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Sarasota Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2022 1 month ago

The most wonderful time of the year

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Back to school season often comes just in time for parents, but it can be fraught with chores, lists and bigger-picture reflection.
by: Lesley Dwyer Staff Writer

As the summer moves from hot, humid day to hotter, more humid days, the solace of back-to-school nears, and an old, slightly sarcastic, Staples commercial is starting to rerun in my head.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” by Andy Williams is playing, normally a holiday-season mood-booster but in this case, the Dad character is gleefully dancing with his shopping cart while he loads it with school supplies.

My son will look exactly like those kids in the commercial. Head hung low with a frown on his face.

For him, the summer ending means no more Wednesdays spent at Skyzone and mid-day movie breaks in between rounds of War.

But for me, the summer ending means full work days, free childcare and not having to scramble to pack his lunch every morning. Thank you, cafeteria workers of Sarasota County.

Before starting at the Observer, I was a part-time working, but mostly stay-at-home, mom.

COVID-19 only made me more isolated.

Nothing will beat the feeling of sending my son back to school after having no social life and bumbling through being his teacher for a year. But having taken on a new job a week before school ended in May, this fall term is looking to be a close second.

And while co-workers are supportive, I’m only one of two parents of school-aged children in the entire Sarasota-based news operation. But, it works. (Business Observer Managing Editor Mark Gordon in these pages in 2021 wrote about his son riding the bus to school for the first time after years of riding in the car.)

The only two summer chores I’ve yet to tackle are the school supplies list and a two-hour orientation.

And about that school supplies list…

I only remember bringing notebooks, pencils and a binder to school in third grade, but that was the 1980s.

Before we even get to those school-day staples, my son needs headphones, dry-erase markers, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, and that’s to name a very few items. The list grows with each new grade.

Back-to-school tax-free week was extended from July 25 to Aug. 7 this year, and I’ll need about that much time to shop.

Next up: Orientation, where I’ll join hundreds of other parents to line up and get my hands on the latest and greatest uniform shirts. They will look exactly the same as last year’s polo shirts, but they’ll be different colors.

The colors have to change each year because life would be too easy and inexpensive if they didn’t.

To be fair, one color stays the same. It’s a game of roulette if you bet on red or black and have one shirt left that survived the previous year. Last year, I won. The minute I saw the colors, I ditched the orientation line.

After dropping him off the first day, I went into the main office, dropped $100 on shirts and hoped to get that lucky next year.

But these are minor issues on the larger scale of my back-to-school joys and grievances.

The bigger issue has nothing to do with lunches, supplies, school uniforms or childcare.

Another summer means my son is another year older, and that hits harder than any of the typical summertime woes.

I love watching my son grow, but how I wish he could stay little.

Take that, Andy Williams.

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