Back to School: Expectations vs. Reality

In the South, most kids are going back to school over the next couple of weeks. It’s pretty nice to watch children glow with anticipation about meeting new teachers, seeing friends again or moving up to a new school. Every year, the return to school never goes quite how we expect it, either.

Expectation: Children will wake up on the First Day of School with huge smiles and positive anticipation for the year ahead.


Reality: Children have been on summer vacation hours for 10 weeks and waking up before dawn feels like cruel and unusual punishment. Plus, they couldn’t sleep the night before because of all that nervous excitement so they’re groggy and cranky. Parents who remember to post bright, shiny, happy, first day pics are rarely IN the photo because they look a frazzled hot mess. That photo represents the only seven seconds the child stood still and smiled that entire morning. Even children know the importance of First Day Photos.



Expectation: The bus driver will be early on Day One because you’ve seen no less than 300 empty buses practicing routes all week. And children are society’s most valued asset so they’ll get back safe and sound in the evening.


Reality: The bus pickup will be late. Very late. Sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Working parents should plan to arrive to work late. The afternoon drop off will be so late that you’ll run out of conversation with the other bus stop parents and end up counting blades of grass to occupy yourself. I once waited 90 minutes for the bus to drop off my child on the first day of school. With a 4 week old infant in tow. That was fun. But they eventually work out the kinks.



Expectation: School supply shopping will be much like a Black Friday stampede, but stores know this so they’re well-stocked. No worries, just go ahead of time to beat the crowds. And how much could pencils, crayons and notebooks cost for the year? $40?


Reality: School supply lists are of the devil. First of all, actual classroom teachers don’t even make those lists. Go ahead and show up to the Open House with your school supply list already completed, only to find she has created a separate, more appropriate list for parents. Oh, and she still has 18 bottles of hand sanitizer leftover from three years ago so she certainly doesn’t need more of that. Forget $40 – in 2019, school supply lists include items like 2G flash drives, laptop cases and earbuds. Your wallet will be screaming before you even step foot into Walmart or Target, which will inevitably be missing 1 or 2 random items like handheld pencil sharpeners or pencil top erasers. You will definitely be required to go on a school supply hunt from hell just to get it done.

Oh, and you probably forgot about the “donated” items. Apparently, your taxes don’t cover stuff like salt, aluminum foil, play-doh and food coloring for science and art class. Yeah, you’ll be subsidizing all that stuff. Don’t forget the nut-free snacks.



Expectation: You want your kids to look fresh for Back to School, so you call the barbershop to make an appointment.


Reality: The barbershop is closed the week before school. Barbers ain’t fools.



Expectation: You buy crisp new uniforms for your children to adhere to the student dress code.


Reality: Your son’s crisp white shirt now has a permanent ketchup stain before noon and your daughter got sent to the office because her jeans had a design on the back pocket. Sigh.



Expectation: After the first day of school, you can’t wait to see your kids so they can tell you every detail. Even if they don’t share, you feel overwhelmingly proud that they’ve started a new adventure.


Reality: Expectation is definitely the same as reality here. They’re pretty amazing, aren’t they?



Have a great year everybody!



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