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Back to School, Back to Reality

Forget the stress of routines and homework; it’s time to brush up on elementary trivia.

Ah, back to school. This year I played my back to school cards a bit different than I have in years past. Instead of the sweet night time talks of what will be different, I decided to play the night before the first day of school as if it were another whimsical summer night, not even mentioning an early bed or rise time.

I reminded them of what’s to come. I showed them their new school clothes, took them for new shoes and haircuts. I reminded them of the fun events that happen in the fall and failed to mention the things I remember as a young grade-school child being scary and unknown and thus, stressful.

Nope, we had no anxiety in our house leading up to day one. We had a fun family dinner with cousins, ate ice cream cones, had early baths and spent the later part of the evening cleaning out backpacks and packing snacks for our first half day.

There was so much excitement about the busy night, we left no room for anxiety. No room for my deft-ear lectures on school nights, early bed times, homework and flashcards. And therefore, no kids coming out of their rooms until 10 p.m. with talk of fears and nerves and feeling scared about what might happen the next day. It was off to sleep by 8:30 p.m. – a bedtime that quickly fell from our summer routine.

Is it possible that it is we parents that place the huge burden of back-to-school anxiety on our kids?

I have been reviewing my routines of last year, looking at my binders and school information and yet, for some reason, this year I am feeling confident in our preparations.

Thanks to Skool Fairy, a business that takes care of all back-to-school lists from teachers and packages them in bundles for pick-ups, I had no restive days running to Target and Morrison’s for school supplies. It was all there – and adorned with a nametag and a bow.

A no-anxiety school year was sounding perfect to me. No stress, easy mornings and fun school nights. I liked where this was heading.

Then, early Sunday morning, one of only two non-school mornings in the week, my second grader crawled into our bed.

“Mom, mom,” he said with urgency.

“Yes,” I muttered, eyes still sealed shut.

“Do you think we’ll ever live on an iceless planet?”

“Uh, what?” I hadn’t even had a simple clear thought of my own and he’s lodging into scientific philosophy?

He must have thought about it for some time. “Well, I am wondering where all the Arctic animals will go – guess we should just move them to another planet, the one furthest from the hot sun. Which planet is furthest from the sun, Mom?”

I pried open my eyes… It was 6:01 a.m. I could name the planets, but had to really try to shake my head awake to remember the order in which they distance the sun.

“Pluto, I think,” I said in my haze.

“Mom, Pluto is a dwarf planet – it’s not a planet-planet. Kind of like Hana Mana.” (I believe he meant Haumea, one of the five dwarf planets in the Solar System – I had to look it up).

It was so early that I chose not to tell the story of how Pluto was classified as a planet when I took Astronomy in college and that it was only in 2006 that it was reclassified as a dwarf planet.

“Neptune,” I said, still unsure.

“Ya, Neptune. We’ll have to move all the ice animals to Neptune so they can live where it’s cold.”

And that’s when my back-to-school anxiety resurfaced in a new form. This year it might not be in the outline of routines, back packs, school lunches and play dates, but rather in the sobering fact that with each passing year, my children will continue to test my intelligence and force me to dig very deep in the lobes of my brain to answer the bizarre questions that they find so normal.

I guess I better peruse those Time and National Geographic magazines with a bit more intrigue and brush up on my first-and second grade basics. I am in for it if at age 7, my son is stumping me at dawn with questions of life on an iceless planet. At the rate I’m going I won’t need a game show to tell me if I’m smarter than a fifth grader!

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