I had an epiphany of sorts while attending my kids’ back-to-school open house Tuesday night.
For the first time in my parenting career, we were ready for the new school year.
The kids’ backpacks contained every school supply on their teachers’ lists, and most of those items were purchased with coupons and discounts weeks ago, not on Labor Day, as in past years.
Their dresser drawers were filled with a selection of new and new-to-them clothes, including matched socks — a rare phenomenon that usually occurs in our house only immediately after socks are purchased and still in plastic wrap. Pairs of children’s shoes — the bane of my existence on most school mornings — were neatly put away in our entryway, not stowed under a couch, in the dog kennel or some other mysterious place.
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And can I get a “woot-woot” for spending a large portion of my Sunday afternoon making 16 peanut butter sandwiches (with the crusts removed) to freeze, and stocking “lunch only” bins in my pantry and refrigerator with kid-friendly, nutritious items? This whole being organized thing is a lot of work! As one of my friends noted, the grab-n-go lunch system is “very Pinteresty,” but it also means less work for me every morning for the next two weeks.
Basking in one of those rare “I’ve totally got it together” moments, I thought about some of the years that I wasn’t even close to being ready for school.
It seems like we’ve always had some major emotional milestone or family drama to work around with my three kids, such as the first day of preschool, kindergarten or middle school; the first day of school with a baby, a toddler and the additional chore of trying to keep our crowded house immaculate because it’s on the market; the first day of school after returning from a monthlong tent-camping-across-half-the- country road trip to visit family and have an adventure (only to return too tired and broke to buy anything new until a week after school began); the first day with all three kids in school, and a working mom who was exhausted and battling a heavy dose of guilt because she felt like she was missing out on everything that seemed important at the time.
This year was different. First of all, we were a few minutes early to school. I didn’t even know that was possible without some type of yelling, bribery or mistake like forgetting that it was a “late start” school day.
Maybe it was because we were organized and well-rested. Maybe the even years (my kids are in grades 2, 4 and 8) are lucky for our family. Or maybe after nine “back to school” events for our family, I’ve finally figured out the formula. (If that’s the case, the next 10 first day of school events will be a breeze.)
I’m usually sad to see my kids grow up, and I’ve been known to take way too many “back to school” photos, cling on to my babies for dear life at their classroom doorways, and shed tears while I drove away from their school.
This year, I snapped a few photos, lingered at the school for a little while because my youngest son invited me to stay, and joined my friends for a gab session and some celebratory “the kids are back in school and I’m not playing referee right now” coffee. For the first time, this back-to-school business didn’t have me feeling overwhelmed.
“Who is this woman, and what has she done with Lisa?” one of my friends joked.
“I don’t know, but I kind of like her,” I thought to myself. “She’s cool, and the mom I’ve always wanted to be.”
A little while later, while driving to work, I reflected about how smoothly things had gone for our family.
That’s when I realized I’d better enjoy it while I can because in 12 months, our daughter will enter high school, our oldest son will begin his last year at the elementary school, and I’m fairly certain that I’m going to be a total train wreck.