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Stop the Train – I Wanna Get Off! (or, Back to School time)

By August 19, 2015

My boys started school last week. 4th and 1st grades are underway. And everywhere I look are articles about how you only have 18 summers with your kids and you’d better make the most of them NOW. Wait just a damned minute. Why wasn’t this advice whipping around the internet in June? Why is it getting all this traction in August? This is grossly unfair to all of us whose school districts follow the August-May schedule rather than September-June. I don’t even want to think about how many summers I have left with my boys under our roof (but it’s now 9 and 12 if you’re wondering and that KILLS me). Summer 2015 is down in the books.

I suppose I really should be a pro at back to school stuff by now, and compared to all the rookie Kindie moms, I guess I am. But this drastic and violent change throws our family for a loop every year. Regardless of the fact that we know when the first day of school will be months in advance, it’s a day that tends to sneak up on you. And I have found that no matter how well-prepared I am, the adjustment is still rough going. Here are my thoughts on getting through it relatively unscathed:

Adjusting bedtimes.
This is by far the most painful and difficult challenge in the first weeks of school. How do you get your monkeys to settle down and get to sleep when they’ve had 2+ months of late nights and sleeping in? It might not be an issue for many families, as I’m certain many of you are more structured and disciplined than I, but for us it’s a struggle. There are plenty of ideas out there: start a couple weeks before school starts and gradually work them into the correct bedtime; don’t adjust bedtime during the summertime in the first place (boooorrrrring!!!!); or just do your best and start fresh on day one. That’s my approach. And it’s not necessarily one I recommend. But I’m a sucker for my own nostalgic memories of staying up late and listening to the frogs and crickets outside my window while I laid in my bed with a book and fought sleep all summer long.

School supply shopping.
There are lots of ways to skin this cat. Many schools offer a service through a third party where you order the school supplies in June and when the school year starts they magically appear on your kids’ desks. The drawbacks are that it’s slightly more expensive and your kid doesn’t get to pick their own pencil box/Trapper Keeper/ruler. (No comments on my age and fond memories of Trapper Keepers.) I’ve heard tales of people who order everything from Amazon. I’m totally intrigued by that but haven’t tried it yet. I’d LOVE to hear from anyone who has! My approach is this: hit Target at an off time a couple weeks before school starts with lists and Starbucks in hand. We went early on a Sunday morning and had the back-to-school section to ourselves for about a half hour. Give the kids “assignments” to find certain items, while you knock off the easy stuff like printer paper and sharpened pencils. You might have to make more than one trip, depending on their stock, but let’s face it, you’re at Target 12 times a week anyway.

Figuring out your after school schedules.
This varies for everyone, but regardless of whether you have a nanny, after school care at a daycare, soccer practices, or just a simple ride home on the bus, the best advice I have is to go over the schedule with your kids every Sunday night and make sure their teachers stay informed. We have a wonderful after-school program at our elementary school that we use most days of the week. We are religious about talking through the week’s schedule with the boys and emailing the teachers each week to ensure there are no misunderstandings or tears throughout the week.

Clothes shopping.
Oy. I refuse to put myself through the brain damage that my poor, dear grandmother, aunts and mother dealt with when they went clothes shopping with me in the 80s and 90s. That karma has to be coming for me, I swear. And before you jump to the conclusion that shopping for boys is “easier” – let me just tell you, it is NOT. UnderArmor is expensive and the outfits must all match. And don’t even think about suggesting they buy mix and match outfits, because that shit will get you some classic dirty looks. I’ve been buying them one outfit each here and there throughout the summer, with strict instructions that they may not wear the new clothes till school starts. It spreads out the financial and mental burden of shopping with your opinionated little darlings that way.

Lunches and Water bottles and Snacks, oh my!
By far my least favorite thing to do in the world, aside from going to the dentist and having a mammogram, is packing school lunches. My soul dies a little bit each morning when I ask the boys if they pretty-please would like to have the school’s hot lunch today and they say “No! Home lunch.” So at the beginning of each school year, when I’m gloriously organized and prepared (as opposed to the free-for-all that May brings), I have bins stocked with school snacks in our pantry, and a drawer with cut fruits, veggies, cheese and yogurts in the fridge. The little monsters can pack their own damn lunch.

To wrap up, let me give you a little summary of this morning: somehow they both woke up by 6:30 and we were downstairs eating breakfast at 7. I’m feeling very smug and accomplished. But it’s picture day for Evan, so we had to negotiate what to wear and make sure he has a change of clothes for after the pics are taken. Heaven forbid he wear those “nice” clothes all day! I informed the boys that it’s hamburger/cheeseburger day at school today, so I’m not making lunch. It worked!!! We got in the car at a reasonable time to ensure I wouldn’t have to sign them in as tardy. As we were pulling up to the drop-off line I remembered I hadn’t filled out the picture order form. Damn it. So I did that while inching forward every few seconds, and realized I didn’t have a checkbook and I can’t write in my credit card info, I have to go online to do it. Cue reaching for my cell phone to see how fast my thumbs can type. Curses. As my babies hopped out of the car, I yelled after them “after care today!!!!” and the teacher who shut my car door said “You got two ‘K!’s mom – you are good!” Ohhhh yeah. Chalk one up in the parenting win column.



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1 Comment

  • Reply Jeoy August 20, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Loved reading this, so fun to have someone else put all the agony onto words! My oldest is 13 (son) and yes, totally dread clothes shopping each year… just wait, it gets worse! One day it’s under armour, the next it’s “Mom! I really need some nice clothes (girls!!!!!) I can’t ever get it right!

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