We set them up every year with new electronics, new clothes and a long summer’s worth of memories to take and share with friends. According to the National Retail Federation, in fact, U.S. families will have spent an average of almost $700 on back-to-school items this year. That totals out to over $26 billion.

Still, they cry. School is hell, they say. It is a dark pit of despair that sucks away their life energy, as if they were all little Westleys, strapped to boards and tortured. This, despite the reality that school is pretty much made up of adults saying “as you wish” and attempting to keep these little freaks of ours peaceful for a few hours, long enough to force feed them some knowledge.

As you wish. Hah. Stow it.
There are two things I learned this summer: we don’t pay teachers and administrators enough money, and kids need less summer and more school. For example, imagine you’re a middle school counselor. And every August/September you get to wake up with the sinking horrid dread of knowing that soon your life will be made up of 12-year-olds bickering and hating each other for no real reason. For 9 months. Every day. A long line of drama just for you.

Damn. You need a raise.

Oh, I had dreams of a productive summer. Thoughts of getting my eldest into a steady fitness routine, of requiring three hours of math or language arts each and every week. I had a shining vision that my kids would hit the summer, have fun and get a solid head start for the school year.

Those two little juveniles barely cracked a book; they cried out to their mother when I tried to force them. Mommmmmmmm. He’s making us do math again!!!!!! Why is he so mean to us! Oh God he is such a pissy, mean man! Make him stop! They stayed up late (but it’s summertime Dad!) Slept in (teenagers only) and basically acted like petulant clowns. By August their mother was singing crazy songs to herself on an endless repeat; she attempted to run away but they found her and tied her up with plastic grocery bags. I didn’t save her because, without her, they may have cooked me on a large spit in the backyard.

But it’s all okay now. Whew. Our wonderful gifts had a great summer! Smiley face!

Wasington Monument Tidal Basin Colonial RoadsSummer came as a bit of a surprise to me. Before this year, I would prattle on and on and on about the magic of the season. About how long days = adventure. How can you make a kid go to school in July?! Come on! Now I think that all schools should immediately go to a year-round model, where students get to choose which two weeks they get off for vacation time (minus SOLs), just like Mom and Dad get at their jobs. They can have sick days as well, but only five per grade year. Oh yeah — and a single floating holiday. A little dose of the 9-5 would be good for them. I understand, as well, why my beloved wife took the children on so many day trips. Make no mistake: I married the Summer Fairy. She knows how to create a tapestry of memories for her children – they in turn are the kind of down-to-earth people who can still be wowed by lightning bug walks and fishing holes. So much fun was had, so many awesome memories of lakes and beaches and colonial markets. It’s what they will think of as they sit in their classrooms and stare out into space, zoned out and wishing for July.

A small part of me now realizes, however, that the day trips and fun were partially intended to save us from the Here’s Johnny Shining-esqe phenomenon of bored kids stuck inside on a summer day. And just think: it will be very acute this year, when Prince William County extends the school day by 10 minutes.

Ah, summer. Good times.
School may be hell, but if it is then the first day back to it should be a national holiday for parents.