Facing the nightmares of going back to school

LORI CLINCH Are We There Yet?

Iknow a gal whose little dears happen to love school. Armed with compasses, rulers and a brand-new set of colored pencils, her children are known to count down the last days of summer vacation with pure bliss. It’s enough to make a gal like me choke on her big pink eraser.

While our offspring are a studious people, they aren’t much for education.

They’ll contemplate, to be sure, but they’d just as soon stay as far as possible from the likes of textbooks, standardized tests, and the world of protractors.

They’d just as soon be involved with dirt, bugs and anything that involves a first down.

In fact, they forbid me to mention school, homework or edification all summer long.

Take last month, for instance, when I pulled up in front of my favorite office supply center in search of some Post-it notes.

“What are we doing here?” my young Lawrence asked as he began to tremble. He seemed to be short of breath and ready to bolt as he stared at the store with raw fear.

“I just need a few office supplies,” I responded as I looked at him with curiosity. “What’s the matter with you?”

“They sell stuff in there that I don’t want to see.”

“What kind of stuff would that be, honey?”

“School supplies!” blurted out little Charlie from the back seat.

“How can you do this to us?” Lawrence asked.

“Yeah,” joined Charlie, “how can you be so cruel?”

Talk about creating a little drama for your mama.

“You won’t have to look at anything that has anything to do with education,” I responded as I got out of the car. I then took several steps, waiting to hear their footsteps behind me. When I did not, I marched back to the car, opened the door and had to threaten to sing the third stanza of “School Days” if they didn’t get out of their seats.

They moved, but they weren’t happy, and they walked into the store as if they were being marched to the gallows.

I was somewhere between poster boards and USB cables when I heard one of them gasp. “What is it now?” I asked as I turned to face him. His eyes were wide, his mouth agape, and I swear he had beads of sweat forming on his brow.

It was all he could do to vocalize his fear, and when he spoke, it was just above a whisper: “I can’t believe they’ve already stocked the wide-ruled reams of theme paper.”

“Oh come on, you little drama king,” I said as I took him by the hand.

I rounded the corner to the ink section, grabbed a couple of cartridges and was preparing to head back to the White- Out when I noticed a sign that was bright, vibrant and seemed to shout out, “Back-to-School Specials!” in big and bold colors.

Apparently, Lawrence saw it too, because he hollered, “Shield your eyes, little guy!” to his little brother and ran at him from behind. He then put his hands over Charlie’s eyes, closed his own and the two of them frantically bumped into a large display of spiral notebooks as they blindly made their way out of the store.

They spent the rest of their summer vacation in total denial. Despite of all our preparations, the mere mention of the word “school” sent them screaming into the streets in a panic.

To make matters worse, every soul we encountered asked the little dears if they were ready to go back to school. The mailman wondered, my aunt inquired, and when the happy clerk at a local department store flat-out asked, Little Charlie rolled his eyes up into his head, threw his arms into the air and pretended to faint.

Finally, the first day of school arrived. Even though they had new shoes, new clothes and enough three-ring binders to make them the envy of their classmates, the boys were cranky and approached the day with a sense of dread.

Like the warden of death, I walked my little condemned men to the gallows, and as we rounded the corner, my eyes fell upon the happy gal and her schoolloving offspring.

“Mommy,” I heard one child exclaim, “I can’t wait to show Ms. Petridish the plant and animal cells that I collected over the summer!”

Her little girl then looked my way and smiled at me sweetly. Although I smiled back, I secretly hoped that her Elmer’s Glue would spill out all over her brandnew book bag.

I guess school makes me cranky, too.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons

and the author of the book “Are We

There Yet?” You can reach her at