact. The back-to-school season, on the other hand, is more like being sideswiped on an empty back road on a Sunday morning. You don’t think about it until it hits. But the impact leaves you stunned, confused and wondering what happened.

If you don’t have kids you probably don’t know what I’m talking about and you might even think I’m exaggerating. But trust me, these days, the right clothes, accessories and back-to-school supplies for one child cost roughly as much as a two-week vacation in the South of France… but without all the flakey, delicious croissants.

It’s not that I resent the cost of buying paper, pens and pencils. Although I admit, if my fourth grader actually uses “48 – # 2 wood pencils,” in the next 9 months, I’ll have to wonder if he’s eating them as a mid-morning snack. But overall I have no problem buying something that falls under the category of writing implements, or even a distant cousin of writing implements. I DO, however, resent having to buy the following items: baby wipes, Ziploc bags, band-aids, hand sanitizer, hand soap and ace bandages. Those aren’t school supplies they’re a first aid kit. Once we’ve gone that far, what’s next on the “supply” list… coffee and cigarettes?

Ok… maybe I sound a litter cynical. But even if you think you’ve gotten through the mind-blowing preparation part of the season… you’ve gotten the haircuts, the new sneakers, and the cool backpack designed to withstand a week on K2… after all that… there’s still the final kicker. That’s the part when your kids expect you to make the final week of the season “special.” After a summer of schlepping around 43 different friends, making 29 trips to the pool and buying 684 bomb pops in a 10-week period, parents still get this question. “Are we actually gonna do something fun before the summer ends?”

Now the kid doesn’t remember all the “fun” stuff he’s gotten to do already because… on average… a kid has the memory of a goldfish… that is, for remembering all you’ve done for him. On the other hand, the endless days of summer can turn a 9-year old into an idiot savant when it comes to keeping track of what you’ve done for his sister or brother. It’s like having your performance reviewed by Rainman. “You played Battleship with him for 47 minutes, but you only played Legos with me for 32. See you don’t even like me.” And by that point, well… you don’t like him, so it’s hard to debate the issue.
The truth is if kids had the wherewithal to organize a national summer association, their motto would be, “what have you done for me lately?” But if the emotional and financial cost of going back to school keeps going up, parents will start developing a motto all their own… “homeschool… when you just can’t afford to get them out of your hair.”

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