Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Best Mom Tip #151: Enjoy back-to-school chaos, don't just endure it

I try to avoid taking all 3 of my kids shopping at any one time. And I mean avoid like you might avoid licking the hand-hold pole on the subway. Avoid like nudist colonies try to avoid swarms of angry bees. But at least once a year, you have to take them with you, even if you have to traverse the subway, nudists, and angry bees all at the same time.

Back-to-school shopping requires that you have actual children's feet present in order to get the right size. Back-to-school shopping means that you have to have the input of the children who will be using the clothing or you will have drawers full of unworn items for the rest of your life.

There are pencils to buy, forms to fill out, and classroom Kleenex stockpiles to replenish. You need to pre-order yearbooks, join the PTA again, and make sure you understand this year's carpool system. It is enough to make you want to live in a hut. Well, maybe a hut with DVR service. We're not savages.

So how do you dive back into the land of homework and 7am bus pick-up without killing one of your children (or even the occasional innocent bystander)? I suggest you make at least one element of back-to-school season an EVENT.

When I was a child, my mother would have my Aunt Charlotte meet us at the mall for my annual birthday/back-to-school shopping trip. Charlotte was a wonderful third-party mediator. We would wander the racks and she would give me tips on creating basic pieces for my wardrobe to build off of. Never mind that I was 8 and my ideal wardrobe consisted of what I'll call rainbow-brite-meets-covered-in-red-clay chic. I felt special, and adult, and valued.

We would "do" lunch and there was, no matter how strapped for time we might be, always chocolate. I remember these chocolate shavings that came on top of a chocolate pie I ordered for dessert like it was yesterday. You don't forget the first time you realize that chocolate can be a garnish.

You may not have time for an all-out shopping day or you may have all boys who think that sounds a lot like torture, but you can do something that creates that event feeling for your kids. Maybe it's laying out all of the school supplies and packing backpacks as a family. Maybe it's a special day with just your family the weekend before school begins. Maybe you do your own version of shopping fun.

This year, my kids are still really little with one in elementary school, one in pre-school, and one still learning to walk. My mom came with us on our shopping trip and although by the end of it she suggested I rename my kids Flitsy, Hell-Bent, and While-You-Weren't-Looking, they did all get new shoes.

And they rode the carousel and got punch balloons. It was a special trip with special moments made just for them. I hope that they will remember and cherish these trips as adults like I treasure the memories of my own back-to-school events.

So take a deep breath, pull your kid down off of that display case, and enjoy the moment. School starts soon.

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