It’s that wonderful sad busy time of year again, when the carefree days of summer make way for back-to-school structure and purpose. Some of you may be personally experiencing this phenomenon with your own children for the very first time. You may be feeling lost or lonely, scared or overwhelmed about your baby leaving the nest and starting pre-school or Kindergarten. You may be shell-shocked at the expense of new school clothes and supplies, and worn out from all the preparation. Well, here’s some advice. Just sit back for a moment with a cup of coffee, enjoy the temporary silence, and let me gently burst your bubble. This is as easy as it’s ever gonna get. It’s all downhill from here.
First of all, we’ll talk about the expense. Yes, Jr. will need new clothes and glue sticks, pencils and a backpack. But you can probably still pick these out yourself. Your kids are probably still excited at the prospect of getting anything new, and they will not roll their eyes at everything you show them. No doubt, unless you’ve hopelessly spoiled them already, you can still buy nice bargain items at your local K-Mart, Wal-Mart or Target. Pretty soon, the little darlings will be tainted by their peers, convinvced that it’s not what they wear, but how much it costs, that will make them one of the cool kids. You’ll have to buy backpacks as pricey as luggage with lifetime guarantees, but you will still need to replace them every year because “everyone will remember that was the one they had last year.” You will have to spend a mortgage payment on each one of them for jeans with pre-ripped holes, shoes they need to scuff up before they wear them, and shirts valued only for the brand name written on them. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
You may be busier than usual with some open houses and getting the kiddies off to school on time. But very soon, you will be sucked into a vortex of never-ending activity. Your kids will be persuaded to join things, like Scouts and Little League. They have people that come into the schools and convince your kids they’re not busy enough with just homework and video games. You’ll have to go to meetings. Then the real fun starts. You may yourself get sucked into a variety of committees and positions (some familiar examples: coach, asst. coach, scout leader, homeroom mother, party helper, treasurer, secretary, etc.) by other glassy-eyed eager parents looking for a sucker reasonably responsible person to “get involved” with the kids. You will naively believe them when they say it will take no more than about an hour a week and they just need help for this year. Five years later, you will be running from meeting to meeting, planning events and hauling your kids around to umpteen activities, desperately seeking for someone as naive happy to get involved as you were to take over your duties.
By high school, you may be able to extricate yourself from the PTA meetings and dance monitor duties. But then your kids will have found new activities. You won’t be required to actually hang around with your kids. In fact, they’ll probably pretend they don’t even know you. You just have to discreetly get them there and quietly drop them off and pick them up. Your summer will suddenly be shortened by several weeks by band and/or sports camps. You will probably have to get up at the crack of dawn to transport your little darlings to their various destinations. Then you’ll have to pick them up at the most inconvenient times, especially if you work at a normal type of job. Football camp was nice because they throw a lot more money at the football program, so they kept your kid all day and actually fed them. This was great for us parents smart enough not to volunteer to be there providing the food for the camp. But once football season starts, you make up for this when you have to start running them to doctors appointments to mend broken bones and torn shoulders.
You get used to eating on the run trying to make everybody’s games and concerts. You spend more money trying to feed the family at the concession stands because nobody’s home to eat. At times, it’s even a whole lot of fun. I just think you all should know, though. Enjoy the few hours of peace and quiet you have now. If you still have some little ones at home, spend some good quality time with them. You’re in for one busy ride.