Back To School Reality Check

Memories in the making.

Colorado starts school much earlier than the states where I attended elementary school, which was in Illinois and then in Oregon. I always remember school beginning after Labor Day – literally. School started on a Tuesday after the holiday weekend.

I didn’t carry a backpack. Nope, back in the early 70’s, I carried a book bag and a separate lunch box. I didn’t have cool sneakers. I had those canvas ‘tennis’ shoes with no arch support. In my early elementary education, girls still had to adhere to a dress code, even in public school. I had to wear skirts or dresses. In the Illinois weather, I could wear pants under my skirt but I had to take them off when I got into the classroom.

I remember the weather was still summer-time warm when school started but, by the end of September, the leaves began to show their autumn colors. Within a couple of weeks, I was firmly set into the school schedule and my summer fun was a faded memory. I still have some anchored, permanent memories of playing on the playground, wind blowing, orange and yellow colored leaves raining down off the trees. I enjoyed being outside and inherently knew when winter arrived, I would be stuck in a gymnasium during recess, developing PTSD-like memories of dodge ball and Red Rover. I was the kid who always had a welt on a cheek from those stupid red balls that I could never dodge and bruised wrists because I was an easy link to break.

When I was finally able to hang out in the library in junior high (aka middle school) during lunch, I was thrilled. A true progression out of the lunch-time aggression and into the sacred room lined with books. I remember listening to records quietly on the record player, and whisper-quiet chatter with like-minded friends. By high school, there was a whole new landscape to adapt to as I navigated where to sit in the lunchroom. The cool, popular kids (who sometimes were actually quite mean) held reign on the first few tables. The rest of us humble folks found our way to the appropriate table befitting of our social status. Of course, I had a friend with access to a car, which meant lunch-break FREEDOM! We would run to the Arctic Circle restaurant for a hamburger and fries or to the 12th Avenue Market for a Hostess Apple Pie and chocolate milk.

My children are now grown but do not have children of their own yet. Their school experiences differed drastically from mine. I do know they experienced an acceleration of childhood. I don’t know if this was caused by the technological advances (internet, computers, mobile phones, etc.) or by the late Boomer parents trying to create the perfect childhood by throwing our children into seventeen million extracurricular activities – in addition to the required school work. Whatever combination of situations and events, childhood and parenting in the 1990’s and 2000’s differed drastically from earlier generations. More than anything, my children were introduced to mass school shootings.

Unfortunately, school children and staff now have to train for mass shootings and be aware of this potential danger. My greatest fear as a child in school was a dodge ball. Now, kids have a real fear of dodging bullets. I can only imagine what memories children today are developing. How will this constant threat impact them? I had the gift of wonderment in my childhood; carefree moments of play with complete and utter abandon. My wish for every child today is that he/she/they can play, learn, and develop fond memories in a safe school environment. I am not against guns. I was raised around guns. I just look forward to the day when our society can figure out how to address this complex issue – with introspection, respect, and consideration – for the benefit of our children. Every kid deserves to have the opportunity to develop childhood memories.