Back to School and Back to Work

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This is the (unofficial) last week of summer here in America. Next week is all business for you and your kids.

And I absolutely hate this week. If there was one week during the summer when I actively contemplated suicide as an elementary school kid, it was right now circa 1984. We all know what’s coming. Homework. Cranky teachers. Ticked off parents who cannot possibly help with math homework and make a piss-poor attempt at being involved in the lives of their children by ramping up the yelling and the lectures.

Sheesh. Depressing.

Here are some tips to get you ready for reality.

  1. Go shopping. Your kids aren’t the only ones who need new clothes. You still have some spending left on that high interest Capital One credit card. Check out Colors to Wear for Fall 2011: A Fashion Infographic. Totally helpful — but remember that teal pants don’t work on big asses. I speak from experience.
  2. Vow to teach your kids how to work. Adults learn by doing but young children learn by watching. So if you dread going to work in the morning, your kids will learn a very early lesson in life. Even if your job sucks — and I know it does — talk about a bigger purpose. Tell them how you enjoy making someone else’s day. Or if worse comes to worse, remind your kids that you are working for something greater. Like their college education. And food. And electricity. Then scowl. But don’t forget to display a work ethic.
  3. This is the year you remember that it’s not all about metrics. No Child Left Behind is really a metaphor for how fucked up the baby boomer generation has left this country. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t matter. That’s great, Gordon Gecko, but tests are biased, kids don’t learn the same, and ‘teaching to the test’ means that kids are missing out on context, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Tests can measure what but they can’t always measure why. Make sure your kids are inquisitive, determined, and have good studying skills. The grades will follow. Or they won’t. Your kids are screwed anyway.
  4. Teach your kids the art of being bored. I really hate how kids are overly scheduled. You say, “If it’s not on the schedule, it won’t happen.” I say, “There’s nothing that important in your child’s life. They need to eat, poop, and sleep. Maybe learn how to read. That’s about it.” They miss football practice? Soccer practice? The world does not end. No one is getting an athletic scholarship, anyway. Learn to let go, say no, and be please be less neurotic. And hand your kids a book and tell them to find a quiet corner. Or go play outside. And then look in the mirror and, “Why am I doing this to myself and my family?” Answer: you probably want to give your kids a better life and think bored is bad. It’s not. Now you go learn how to be bored, too.

Finally, it’s time for you to sharpen your life skills. Your mental health is suffering, your diet is awful, and your kids don’t know how to look both ways before crossing a street. Trust me. I spent the entire summer dodging kids who can’t walk and drink Mountain Dew at the same time.

It’s time to start learning — and then teaching — the art of self-preservation, cooking, cleaning, and respect for other people. I know that’s a tall order because very few of you have those skills.

Me included.

So let’s make this pact: Fall 2011 is the time for you to build up your own personal resume. And it’s also the time to stop having conversations with your kids about stuff that is non-negotiable. You can’t talk your children out of a temper tantrum. You can’t reason your way out of your kids throwing stuff around in the back-to-school aisle at Target. It’s time for Americans to rethink their relationships with their kids. And back-to-school is the perfect time to do it.

And don’t forget to get a new yourself a new pair of jeans. Just not teal ones.

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