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The only first day of school that was a big deal was when I started kindergarten. In the years following, the first day of school was pretty ho-hum. My parents, who were teachers, were already at their jobs. My brother and I started our days at a family friend’s house around the corner. We walked or waited for the bus with all the other Maplewood kids. I don’t remember any hovering parents.

The most stressful part about the first day of school was picking out an outfit.

It wasn’t until the age of Facebook I learned first-day-of-school pictures is a tradition in many households. Some parents even take mornings off of work on the first day of school to make sure their kids are okay. I know of one parent who did this when his daughter was in seventh grade.

I was raised to believe the first day of school is not a big milestone on the way to high school and college graduation. But people can do what they want and some of the pictures are downright cute.

Now there’s an entire industry devoted to getting kids ready for school. I’m not talking about sales of school supplies and pants. I’m talking about sleep specialists with early bedtime advice, food specialists with bagged lunch advice and psychologists with separation anxiety advice and endless advice about “routines.”


My favorite blogger, Lenore Skenazy, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

“They can’t seem to let go,” says Natascha Santos, a school psychologist in Great Neck, N.Y., on Long Island—and she’s not talking about the kids. This could be because everywhere parents turn, the advice-o-sphere keeps harping on how incredibly hard they must work to ease their child’s incredibly harrowing adjustment to school.

“Practice how you will say goodbye,” urges one of the zillion or so websites featuring first-day-of-school tips.

If you have followed any of the other parenting tips out there, that first day of school won’t really be your child’s first, because that would be too overwhelming. “Change can be scary,” says the website Care.com. “When possible, help to familiarize your child with a new school and teachers. Drive the bus route, tour the building or classroom, locate lockers and cubbies.” Heck, why not just move in for a few weeks in July?

The back-to-school hype reminds me of the controversy surrounding graduation ceremonies for elementary school students. Finishing sixth grade does not make you special. It’s something you’re supposed to do.

Beginning sixth grade is also something you’re supposed to do. It’s not traumatic. It’s not a big deal. The only thing stressful about the first day is the hype – created by adults.

(Before you tell me I don’t understand because I don’t have kids, I will remind you that I was once a child, have friends with children and can reflect on my own observations and experiences.)

Links of the Day:

– A local man is on trial for driving drugged and causing a fatal crash. I bet we’ll see more of these, as antidepressant use is increasingly common.

– A Rochester little girl was mauled by a pit bull. This is a terrible story.

– Let me get this straight. The Rochester city school partnered with Wegmans wants parents to send their kids to school 12 hours a day starting this week. The plan appears to be staffing prorgams with volunteers. Something tells me this won’t work.

– The dean of the Simon School was stuck at the airport without his wallet and somehow coped.

There’s a redhead festival in Holland.

6 Responses to Back-to-School Hype

  1. But will parents step up and opt their children out of the Race to the Tops tests, both local and state that will be harassing them all year long, or will they tell kids just grin and bear it? Do parents do much after taking the photo and sending their child to school? Focus seems to be on the trivial but there are real and very serious issues facing education today that parents need to be informed and active in. How much does the outfit count if a child is just grilled on standardized tests all day? Will the children rebel first? Will the teacher just up and quit? When will parents find out what is going on?

  2. If you’ve never gone sky diving, you don’t know what it means to jump out if an airplane. But that hardly disqualifies you from discussing gravity, now does it?

    You’re right on the money, Rachel. More right, actually, than you know. Not less. It’s not the oarents, it’s the industry whose continued success demands fear and knee-jerking adherance to their every new marketing scheme.

  3. You don’t understand because you don’t have kids.

  4. Who makes money off of this?

    • September 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      I hadn’t considered this, but there probably is a “commercialization” factor to the hype. The people benefitting are media and their “experts.”

      My Facebook page has an interesting comment about how stents today are expected to fill out so many more forms and interact with the school in ways they didn’t have to 20-30 years ago.

  5. OK, the stress/lunch/fashion advice industry is crazy talk. You don’t need to take the day off from work. And starting fourth grade is not some special event that requires celebration. But truly, that sounds like media BS. I don’t know any families like that.

    A parent can take a picture, and he can put it on Facebook. (I did. Want to see it?) It’s not helicoptering to take note of a milestone. My two went back to work and we did, too. For that, you get a pep talk, a photo and a kiss.

    We also put progressively higher marks on the basement wall on each birthday. No stress there either. The time flies, and every so often your allowed to stop it and mark the moment.

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