Our staff remembers…back to school

Share your own back to school memories! Comment below!


Liz Hoffman, web editor

Back in July, planning our web content for the coming months, I thought it would be a great idea to get some back-to-school memories from the staff. I sold Tamara and the rest of the editorial staff on the idea and all was going swimmingly, until I realized I had zero memories of my own first day of school. I remember picture day well -a matching floral T-shirt and skort (remember those?), newly trimmed bangs and one missing front tooth courtesy of the toilet in our upstairs bathroom -but seem to have blocked out Day 1.

So I asked for my parents’ help.My dad e-mailed back: “Remind me in a few days. Remember, you were child No. 2, so nothing you did mattered or was remembered.” (His humor is especially dry over e-mail. This will clearly be explored more in a later article about birth order and its impact on my chances of developing into a well-adjusted adult.)

My mom was more helpful, reminding me of this story:

In the course of asking how my first day was, the discussion eventually came down to lunch. “What did you have for lunch?” my parents asked. I answered: “Green beans and tater tots.” Nothing strange about that, except that it’s also what I answered the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. My parents would ask, and I would answer, without fail: “Green beans and tater tots.” This is strange for a lot of reasons, only one of which is the fact that no 4-year-old likes green beans. This went on for a few months until one day, I just snapped out of it.

The point of this story: The question is more important than the answer. Ask your kids what they had for lunch -and who they played with at recess and how they did on their science test and who they danced with at homecoming -even if the answer disappoints you, baffles you, or makes you question your child’s basic communication skills.

Also, even kids with tangential relationships to reality at age 4 have a decent chance of being employed at 24.

Tamara O’Shaughnessy, editor

People might be surprised to learn that my first three years of school were spent learning in a two-room schoolhouse in my tiny hometown of Waldo, Maine. Each small room in the little wood building contained two classes and an uber strict teacher who never seemed at a loss for a quick public criticism or a slap of the ruler.

It was there I learned to write and to read and set in motion a lifetime of struggles with math. But my most vivid school memories revolve around the playground. Recess seemed to last forever every day as a group of us created and acted out new scenes and scenarios for the TV show, Star Trek. Oh, the laps we would run around that little school and through the woods it sat in as we went on missions “where no man has gone before.” Those fun days vanished as the school fell into disrepair and for my third-grade year, the Waldo kids were bused 40 minutes away to an intimidating K-5 school. Recess was much shorter, the classes much larger. Going back to school was never the same again.

Liz DeCarlo, senior editor

My daughter Emma will soon be starting high school at Downers Grove South High School and, while she’s a little nervous, she’s watched her older brother master high school and she feels pretty confident about her freshman year. But I can’t help thinking of her first day of kindergarten nine years ago. She couldn’t wait to start all-day school and eagerly put on her school’s uniform of a green plaid jumper.

She hopped in the car with her new backpack and lunchbox, but as we approached the drop-off line at the school, she got quieter and quieter. When we approached our turn for drop-off, Emma looked at the grown-ups approaching the car doors and sprang into action. Backpack and all, she leaped across the back seat and into the trunk of the van. The teachers outside took it all in stride. “We’ve got a kindergartener,” and several more teachers suddenly appeared to open the trunk and get Emma out. Needless to say, she screamed all the way up the stairs to the school and I went home in tears. Unfortunately there were plenty more tears that first month of school-from both of us-but we survived. And here we go again, another first, but hopefully this time around she’ll enter the school on her own two feet!

Kate Pancero, assistant editor

School was kind of tough for me, an only child living with ADHD attending a really demanding private school. There were times I struggled with my parents to get through assignments as my mind wondered to what my friends might be doing at that particular moment or how I couldn’t wait to ride my horse tomorrow after school. But no matter how difficult I could be when it came to homework, my parents never let me forget what they thought of me. Every morning, I’d get out of the car to go into school to hear my mother exclaim, “I love you, you’re smart, you’re beautiful and I’m proud of you. Have a good day!” No matter how grumpy or goofy I was being, my mom would always remind me with a smile, and, when I’d let her, a kiss on my cheek. I think of those mornings fondly with a glimmer in my heart that one day I’ll be able to say that to my own child.

Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Since 1984, the Chicago Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for Chicagoland families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.
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