Yesterday I packed up my boys, helped them buckle their belts and wipe their faces, and sent them off on their first day of school. It felt for a moment like the heavens parted and glory rained down upon my motherly soul. Thank you, Jesus! We made it. But what about the preparations?! How does a mother truly prepare for that first day of school without eventually wanting to pull her hair out? At one point, I was so frustrated buying school supplies, I was ready to quit and send my kids to school with only markers and crayons. This was, of course, in the midst of hearing about worldly conflict and crises and feeling ashamed because my problems were oh-so-insignificant. It was an appropriate attitude adjustment and on we pressed toward that first day. As I continued, I began to compile a mental list of rules that all parents should follow to ensure a successful and enjoyable approach to the first day of school. Hence, I give you:
B-mama’s Rules for Back to School Survival
1) Pour yourself a glass of wine. Let’s be honest, wine makes the road a little smoother. I recommend pouring one early on in the prep process and taking a deep breath. You might need a refill.
2) Start early. If I could access my future school supply lists in June of that year, I might actually try shopping then before stores are picked over. Our lists were so lengthy this year, I could have used at least a few more weeks to compile everything we had to find. Instead, the procrastinator in me had to scramble and the result was less than ideal.
3) Try online. Online supply shopping is amazing. Literally one night my husband and I happily clicked away to finish our supply lists, only to find the shipping fees to be hefty and shipping times, lengthy. In some cases, you can have items shipped to the store (Wal-mart.com) for a reduced fee, but you definitely need to give yourself time (#2). If you can take the time and don’t mind spending a little extra, online shopping is your freedom! Amazon.com is also really amazing (for everything) and if you’re a Prime member, shipping fees and times are nil and fast. The tricky part was finding the particular item and quantity necessary and having to sift through Amazon’s vendors for the best price and deal. It’s worth it if you can find what you’re looking for, which we did for a few hard-to-find items on our list.
4) Take advantage of tax-free state incentives. If your state runs a tax-free weekend, get out to the stores and recoup your taxes! But go early and check to see if they also include the Friday before the weekend as part of the deal. Virginia does a Friday-Sunday tax-free “weekend” and the name of the game is going early Friday or Saturday morning. I made the mistake this year of heading out at 10:30am Saturday and paid the price with clogged aisles and long lines.
5) Try on everything ahead of time. Are you catching a trend with my rules? TIME! We were smart this year and afforded ourselves lots of time by ordering our uniforms in mid-July. Excellent. I felt like I was right on track and even ahead of schedule. Gasp! That never happens. I was so proud of us that when our boxes of clothes arrived, I promptly stacked them high in a room corner. I would walk by and smile at the boxes thinking how prepared we were… That is until a week before school and I finally had kids try on the clothes. Yikes!! Nothing fit!! Alas, off we drove to the faraway retailer to set everything straight. Had we tried on items ahead of time, I could have handled returns and exchanges online and saved us the trip!6) Compile multiple supply lists together before making your trip. Need crayons for all four kids? Bring ’em together on one list. Need one ruler for each of your boys? Make sure to put three rulers on your master list. I know this sounds rather simple, but I can’t tell you how many parents I saw struggling with ample sheets of paper (me included) and trying to figure out how much of everything they needed. A few times I put an item in my basket based on one child’s list only to realize several aisles later that I needed two more of that item for another child. Yowza, it was a mess!
7) Never take your children supply shopping.
8) Always take your children supply shopping.
Depending on who you talk to, #7 and #8 are a matter of opinion. Either way, I know several moms who have clever ideas to make each one work for their families. One mom friend talked about doing the supply shopping on her own and then emptying the contents on her kitchen table. From there, she had her boys go “shopping” from their lists to create their own stockpile of supplies and have some ownership of the process. Brilliant idea!! Still another awesome mom-of-four-girls takes her ladies every year, but each with her own personal one-on-one trip with mom to the store. So cool. This is such a neat idea for her daughters and probably generates some really good quality time with mom. Time and energy would definitely be my enemies on this one, but if I could get my act together, I would love to try this one year!! Overall, I find my boys are not really that interested in buying and choosing supplies, so I usually shop without them. Later, though, I involved my oldest children in checking off the lists and labeling all the supplies. I wanted them to have some buy-in and that seemed to do the trick!
9) Involve the kids in creating the morning and after-school routines. One effective way to get my kids’ compliance for routines and structure is to have them help brainstorm the list of items and how we’re going to get all of our responsibilities done at home. I have each of the routines posted on ordered lists around the house to remind the kids of what they should be doing. So far, so good, one day in–ha! Check in in a month! 😉 1
0) Begin earlier bedtimes several days in advance of the first day. Have 9pm bedtimes been the norm around your house this summer? Even later around here! I recommend starting to pull back bedtimes by 15-30min. increments starting 4-5 days before the first day of school. Having an earlier bedtime established before the night-before-the-first-day will help your children have better luck falling asleep despite nerves and anticipation.
And when they wake that first morning, routines in place, bags burgeoning with crisp supplies and freshly-made lunches, clothes fitting nicely, and well-rested smiles on their faces (we’re dreaming here, remember?!), you’ll be so glad you planned ahead and did it all to give your kids the best year ever. Or at least to give them the best bet at learning and becoming better citizens and people.
God speed, dear parents!