Back-to-school can be a complicated time for parents whose emotions, and Facebook updates, are pulsing with intense frequency. Not even on the most photo-heavy of holidays will you see such a constant stream of singularly-themed content — backpack after backpack, lunchbox after lunchbox — posted with so much pride and excitement.
Don’t get me wrong, the first day of school has always been an exciting occasion — for children. But I don’t recall my parents getting especially “excited” about my first day(s) of school, although I’m sure they were thrilled to be rid of me for eight consecutive hours a day. Not one “first day of school” picture exists of me or my brother, and when I called to ask my parents what they were “feeling” on my first day of school, my father’s response was, “What was I feeling? I was feeling like getting you out the door so you could get to the bus stop on time,” and my (retired high school teacher) mother’s response was, “It wasn’t a big deal. We didn’t take any pictures, and I’ve never seen any pictures in anyone’s house of their kids on the first day. I do remember that all the parents would gather at a house down the street after the bus took you guys to school, and we would have coffee and doughnuts and stuff. But that was more of a celebration. It wasn’t about the kids, it was about the kids being gone, FINALLY! And that was a longstanding neighborhood tradition!” Then she kind of trailed off and started listing the different types of foods they ate: coffee cake, doughnuts, muffins, fruit. And then she paused for a minute before saying, ”You had a very normal upbringing. Whatever’s happened afterwards is all on you. HAHAHA!!!!” and cackled loudly until we got off the phone.
In other words, the “traditions”of yesteryear don’t have much to do with idolizing children or even showing them off in their cute outfits. You kind of couldn’t. What were you going to do, take a roll of film to the drugstore and get the photos developed right away so you could show every person you came into contact with twelve or thirty or even just one photo of your kid standing on the driveway (and likely not holding a fancy life-sized chalkboard detailing their likes, dislikes, bucket lists, and whatnot)? No. It didn’t make sense then. But who knows, maybe if the internet and digital cameras and Facebook had existed at that time, our parents would’ve done the same thing, just before celebrating the first day of school with coffee and doughnuts alone, on Instagram. God, that sounds depressing.
That being said, back-to-school is not a bleak time in 2014. It’s full of smiles and hair bows and trendy T-shirts, and social media is the perfect place for parents to express themselves. Unless, of course, they suck at it. And about 99% of the time that’s the case, it’s because the parent is some kind of helicopter mom-mama bear “fierce protector” hybrid. It’s how we’ve come to live in a world where memos like this get sent home to parents (this one from a school in Australia):
"…these types of moves" makes me think of breakdancing, or twerking, or maybe dancing in a Satanic ritual circle with knives. Cartwheels, handstands, and other gymnastics "moves" performed by children just seem like "regular movement" for kids who are already bouncing off the walls with excessive amounts of energy. Kids can’t help that their natural levels of adrenaline often lead to intentionally falling down or diving off of tall structures or running and tumbling into cartwheels or handsprings. That’s just what they do. At this point, I’m waiting for the average PE class to consist of eating a Clif bar and sitting in a gaming room.
Anyway, the point is — back-to-school has practically been elevated to holiday status, and lots of parents on social media have had a field day (of sorts) since the middle of August. They’re all somewhat obsessed with their children, and yet their reactions to their kids returning to (or entering) school vary. Let’s check out some examples and then put this special scholastic time back on reserve until next August. (Note to parents: If your kid gets a new backpack anytime between mid-September and May, try to refrain from posting a picture.)
1. Helicopter Mom Pride
Little Issabella looks mighty excited and cute in these pre-k pictures — but is it a multi-photo gallery worth of cute? Could this album have been trimmed down a bit? Aw, who cares. Why take time to hate on something that doesn’t happen every day, right? You only start pre-k once, and Issabella is thrilled to have her picture taken by her mom. Plus, it’s not like Tabitha is going to force anyone to endure this level of documom pride on a daily basis. It’s a special occasion!
Ah. Never mind. Poor Issabella. When will parents learn that most humans, even tiny ones, aren’t huge fans of having their picture(s) taken before 8 a.m.? By the time Issabella is done with pre-k, she’ll probably have “accidentally” broken her mom’s camera at least 20 times, and all of her mom’s Facebook friends will be extremely understanding about it.
2. First Day Of School Pics On The Second Day
This is the same ridiculous logic parents use when they hold back their kid so he’s the oldest in his class instead of the youngest. Sure, the dad being described in this tweet may have received more “Likes” or algorithmically come out on top in his friends’ newsfeeds, but how many of them wandered over to another platform to mock him for it? (At least one.)