Is it me or does summer break feel shorter than it used to be?

OPINION: It seems like only yesterday the kids were out for summer break and now they’re all going back to school.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

It’s back-to-school time for many of us. School supply aisles at big box retailers are ravaged, new shoes and clothes are on deck and family orientation nights are all the rage. It’s quite exciting; the upcoming school year’s promise always feels like the kind of chaos that is welcome as some parents gain back quiet hours and work days that don’t include “Can I have a snack?” every 15 minutes.

But here’s the thing, it really feels like my kids JUST got out of school for the summer and already we’re back. Here in Washington, D.C., (and depending on the school; more on this later), the school year for public and charter schools ended around June 24. That means the kids who are now going back (two of my kids start school on Monday, Aug. 29) got just over two months of summer vacation. Has that always been the case? I remember the summer breaks of my youth being pretty long. I would get out of school in May or early June and not go back until (if memory serves; I wonder if my memory is a lie and a cheat, Joe Jackson) the end of August or right after Labor Day.

Part of the reason that I wonder if I’m just making this up is because I know that in high school, we’d get out in May, which is still the case for my hometown school district. But they ALSO—this year—started back on Aug. 3. Which means that it’s entirely possible that I was back at school super duper early in my day. But it felt so much longer. My summer breaks were spent doing weeks and months in Atlanta, Five Points, Ala., and my mother’s home outside of Jackson, Mich. We’d spend the whole summer just being outside doing whatever. So maybe the five-mile walks to the corner store just to turn around made it feel like we had a lot more days than we actually did. 

Perhaps this is also a parent perspective struggle. My boys were out for two months and their summer was completely packed with parks, cool activities like taking a zip line or bike trails, camps that teach interesting skills and helps them develop socially, and just anything we could make the time for. Perhaps that’s why it feels like we never got a break to just chill. We did take a weeklong vacation to North Carolina, which was nice, but this summer definitely felt like we were in go-mode all summer. From baseball camp to basketball camp to cooking to theater to tae kwon do to outdoor activities and camps, there were very few weeks of sleeping in for anybody. Had they not been in so many camps and been home all day long, maybe it would have seemed like a longer break. What I do know is that the theme song to Phineas and Ferb starts with “there’s 104 days of summer vacation…” and I want to know where they do that at? 

In contrast, my daughter goes to an Episcopal school in Alexandria, Va., and she got out of school in early June and her first day of school is after Labor Day. She gets a full three months out of school whereas my boys only get two. I have no idea how this is even possible. Like how in the world can a school district literally have an entire month more of summer break and still manage to meet all the necessary requirements for a school year? And it’s not like they get fewer days off during the school year. I’m sure there’s a pretty simple and clean explanation for this but I’ve been reviewing school calendars and medical documents and, frankly, my eyes have glazed over at this point with back-to-school requirements. 

I wonder if it’s like this all over the country? Are school years getting longer and thus summer breaks getting shorter? I didn’t realize so many kids went to school in early to mid-August until Facebook started showing me the first day of school pictures of everybody’s children. I was looking at my phone’s calendar like, “this feels super early for school!” but I suppose maybe it’s the standard, and I just didn’t realize it. And like I said, my kids go back to school in late August but get OUT in late June. Point is, I feel  like my kids aren’t getting a long enough summer break while also looking forward to them being back in school. The amount of snack and juice consumption around this household is getting out of hand; I never get any snacks anymore because they’ve gone through all of the good stuff before I get a chance. This has to stop. 

Either way, off to another school year; in my house that puts us in 8th grade, 2nd grade and 1st grade. 

Happy new school year to you and yours.


Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.

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