School Daze: The Joys of Sending Your Kids Back to School

A Valley dad reminisces about the trials and tribulations of getting his kids to school


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Illustration by Chris Reed

It’s that time of year again, when summer begins to fade and September draws closer. I’ll always associate this sweetly melancholy month with the chaos that came with getting my kids up and off to school in Red Hook.

Once they no longer had the luxury of sleeping past 6 a.m., the daily task of excavating them from their beds in time to catch their 7:15 bus often fell to me. I’d rise first to get ready for work, allowing my wife to enjoy a bit more precious slumber. Alas, she was usually roused by my pleas of “Come on, guys! Time’s a wastin’!”

When orders, vigorous shakes, and threats failed to dislodge our two inert sons, I was often tempted to resort to blasting caps. Thankfully, their sister was better at rousting herself. But inevitably, in the space of less than an hour, a frenzy of activity ensued, including my vain attempts to get our brood to eat a more wholesome breakfast than leftover cake or pizza, make their lunches, load their backpacks, don some presentable duds, and brush their teeth.

Needing to depart with enough time to catch my 8 a.m. train in Poughkeepsie, I would leave and entrust them (silly me) to complete the routine by simply making it across the street on their own to where the bus stopped. Suffice it to say that my wife would be a rich woman indeed if she had a dime for every morning she came down at the last minute to find tasks not done, our daughter wearing summer clothes in the dead of winter, or our eldest son’s hair a rat’s nest on school photo day, and had to shoo them out the door as the bus approached.

The fun continued even after two of our kids were in college. “What are you doing?” my wife would cry upon discovering our youngest son on the living-room sofa, curled up in torpor or engrossed in a magazine, his bus to Red Hook Central High School having left without him. His failure to make it to the end of our driveway in time became such an issue that the driver began cruising right by even on the rare occasions our son was in plain sight, a wonderful source of aggravation that resulted in many harried drives to school. (A complaint got our lad back on the bus, but the driver then made a habit of accelerating before he was seated, sending him lurching down the aisle.)

Naturally, the madness often continued after our kids arrived at school. There were frequent calls to bring them forgotten books and instruments. And shenanigans like the time our eldest son took the stage in a kimono for his eighth-grade band concert (his band mates wore shirts and ties).

But nothing quite topped the afternoon during his senior year at Red Hook High when he and a friend set up shop with a bullhorn in the school parking lot and loudly hailed the student body as it departed after classes let out for the day. A school security guard took exception to their jovial antics. A state trooper arrived. The boys were summoned to town court for a stern lecture by the judge. It was the kind of thing that can make school daze so memorable for parents.

It all begins in September.

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