A pretty sad reflection on our culture

Back to School

Perhaps you have seen the ads (they come by every August). Last night as Daughter and I were watching the news together, an ad came on for Staples or some other such store. The music playing was “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” (that ol’ Christmas tune) and a man was gleefully pushing a shopping cart down an aisle, leaping for joy in slow motion. Behind him were two children sitting on a sofa that he was pulling along behind him: one looked half comatose from boredom and the other wore one of those pre-teen expressions of disdain while she chewed on her gum and rolled her eyes. The message was clear: the man was overjoyed that soon his kids would be back in school and away from him for most of the day.

I asked Daughter if she understood the story of the ad, and she said she didn’t get it at all. And so I explained it to her: around this time of year, families get ready for their kids to return to school. Apparently, this is a great time for the grownups as they can’t wait to get away from their children all day. When she asked me why they didn’t love their children I said that of course they loved them, but when kids spend most of their lives in school, doing after-school stuff etc., it gets to the point where a family just isn’t used to spending lots of time together and so when they have to (like during summer vacation) things don’t often go so well. Pretty soon the parents are looking forward to having their kids back in school.

I tried really hard not to sound too negative or judgemental but when you break down the context of an ad like that, one can’t help but realize what a sad reflection it is on our society that this story is just taken for granted. I’ve actually had clerks in stores say to me during check-out (around August) “bet Mum’s looking forward to back to school!”. They mean well, but I don’t think many people stop to ask themselves why a family can’t seem to get along for more than two months before everybody is begging to get away from each other. This also explains the desperation around June to get kids registered in day camps, of which there are hundreds and which fill up very fast – the parents want the kids “kept busy”. There seems to be a cultural assumption that parents and kids should be separated for most of the time otherwise they’ll drive each other crazy. How sad is that?

I believe that relationships need work, and that is challenging when the children are off in their world of school and extra-curricular activities and parents are off in their world of work (two such very different worlds!) for so much of the time. When you are a homelearning family you spend a lot of time together doing similar things together and you are sort of forced to learn how to get along with each other. Not that I find it all that difficult most of the time (though certainly, we all have our challenging moments with kids!). I like being with my kids and I’d be very, very sad if they were away from home 6 hours a day, five days a week. From my perspective (that of someone for whom it is not normal) it seems far too much time, such that the children basically lead a life apart from their parents. In our society we seem to think this is a Good Thing but I humbly disagree.

Nevertheless, I wish more people looked beyond the humor of back-to-school ads and cartoons and stopped to ask themselves why we, as a culture, think it’s normal for parents to be happy that their kids won’t be around much.

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Categories: lifestyle, parenting | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “A pretty sad reflection on our culture

  1. I could not agree more. My kids are younger than yours, but the sentiment is still there even at this young age. I’m just at the stage where everyone around me is putting their kids into preschool, and looking at me with my stay at home kids saying “well, I guess they won’t miss THAT much…”

    Actually, they won’t miss anything, because they will be with me. It is the kids in preschool (and grade school) who will be missing out…

  2. Pingback: Apprentice Mom » Not back to school…or preschool

  3. It IS very sad that so many parents are so happy to have their kids away from them for such long periods. Now that my children are at the stage that we can do stuff together without so much planning and paraphernalia, my son would be entering kindergarten this year. The thought of passing him off to someone else feels wrong, for me. I really enjoy watching him grow and learn. I am so grateful that I can come here and not feel so abnormal when I am sad to hear those ‘so happy the kids are going back to school’ comments from the ‘schoolers’! Thanks again.

  4. (looking at the ceiling and whistling) I am thrilled with the back to school time!

    I haven’t the patience for home schooling, but you know that about me! Also I have two “gifted” (god, I hate that term, but what else can I use?) children. We do so much at home together when we are together, I think I need a break.

    Mostly, I am thrilled to see them go off into new environments. I find my girls thrive in school, mostly with the new people. I have learned so much from my kids.

    I do feel that kids need to explore life on their own away from their parents. Does this mean I don’t love my kids? No, of course not! But I find that they grow in so many ways when they are away from us. And then we discuss their days and we all learn more (like yesterday when Soleil told us how she would only let a friend sit with her if she gave her jello. We explained the social issues with that and how it might have hurt her friend’s feelings. I also mentioned blackmail since we had just discussed this the other day. Soleil never thought of it that way.)

    But yes, we did high 5 yeasterday when Luna got on the bus to go to Kindergarten. My little 5 year old who can somewhat read, do addition and can’t wait to be at school!

  5. onewithchrist93

    Wow… What a great post! It really is sad to see the way the “family” is falling apart. Thanks for your thoughts.

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