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Back-to-School Moments Never Go As We Envisioned

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Blythe Newsome: The countdown has begun for the first day of school. Instead of heading to the beach for a few days this summer, we moved into a new house. I am so tired of hearing, "Where am I supposed to tell my friends I went this summer for vacation?" Sometimes I want to yell, "Tell them you got a permanent trip to a nice, new neighborhood!" In case it isn't obvious, I confess that I am ready for the kids to go back to school and to get on a routine.

boy crying
This is a big year for us: For the first time in fifteen years, I will have all of my children in school! I will have two in high school, one in middle school and three in elementary school. I am already working on a diagram of how to get them to three different schools! 

Last week, I decided to start shopping for school supplies. Each child received a list of supplies that they needed to start the school year. I decided it would be easier if I made one master list, but as I made my list, I could feel my bank account, my tiny bit of savings and my retirement account empty out. Here is a SMALL sample of the very LONG list of things the kids needed to start school:

6 backpacks
3 lunchboxes
9 dozen pencils
8 boxes of crayons
13 glue sticks
17 folders with pockets and prongs
15 packs of notebook paper
11 highlighters
21 three-ring binders
5 packs of index cards
3 packs of red pens
3 packs of blue pens

In my mind, I kept telling myself to not lose focus on what a sweet, memorable moment this shopping trip was going to be. After all, my baby is going to kindergarten and he was getting his first backpack! I pictured how cute and excited he would be as he tried to make the big decision of which one to get. Their grandfather even offered to take them and give me a break, but no: I wanted to be sure and be there for this precious moment.

As we headed into the store, I announced that the first stop would be the backpack and lunchbox aisle. The little girls were an easy sell. They quickly picked out their pink and purple backpacks and the lunchboxes that came with the best accessories already attached. 

My 5-year-old, Finn, was another story entirely. He looked at the backpacks, walked over to the lunchboxes and then started to scream at the top of his lungs: "Nothing matches! I can't shop here; this is ridiculous!" -- and proceeded to have a meltdown in the "back-to-school" aisle. The little girls tried to show him how a "Star Wars" lunchbox would look cool with a "Transformers" backpack, and said that SpongeBob and Buzz Lightyear are friends and can go together. Finn did not fall for any of that. He had suddenly become the Martha Stewart of school items, and if it didn't match, he was not taking it. 

Wait: Where was my precious, memorable, back-to-school shopping moment? Why were the older girls rolling their eyes and walking away? This was supposed to be family fun! 

Thirty minutes later, I'd had enough. I announced that we were leaving and informed the kids that we would get the rest of the stuff later. (After all, glue sticks only come in one color, so maybe I will take their grandfather up on his offer and come back alone.) Suddenly, Finn grabbed an army-green backpack and a "Star Wars" lunchbox with the same green color in the background. He smiled proudly and said, "See, Mommy: Now this matches!" I had to laugh, thinking, How did this child come from me?

As I prepare to send my sixth and last child off to kindergarten, I still believe in those perfect, memorable moments. After all these years of sending my babies off to school, I have also learned that what I usually get is a moment not like what I envisioned -- but more memorable than I ever imagined.


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