Welp’s Louisville: Back-to-school schadenfreude

If I take joy in my kids’ back-to-school misery, does that make me a bad dad? Each year, I try not to tiptoe into my sleeping daughter’s bedroom at 6:59 a.m. on the first day of school, patiently waiting for her alarm clock to go off so I can point and shout, “In your face! In your face!” I try not to ask my son questions like, “What’s your hardest class?,” “Who’s your crabbiest teacher?,” and, “If ‘my generation’ is to ‘rotary phone’ as ‘your generation’ is to ‘habitable planet,’ isn’t it hilarious that you still have to go to school anyway?”

But each year their mom and I do our happy dance around the house, singing the “Back to School” song from Billy Madison, while the kids plot their revenge by googling the most expensive backpacks the L. L. Bean company can sunwash and monogram.

Alas, in these trying times, even sunwashing and monogramming might not be enough to meet the backpack needs of America’s students. Fortunately, there’s now the Ballistic Bookbag, a bulletproof backpack from the thoughtful folks at www.mychildspack.com. Available in black, olive and orange, the Ballistic Bookbag comes with a multifunction organizer, a pocket for little Kaitlyn’s iPod, a side mesh chamber for Tyler’s Razr, and an insulated bottle cubby for storing Ashley’s stash of Red Bull. But best of all, the $175 backpack offers level-two ballistic protection, the same protection provided by police body armor. The Bookbag’s exclusive ballistic panel will stop bullets and knife attacks, and can also be used as a shield against the most potent spitwads ever developed by laboratory technicians.

Of course, protection from gun-, knife- and spitwad-wielding lunatics alone won’t keep your child safe. There’s also Mother Nature to contend with. This year, we’re in the middle of the hottest August on record, prompting schools to take drastic measures to keep kids cool, and also challenging column writers to think up new metaphors like “the air outside is stickier than the men’s-room doorjamb at Shenanigans,” or, “It’s so hot golf is a sport.”

Instead of coming up with a real solution — such as stopping consuming so much cheap, plastic crap — grownups are dealing with the climate-change problem by planning to inject greenhouse gases deep underground, in what will eventually become the world’s largest fart-in-waiting*. But why let little Caleb swelter until then? Instead, send him to school with some cheap, plastic crap — namely, the Mini Cooling Fan Pen. This $9 pen, available at www.FindMeAGift.com, includes a tiny, battery powered propeller fan, just perfect for blowing gentle breezes across Brandon’s heat-stroked body or peeling the blisters off Alexis’ sun-scorched cheeks.

If an actual pen is too old-school for your daughter, treat her to the Girlz Connect Destiny personal digital assistant, the “perfect accessory for today’s hip, socially conscious and popular ’tween girl.” Available from Toys R Us in any color you choose — so long as it’s pink — the Girlz PDA comes with built-in horoscopes, personality quizzes, love compatibility tests and everything she’ll need to become tomorrow’s vapid consumer of VH1 and the E! Network.

But whatever accessories you buy for your students, the most important thing on back-to-school day is to rub it in their faces. No, wait. It’s to make sure they understand how crucial education is, no matter what our leaders say. For instance, my kids have to listen to my impassioned speeches making sure they know that, just because our teachers often have to pay for common classroom needs like Kleenex out of their own pockets, that doesn’t mean our society doesn’t place a high priority on the snot and tears of its students. Well, OK, maybe it does mean that.

But our kids should be glad they live in a country where parents still tease them unmercifully on back-to-school day. With so many of our cherished institutions like church and newspapers dying out, it’s a relief for our kids to know that educating them is still important in America. Almost as important as ribbing them about it.  

*Edging out Elton John

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