Bonnie Bing

Even with the right backpack, back-to-school time brings out anxieties


Kids and teachers are asking “Where did the summer go?” Some parents I’ve talked to are not as perplexed. Go to the back-to-school supplies aisle in any store, and you’ll see parents and kids loading up the basket. Most of the parents seem to be happier than the kids. I overhead one boy, probably about 11 years old, whine, “It’s almost time to get up early every day and go back to prison.”

One girl said to her mom, “I think that is too little-girly for middle school. Maybe I’ll get a plain one.” She was debating on just the right backpack. “Maybe the plain ones look too much like a boy.” And on it went. The mom was doing her best to be patient but said, “We don’t have to get it today.”

The right backpack is important. Everything seems very important when a student is going from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school. Even going from high school to college isn’t exactly a piece of cake.

My little friend Grace Heinrichs is 10. At her school, fifth grade is the start of middle school. Just the mention of that fact widened her eyes. “It’s going to be a change. I’m a little nervous.” This is a girl who has been in Music Theatre Wichita productions and didn’t bat an eye. But middle school, yikes!

It made me think of seventh-graders. When I taught back in the old days, junior high was grades 7 through 9. Seventh-graders were so nervous the first day they “dressed out” for physical education class, and about all we got done was getting combination locks open, put on their lockers and then opened again at the end of class.

I’ll never forget one tiny girl who looked more like a third-grader than a seventh-grader. She was so nervous, she was trembling. Her mom had decided a handed-down gym suit from an older sister would be just fine, even though it was several sizes too big. She looked like she could run laps inside it.

I knew she’d be fine after a few days, but at that point she seemed to doubt she’d make it to lunchtime. Three years later, she left as a confident ninth-grader. We laughed about her first day. She assured me that although she was nervous about going to high school, she wouldn’t tremble.

I empathize with students facing new situations, because even at this age, I remember what it was like to start something new. It’s tough out there, even with the right backpack and a gym suit that fits.

Oh, those simple pleasures: You may have read my column a couple of weeks ago about simple pleasures in life. It seems some readers liked the idea of taking a few moments to think about how much pleasure comes from some of the things we may experience often but don’t fully appreciate.

Several people said ice cream was a simple pleasure for them. I liked what Carole Garretson wrote saying that walking into her home after being away brings her pleasure. Also, she enjoys the first changes of the seasons.

Brad Pace says reading his printed Wichita Eagle is one of his simple pleasures. He prays every day that “the printed copy doesn’t go away.” He even said my columns are a pleasure. That was a welcome comment after hearing from a woman who wrote me awhile back saying I should have stuck to teaching physical education.

Ila Boorman listed losing 5 pounds and hearing from an “old favorite friend” as some of her simple pleasures. So true. It was such a pleasure to get a note in the mail from one of my old favorite friends, Donna Beard.

Kelly Momsen wrote, “Your column really hit me. Our lives are so crazy busy and bombarded constantly by media, electronics, noise, chaos, etc. that taking time to slow down and enjoy the simple things is very important.” Amen, sister.

Gretchen Fox agrees with me that nothing takes the place of a handwritten note arriving in the mail. She summed up this subject of simple pleasures by adding her familiar phrase, “It doesn’t take much to make me happy.”

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