The Arms Race: First Day of School Version

“Wait, when did back-to-school become such a big deal?”

Hop in my text-based time machine back to my first day of public school at Jamestown Elementary in 1984. I walked by myself to the bus ¼ mile away, rode the shocks-free vehicle listening to Air Supply, wearing ill-fitting clothes from either Sears or Miller’s outpost, clutching on to my basic backpack containing the one cool school supply I had back then – a Trapper Keeper.

That was literally all of the pomp and circumstance involved with my first day of school, unless I’ve blocked memories to avoid a tear in my psyche. And that was pretty much the first day for all kids back then, and a solid period of time after that… and then there’s now.

We are one step away from turning this into a lil’ kid cotillion.

I will own up to snapping a quick picture of Benjamin with his mom before we took him to school for his first day of 1st grade, but if you explore Facebook this week our lack of crafting and commemorating makes us look like parents worthy of a CPS house check.

Did we miss a memo that gave instructions on filling out cute blackboards filled with stats for kids to hold up like a juvenile mugshot?

Are there Pinterest boards with diagrams on how to make ornate fondant covered cupcakes that spell out the teacher’s name? (This is a rhetorical question)

And to call what some of these kids were wearing “outfits” would be an insult – they were ensembles.

I’m sure for a lot of moms these are labors of love, but I pictured all of them popping caffeine pills and pulling an all-nighter to make sure they had the most (fill in the blank) fanfare for their kiddos. And by the looks on kid’s faces they seemed more than put out trying to hold a chalkboard, wearing an “I’m a 2nd Grader!” tiara, and balancing a tray of colorful cupcakes.

I seek not to condemn, but to gently encourage folks to put down the bedazzled No. 2 pencil and chill out.

Not everything has to be made into a “thing.” By all means take a moment to experience the life moment, but for the sake of your own blood pressure, don’t try and compete in this parenting arms race that happens on social media.

If you keep up this pace, you’re going to keel over before you’re able to plan their epic high school graduation party featuring a One Direction retro-cover band that’ll be live streamed via everyone’s Google Glass.


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  • reply Danny ,

    While I agree that our generation of parents is much more prone to making things into a thing, I would also say that some of what you’re noticing is just the shift in perspective from student to parent. I have the same sort of first day memories that you do. If I thought anything special about the day, it was probably along the lines of “Here we go again…” But now that I think back on it, I remember my mom making us a special breakfast, putting a note in our lunchbox, and doing other little things on the first day. A few years ago, she showed me a little journal that she’d kept on the first day of school for each of the kids in my family over the years. So, I do think that the pressure to “keep up” that you’re noticing is definitely a real (and silly) phenomenon, but I also think that first days have always probably been a bigger deal to parents than they are to their kids.

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