Welcome to another school year

Sunday, August 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:28 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

I’m happy to report that 12 of my 14 grandchildren are in school this year. The oldest grandson is starting ninth grade where his grades will be written down and follow him for the rest of his life. Wanting him to understand that his future depends on how well he does academically, I sat him down a few weeks ago and tried to have a serious discussion about life.

I went on and on about how important it is to take courses that would prepare him for his career. Up until now, I pontificated, he was just “playing” school. But, beginning this fall, everything changes. He sat there listening semi-attentively, mostly avoiding eye contact. But when I told him that one bad grade and there goes West Point, he looked at me as if I had just sprouted two heads.

“I don’t want to go to West Point,” he said.

“I just want to play basketball,” he declared. “And I’ve never heard of the West Point basketball team.”

At the other end of the spectrum is my youngest granddaughter, who just started kindergarten on Monday. Her older cousins (that would be the 6- and almost 8-year-old) spent the summer filling her in as to what happens in class so she was prepared for “real school.”

The big deal about the first day of school with girls, of any age, is what to wear. The three youngest female cousins came over Sunday and discussed clothing.

“What are you all wearing to school tomorrow?” I asked in my sweetest Grammy voice.

“We decided to go home and try on all our new clothes again and then make our choice” was the reply.

There was a collective groan from the parents within earshot.

Just for the fun of it, I asked my older grandsons about their first-day apparel. In unison they responded, “shorts and a shirt.”

I was busy Monday and had forgotten about first-day things, until I saw the 5 o’clock news. I immediately called my kindergartner and asked about her day.

“GRA-Rammy, the phone keeps ringing and all of the calls are for me,” she said, letting me know I wasn’t the first.

I asked about her new teacher.

“Miss, umm, Somebody,” she said. I could tell she was thinking hard. “I forget her name.”

“Do you like her?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “She’s kind of old, Grammy, but not as old as you.”

Swallowing that comment, I continued: “Did you bring your lunch or eat in the cafeteria?”

“Everyone eats in the lunch room, silly,” she said. “Mommy made my lunch, but I got to buy my milk. GRA-Rammy! They have milk there in every color! I got brown.”

“Did you have to take a nap?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yes, but it was short, short, short.” Now she’s speed-talking. “I just started to go to sleep, and the teacher said ‘Everybody up,’ and now I’m really tired.”

Then she realized what she had just said and the possible ramifications if I told her mother. She quickly retracted her statement. “I was tired, but now I’m full of energy again.”

Realizing that my youngest granddaughter has been known to wear velvet in July, I asked what she had chosen to wear.

“My cheerleader outfit,” she responded.

No comment.

That same day I called her older cousin, who is a veteran entering second grade. This child had fallen the week before school and had to have stitches in her knee. The entire conversation revolved around her injury.

“Oh Grammy, I got sooooooooooo much attention,” she gushed. “Everyone asked me what happened and looked at my knee.”

Great, I’m thinking, now she’ll become a hypochondriac.

My last call that day was to my eldest granddaughter. The movie “Drama Queen” was written about her.

At 13, everything is a big deal. It took her 10 minutes to describe her “ensemble” (her word; not mine). School was “OK.” Unlike last year, when the bus driver didn’t stop to pick her up because he thought she was in high school. (Did I mention she is very tall?)

I tried talking to the 15-year-old ninth grader, but all I got was a bunch of grunts. He did say one sentence clearly: “Hey Grammy, now that I passed my written driving test, when are we going for a ride?”

All I could do was gulp.

Then his kicker: “Remember, you promised.”

It’s going to be a very long year.

If you have a comment or have an old clunker you want to rent for driving lessons, please e-mail me at

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