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Back-to-school lesson for the parents

View from the Porch

Published on September 7, 2017 12:01AM

Last changed on September 8, 2017 7:48AM

Sam Marx, ready for school.

Eve Marx/For Cannon Beach Gazette

Sam Marx, ready for school.


The new school year is upon us, signaling change. Say goodbye to sleeping in, or lazy breakfasts in your pj’s. Five mornings a week, there are backpacks to fill and lunches to make, emergency information and sports forms to fill out, and that tricky business of actually getting the kids to school, whether they take the bus, ride their bike, you drive, or they walk.

The start of the school year always puts me in mind of when my son was starting fourth grade. He’d had kind of a crappy summer, not really enjoying his time at town camp. None of his best buds were around to play with. I tried to be entertaining. We went to the town pool. We went to the movies. I’m embarrassed to think how many times we hit McDonald’s.

By the time September rolled around, I knew my son was ready to for school to begin. He’d always liked school well enough, and he’d done the assigned summer reading. Because he had so much time on his hands, he also read the newest Harry Potter. So I was surprised when we hit the third week of school and trouble flared up.

Almost from the moment he opened his eyes, my kid was surly. The problem wasn’t that he didn’t like his teacher; he’d lucked out and got a great male teacher who also played drums in a local band. My son, had been taking drum lessons since he was in first grade, and had his own good set and cymbals. The first day of school he told me how well he got along with Mr. Carpenter. “When we’re not doing school stuff, we talk about drums and music stuff.”

Every morning starting as soon as I woke him up, we bickered about breakfast, the backpack, lunch, when he should leave the house to walk up our long driveway to meet the bus at the mailbox. Every morning was exhausting.

Mr. Carpenter called towards the middle of week 3.

“Your son is in a bad mood the first half-hour of every day,” he said. “It takes him that long to get into the school day. Is something happening in your house that might be causing this disturbance?”

I was alarmed by the call. It was the first time a teacher had talked to me about a problem with my child.

“Yes,” I said. “We argue every morning over the backpack and the lunch box.”

Mr. Carpenter took a few moments.

“Yes. We also argue over what he’s having for breakfast. ”

“Hmm,” Mr. Carpenter said. “I suggest you let Sam set his own alarm clock. Allow him to get his morning together by himself. Make sure he has supplies to make his own breakfast and lunch. I suggest you don’t leave your bedroom until right before he leaves. Say goodbye and have a great day as he’s heading out the door, but nothing else. Got it?”

I was shocked. My son was only 9 years old. Didn’t he need me to supervise?

Long story short, that afternoon when he came home from school, I told my son the new plan. We went shopping and bought whatever he thought he would need for the rest of the week. The next morning I heard his alarm go off and listened while he got himself ready. The only thing I did I’m sure he found annoying was holler through my mostly closed bedroom door, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth! ”

My son took good care of himself and we never had another problem on school mornings again. And I learned something I’d missed, which was I was raising a nicely independent kid.

Good luck CB parents on the start of your school year. It’s always an adventure.



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