Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Coming soon: Back to school stress

I interrupt this long, hot summer for some important breaking news. It’s urgent, more pressing than our current national security code level. It commands your full attention.

It’s back-to-school time! Back-to-school time! Back to school!

In case you missed it, “School! School! School!”

Only 28 shopping days until school starts in Portales on Aug. 20, and only 26 shopping days left in Clovis, where school begins on Aug. 18.

Is that music to your ears?

Child: “So soon!” (moan).

Parents: “Finally! (sigh of relief).

“Back to school!”

Those are the three words I dreaded hearing the most every summer when I was growing up. And sure enough, like clockwork, these dreaded words came screaming much too soon, usually just when the summer was really starting to get good.

Now, I have to admit that I’ve become so cynical about the commercialization of holidays and seasons that I expected these back-to-school sales pitches to get into full swing right after the Fourth of July. But I guess they got lost this year somewhere in between “The Summer of Bill Clinton,” with his multi-million-dollar book tour, the Bush vs. Kerry pay-per-cheapshot duel and the Olympics. I can’t believe it was 2 1/2 weeks of sales-free promotions. But sure enough, the 2004 committee, not to re-elect Bush or Kerry, but to start-buying-your-back-to-school-supplies-right-now-so-we-can-have-a-reason-to-have-another-big-sales-promotion-in-July campaign, has shifted into full gear.

It was always that initial commercial of the season that triggered the first of my “summertime blues” symptoms.

Parents, you know what I’m talking about. The long faces. The sad eyes. The horrified looks on your children’s faces as they are forced to face the inevitable. No more sleeping in until noon. No more three-way calls at 2 a.m. Being showered, dressed and out the door by 8 a.m.

My daughter, Laura, and I have begun our pre-back-to-school negotiations. We haven’t actually agreed yet on a time or place to air this debate or which networks will be allowed to carry it, but talks are in the works.

Details right now are sketchy, but Laura began her first job this summer, which probably warrants a separate column of its own, and the tentative plan right now is to drive to Lubbock or Albuquerque sometime between now and Aug. 20. This is to ensure that Laura arrives to her first day of high school in style. And this is a priority ranking right up there with national security. Believe me, manufacturers are paying millions to get this at the top of our children’s agendas.

This brings me to another pressing issue facing our youth today, and that is backpacks. What is the style this year? I have a feeling it will be the ones with the initials. I spent half the summer taking Laura around trying to find a purse with an “L” inscription on it.

One year I got Laura one of those must-have backpacks on wheels. I wish those were the thing again this year. I’m upset that Portales Junior High and Portales High School, where Laura will be a freshman this year, have taken out all of the school lockers. I’m sure it was for safety concerns, but what about health concerns? Have you seen how much homework children are bringing home nowadays?

I saw a news documentary a few years ago about some kind of ailment or condition kids are getting as a result of continued pressure on the shoulders and backs due to overloaded backpacks. It ends with the letters “itis,” so I’m sure it’s severe. I think it’s called “homeworkitis.”

So, as you can see teachers, homework really can be a hazard to our children’s health. Please go easy on them when they return to classes this fall. At least wait until the second day of school to dish out homework.

As for the loss of lockers, I guess we’ll just have to mourn them as another lost part of American culture. Students will have to be creative now in finding new places to make out, which I’m sure they will, and in finding new places to bully nerds. Gone are the good ol’ days of shoving a fellow classmate into a locker.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at