The phrase “back to school” means different things to different people. To some, Back To School is a 1986 comedy starring Rodney Dangerfield where he goes well, back to school. Robert Downey Jr. is in the film. And Sam Kinison is a professor who, if you remember the comedian, is always SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS!! The gutsiest thing the film tries to pull off is to make diving a spectator sport.
To others, like children who have turned the word “summer” into a passive verb, “back to school” means the party’s over. When discussions of sending the children back to school, I have heard kids use the words “torcher”, “abuse”, and “punishment”. What’s funny about the melodramatic victimhood is that the kids didn’t look like they were enjoying summer all that much. They don’t like that it’s over, either.
I think it’s funny – kids who think they don’t have to think during the summer. “Okay, time to read.” I say. “But it’s summer?!” they plead. Yes. Yes, it is summer. So you get to read – for longer.
Hey Kid who doesn’t want to go back to school, Mark Twain said “I never let schooling interfere with my education”. And he meant it. Twain left school in the fifth grade. Twain taught himself everything without YouTube at this place called the library. Hey Kid, here’s a secret: you don’t have to be in school to learn something, to learn anything. Instead of playing a video game or – much worse – watching videos of other people playing video games, why don’t you learn how to make a video game, or a foreign language or how to bake bread/play piano/hit a backhand? The internet also has videos on Quantum Physics, space, and black holes. I don’t watch those myself because I don’t understand them. But you might be smarter than me. Why don’t you find out? Pretty soon you’re going back to “schooling” and you won’t have time for an education.
In this house, I have a four-year-old. She doesn’t know what summer is. She doesn’t know because I won’t tell her. When she asks, “what’s summer?”, I just play dumb. “Uhh, I’m not sure.” No one in this house – and that includes babysitters – is even allowed to say the word “summer”. So the four-year-old goes to school year round and is currently on track to run the house when she turns five.
So “back to school” for the kids is a kind of misery but for the parents… they’re already setting the bubbly on the ice. And, on the first day of school, right after drop off, if you listen closely, you will hear champagne corks popping across this great nation. Yes, technically this is day drinking from people who would never engage in such a thing. On paper, summer only looks like three months. But in real life, it feels more like the great surfing documentary, Endless Summer. But it’s finally, at long last, impossibly, miraculously over. So yes, parents can day drink to that.
The thing that’s taxing about summer for the parents is the children. Once again, Mark Twain said it well: “Familiarity breeds contempt – and children.” And summer is when parents get most familiar with – and contemptuous of – our children. It’s not that we don’t love children unconditionally. We do. That being said… they sure are around a lot more in the summer. Sure, parents ship kids to camp. But then you look up and there they are. “Um, I thought you were at camp,” you say. “It’s over,” they reply. Hmm. So parents take the children to play dates. But then, by the time you get home, someone’s dropping them off at your house. Hmm. Some parents may even drive great distances, blindfold children, spin them in a circle, and drive home very, very quickly. Yet somehow, there they are, staring into an open fridge asking what there is to eat.
Many parents will get back to business as usual but others, like soldiers with PTSD, will spend the first few weeks of the school year struggling to assimilate, constantly making snacks and muttering phrases like, “Stop that!” and “Please go outside!” to no one in particular.
So whether you’re a Rodney Dangerfield fan, a kid headed back to the classroom, or a parent salivating for a little peace and quiet, it’s time to go back to school. This is a time when we all can learn something. Or, as Mark Twain said: “Education consists of mainly in what we have unlearned.” So we go to school to learn. And to unlearn… well, I guess for that we have summer.
Beyond Reason: Back to school time