What I can’t believe is why school starts in the effing middle of summer.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

I know you can’t, but I can totally believe your kid is in fourth grade this year.

And I know you JUST GOT OVER the disbelief that they were in third grade this time last year… like maybe only recently accepted it — had five minutes to pause and reflect until, holy fucking shit, it’s already fourth grade!!! But trust me, if you were me sitting in the cheap seats watching the still photos (and sometimes video feed) of your life on social media — you would know…it was inevitable.

I can totally believe it because from the time they were standing there last fall summer in their giant backpack wearing a Ninja Turtles shirt, cargo shorts and brand-new vans slip-ons looking like some junior version of the guy next to you dry heaving in the security line Sunday morning at McCarran, there were soccer games and movie openings and birthday parties and school fundraisers and all the pizza and just general weekend craziness/laziness culminating in a summer vacation photo where he went river rafting for the first time and is “already a pro.”

…So maybe your surprise is rooted in the fact that your child is actually going BACK to school rather than being the first nine-year-old river guide on the lower American Fork. Or maybe their apple bong-making, reach-out-of-the-raft-to-snag-a-Coors-Light-can-floating-by and Teva-drying skills weren’t quite up to snuff to make the jump to the big leagues just yet.

Either way, after following — from afar — twelve months of similar exploits, the notion that the child has, indeed, mastered enough basic arithmetic and state-mandated reading and science skills to move to the next level of elementary school (which face it, was as inevitable as your chagrin over having to run out and buy the teacher an end-of-year gift card to Claim Jumper a few months ago) I am #notatallsurprised he made it to the next level.

…Which is not to say that you shouldn’t celebrate these milestones. You should.

My mother recently produced The Shoebox full of family photos. The years 1972 to 1993 were all represented with varying degrees of consistency. Apparently, as a family, we completely vanished from the earth McFly clan worst-case-scenario style from 1986 to 1990. Not only is there no photographic evidence that we existed, but nobody can remember what the fuck it was any of us did during those years. Strange.

But in that box, along with an overabundance of end-of-roll pet photos (causing my mom to shift uncomfortably when asked pointed questions about whatever did happen to a certain dog/cat in question), were the obligatory back-to-school pictures. One year, I insisted on wearing a Charlie Brown mask that was elongated (melted?) plastic and had a certain Rocky Dennis-meets-Leatherface look. I’m sure the teacher loved that one.

One year my sister wore what looked like a bloodied tutu and one year she was a spider whose eight legs were elongated hangers wrapped in quilt batting and taped with black electric tape.

Oh shit, come to think of it, those were the Halloween pictures.


So congrats on your kid being in fourth grade and now being able to get all the innuendo in the Judy Blume books. Hope this year is a good one.

…And now you have exactly 365 days to let it sink in that this time next summer they’ll be in fifth grade. Ready, go!

Andrew J. Pridgen is the author of “Burgundy Upholstery Sky,” and is looking into homeschooling.