Fired up for the end of school

PHOTO: dailyinvention, Flickr CC

PHOTO: dailyinvention, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

The Jack Pine must burn to live. While most everything in nature is adapted to avoid fire, the Jack Pine welcomes the flame. Old Jack’s branches and needles evolved to attract and spread fire. Indeed, most of its tightly-sealed cones contain seeds that will only be released by temperatures above 112 degrees.

It’s amazing to think of each scrubby Jack Pine as a parent not only willing to give its life for its offspring, but actively seeking that outcome.

Then again, speaking as a human parent, I fear that I, too, may burst into flames this month trying to keep up with the end-of-the-school-year schedule for our charming young pinecones.

Once the drudgery of standardized tests are over, school activities boil over — from concerts to overnight field trips, class bike rides to scout hikes. And sure, we could play this the way dad did. Just drop the buggers in the parking lot, snag a cig from a pack of heaters rolled up the sleeve of our t-shirts, and ride off to see man about a fuel injector.

But we are ACTIVE parents, ENGAGING with youth until the STRESS makes our HEADS POP OFF!

Thus, May is the month where the routine of the school year starts to decompose like the orbit of a garbage can blasted to space by cherry bombs. The calendar looks like a prop from “A Beautiful Mind.” The phone buzzes constantly from teacher requests for volunteers. Just this week I’ve been asked to help out with a 14-mile bike ride with third graders, to glaze ceramic fish, and to oversee a meat raffle for the archery team.

I signed up for two out of three, which means I love my kids about 66.67 percent as much as an optimal parent.

Good news, the lawn started growing. Sure is green. Probably should do something about that.

Play that recorder, son. Play it again. I think you might be [SQUAWK] … improving. Yes, tonight’s concert ought to be one for the ages. I hear your teacher has a new boom box to play the accompaniment tape. C’est Magnifique!

Could you read back that shopping list, hon? Mess kit. Check. Live chicken. Check. Glue. Check. Styrofoam balls. Check. Looks like they only have the jumbo bottle of glycerin. Is that going to be a problem?

Have you seen the dog? Oh, wait. She’s in the yard. I can see movement in the grass.

“Dad, I need a permission slip for the IROCA so I can get my BDAMO.”

What are those things?

“The BDAMO? Come on, dad. Where’s mom?”

(From other room) Mom: “It’s already in your bag!”

MEMO: “Your child must choose between band or choir.”

We need some time to decide.


B … b … ban … no, choir!

“You have chosen wisely.”

Child: “I want to join band!”

Knock, knock, knock. Hi, I’m a representative of the hobos living in the grassy caves we’ve carved in your yard. We just wanted to say thanks a bunch for not mowing the grass. And thanks for letting us drink from the garden hose, too! It fits in our mouths!

“Oh, enjoy this time. It goes so fast.”

How do you stop time?

“Stop and smell the roses.”

I’m doing lines of pollen off my dining room table, pal, how do I get off this merry-go-round?

“Ha Ha Ha. I remember those days.”


Indeed, the schedule is hot. Too hot. But perhaps from this madness will rise new life. Hasn’t every parent sacrificed for the good of their kids?

Burn, baby, burn.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, May 29, 2016 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


  1. I think it is even worse now than when my kids were in school. My oldest is your age. There are things we need to go to, for their sake and for our sake. But I also think of some very good people I’m friends with who also lived by the philosophy that the kids need to learn that their activities are valid even when no parent is in the stands.

    We had to choose what we didn’t go to when we had two, girl and boy, in a 2x/week for each team sport. At least when they are older, they get there on the school bus.

    Of course, being rural parents, we usually had to drive the younger kids to the game or event anyway. Now sometimes we have driven grand kids to events because that parents have to work.

    But it is also true that my husband and I did just fine as children when we got ourselves to many events by walking there by ourselves. With no parents in the stands. (He was in a town of 3000, I was in a Big City.)

    My son in a teacher in a poor rural district in a southern state. He sees very little parent involvement in the schools, except for sports. He interprets that as little support for education, though it could reflect other aspects of poverty, such as lack of transportation.

    You will survive, but pick what you don’t go to sometimes.

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