A new era in family and politics
By Jill Pertler: Slices of Life
We’re in the middle of a presidential election year (boy, are we ever) and the nation is firmly focused on the next four years. What will they bring? Will things change, or stay the same?
My household is experiencing a similar situation, though our focus has nothing to do with campaign strategies, polls or votes. We’re staring down the nose of four more years. Our last four.
It’s the number we have to go before our youngest son graduates from high school.
For us, it’s been a long time coming. When our son receives his diploma in four years (oh, please make it so) we will have spent 23 consecutive years in school. Or at least our kids will have. But any parent knows education is a family affair.
Our daughter first rode the kindergarten bus back in the last millennium. The year was 1997. We had a Clinton in the White House. Our family didn’t possess even one cell phone, much less six. No one had heard of The Google because it was a year away from being invented. We watched “Titanic” and “Men in Black” on the big screen. The federal minimum wage increased from $4.75 per hour to $5.15. The first Harry Potter book was released, leaving us all talking about Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.
Three years later, when our son started school, George Bush and Al Gore ended campaigns in a presidential election that left us chatting about chads. Global Positioning System, better known as GPS, became available for non-military use, and the first hybrid car hit the roads. The reality show “Survivor,” hit the small screen. Movie theaters premiered the first “Scary Movie,” and our favorite stranded castaway of the year wasn’t Gilligan, but Tom Hanks (and his volleyball). A U.S. postage stamp cost 33 cents, and a gallon of gas went for about $1.50. Fans at this point were reading the fourth book in the Harry Potter series.
Child number three (and son number two) entered kindergarten in 2003, when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California. By this time, my husband and I were pros at following the bus to school the first day so we could get a photo of our child descending the vehicle’s steps. If we’d been hip, we would have used the newly invented camera phone, but we have never been that cutting edge. In 2003, I was still using a 35mm that required film. Imagine! Apple launched a new music store called iTunes, and Skype was released to the public. Facebook was a year away from existence. Families throughout the country were intent on finding Nemo while Will Ferrell played a lovable elf in movie theaters. At a whopping 766 pages, the fifth Harry Potter book hit the shelves.
Our little caboose rode the kindergarten bus in 2007. It was the same year a senator from Illinois named Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States. The first generation iPhone came equipped with a new feature — a touchscreen. The most savvy among us posted our kindergarten videos on YouTube (created in 2004) and limited our commentary to 140 characters or less on Twitter, which had been around for just a couple years. The show “Mad Men” premiered, and viewers watched the final episode of “The Sopranos.” The federal minimum wage increased for the first time in a decade, from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour, and gas cost about $2.80 a gallon. The seventh book about Harry Potter was published, giving readers the satisfaction that Voldemort finally got his comeuppance, and good guys occasionally do win in the end.
My family’s long-term relationship with public education will be complete in four more years. The world has changed in significant ways since we started this journey 19 years ago, and there are more unfolding as we speak. The newest book in the Harry Potter series is available for diehard fans. And, perhaps even more noteworthy, in January, a new president will enter the White House. It’s a pivotal period for the wizarding world and our nation. I hope things go well for both.
As I do for my son’s next four years. High school is also a pivotal period, and I hope his experience is not only magical, but presidential.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.