Back-to-school shopping in 2021 is like a time warp to 1992. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Back-to-school shopping in 2021 is like a time warp to 1992. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Back to school with worry, hope — for parents and students

With the new school year here, she’s never seen her kids so excited to wake up at 5:45 a.m.

I stayed up late playing Worry Bingo with myself last week. Should I stock up on toilet paper? Will there be a COVID-19 outbreak at my kids’ schools? What will happen if there are not enough school bus drivers? Have I washed our cloth masks so many times that they no longer offer protection?

But the worse worry of all was this: Will schools stay open this year?

My tween and teen had success with online learning last year, but they are eager to return to in-person schooling. I have never seen them so excited at the prospect of waking up at 5:45 a.m.

Back-to-school shopping was epic. There were times I wished I had preserved my closet from 1992 so I could have saved a bunch of money. Button-down jeans, bodysuits, fisherman sweaters, oversized flannels — is my daughter going to her middle school or mine? I’m not sure why “mom jeans” are an official style right now, but you can buy them at Target.

My son bought a JanSport backpack like the one I had in high school. I asked if he intended to use both straps or only one, and he didn’t know what I was talking about. In 1992, nobody would be caught dead using both straps.

Our kids aren’t the only ones heading back to in-person endeavors. My husband will return to the office a few days a week. But he’ll also continue working from home — which finally prompted me to buy a new desk for him to use, so I could take mine back.

When the pandemic began, I loaned him my desk, thinking it would only be temporary. I wrote three books wherever I could find the space to work. Sometimes that was on a rickety card table, other times it was in our tent trailer. Usually, it involved listening to the neighbor kids scream on their trampolines.

For me, it’s been a year and a half without a dedicated workspace. I know I’m not alone in this because I’ve seen pictures of my friends taking work calls in their bedroom, bathroom or attic.

Part of the reason I didn’t buy a new desk earlier was that I kept hoping things would get back to normal. But finally, I faced the truth: Normal is gone and isn’t coming back. Whatever the future looks like will be a new normal that I must embrace.

Worry Bingo is a dangerous game to play. It will keep you up at night, way past your bedtime, staring at a dark ceiling fearful of the future.

So I’ve decided to start playing Hope Bingo instead. I’m hopeful that being part of House Pfizer will protect my children. I’m looking forward to the day when all of us can get our booster shots. I’m excited that breakfast and lunch will be free for the children in the Edmonds School District this year. But most of all, I’m hopeful that my kids will take the resiliency they have shown all along and use it to have a successful school year.

Whether it’s 1992, 2019 or 2021, kids need hope, and so do their parents.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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