I was the one who scoured the ads to find the best deals on notebooks, folders, binders and pens. It was always an expedition with my two kids to shop for supplies. "How are you going to stay organized this year? How about this binder with the accordion folder built in? Here's one that has a place for your pencils. Oh, don't get black. You won't be able to put your name on it with a Sharpie. Do you want the ball point pens or the roller gel? Regular #2s or mechanical pencils?" I'd even go so far as to shop several stores to ensure that they all had different colored folders for each subject. "Blue, black, red, green, purple... where's yellow? What about orange? I can't get pink... shit." (Apologies to all you "gender neutral" people - my kids don't dig pink. Sorry.)
In the days leading up to the first day of school, I was on a mission to squeeze every last ounce of summer out of its pores. Anything we had even mentioned we had thought about doing during those two and a half months we somehow managed to cram into those last few weeks. Lou's Drive-In? Let's go! Bicycle Safety Town? Missed that one too - let's go! One more day at the pool, one more cookout, one more night of catching fireflies, one more night of staying out late in the neighborhood with friends. The whole "start a bedtime routine a few weeks before school starts" was lost on me. IT'S STILL SUMMER.
That's all changed. Hell, last year I didn't even witness the first day of either of my boys' school. When my youngest started, I was out of state visiting my oldest. When my oldest started, I was back here in Peoria. Right place, wrong time ... story of my life.
This year, I'll see my youngest start 8th grade. But it's not quite the same. In fact, it was just over a week and a half ago that I was perusing my Google calendar and saw, "L - 1st Day 8th Grade" and thought, "SHIT! Really?"
But that was it. I didn't get that anxious feeling that I needed to run home and have him make a list of everything we didn't do this summer so we could pack it in to the next 10 days. I didn't even rush out to buy school supplies. Here's literally how this went down:
"OK. Wal-Mart. The bane of my existence. But I need bread, hamburger, shampoo, dog treats and toilet paper. Oh, look! School supplies! Let's see - probably seven classes, right? OK. Notebooks, right? Black, red, blue, green, purple ... that's five ... oh, hell. Another black, another red, another blue. He'll figure it out. Pens? Cheapest. Pencils? Cheapest. Markers and colored pencils - do they still need those in 8th? I'll get 'em just in case. Binder? Hmmm... he had one like this last year ... all they have is black ... I'll put a cable tie on it so he knows it's his."
What once took me an excruciating amount of time now took 20 minutes, tops. And that included trying to remember what kind of calculator he needed. TI200? RXiiC? R2D2? Meh. He won't need it on the first day anyway. And no matter that they were completely out of the obligatory antibacterial wipes we were supposed to send with them. I knew I had an (almost) full container at home.
Normally I would arrive back at the house with much pomp and circumstance. "THE SCHOOL SUPPLIES ARE IN THE HOOOOOOUUUUSSSSSSEEEE!" This time, I just dropped all the bags at the door and yelled at my youngest to come upstairs. "Here's your school supplies," I said. "I'd label everything with your name and subject, but whatever you need to do to be organized." "What about a backpack?" my top-of-the-food-chain kids asked. "Um..... there's gotta be one around here somewhere," I replied.
Yes, gone were the days where we perused stores and catalogs to find just the perfect backpack that would allow enough room for books but be ergonomically back friendly, with enough design to be cool but not childish.
Finally, I found an old GAP backpack that I used as a diaper bag when said 8th grader was a baby. "Here, this'll work, " I said as I tossed it at him. I swear it still smelled faintly of dirty diapers, but after borrowing one of the teacher's antibacterial wipes (OK - the container is HALF full) it was back to just like new.
I also didn't buy him any new clothes, or new shoes. Nor did I clean up his old shoes so he wouldn't look like a homeless person on his first day. I didn't make him pick out a matching outfit, either. However, I DID make him shower and clip his nails. I'm not a horrible mother.
I'll make sure he goes to bed around 10-ish tonight, but since I go to bed around 10-ish as well, I"ll be none the wiser if he stays up past midnight. His cross to bear. Tomorrow, I'll get the obligatory 1st day of school picture on the front porch - that hasn't changed. Then he'll be off - another summer behind us, another year of school ahead, and a diaper bag that may or may not smell just a little funky.