BY ELKE GOVERTSEN
BACK TO SCHOOL.
Those three little words
are set-in-stone mile
markers for parents
everywhere. Some cry;
some celebrate. Often
it is a mixed backpack
For some parents, this is the first big
realization that their baby isn’t a baby anymore. Cue the tissue. Other parents have
just barely survived the summer with kids
being bored, bickering or needing rides
everywhere. Cue the Champagne.
Back-to-school shopping is a rite of
passage. The supply lists. The new backpack. The discovery of the moldy sandwich
from the last day of school still in the lunch
box. The new lunch box. The moment of
“Oh yeah, lunches,” followed by the realization that all you have in the house are ice
cream bars and hamburger patties and lots
and lots of ketchup. Summer food. The
BACK TO SCHOOL
Costco members will ;nd many back-to-school items, including backpacks, clothing,
fresh foods for lunches and, yes, Champagne and tissue, at their local Costco. Still
more can be found at Costco.com.
scramble to find sandwich fixings, drinks
and snacks that are easy, taste good, satisfy
kids’ interpretation of what’s cool and still
suit your primal need to give them something remotely healthy.
When my oldest started kindergarten,
I was a wreck. I walked him to school and
held his little hand and pretended the sun
was making my eyes water. After saying
goodbye I was like a teenager who had just
gotten dumped; I openly sobbed. I did (not
so) stealthy drive-bys of the school. I imagined rushing into the classroom to tell the
teacher, again, how my son was shy, sensitive and special.
Back to school means a little of both
• Give yourself time to feel sad.
• Don’t be embarrassed.
• Have a plan: Meet friends; do a fun project.
• Don’t let your sad ruin your kiddo’s happy.
• Give yourself time to celebrate.
• Don’t be embarrassing (unless you have
a tween; no matter what you do, you
will be embarrassing, so have at it).
• Have a plan: Throw a party; eat all the
ice cream bars.
• Don’t let your happy make your kiddo sad.
I wasn’t sure if he was ready, but the
truth is I wasn’t ready. He did great. I caught
A few years later, when my youngest son
started school, it was tender again, but also
exciting, because my previously sloppy
patchwork of child care during the day
became simpler. Both kids in the same place
at the same time? It was like a miracle. Less
tissue. More celebration.
When my boys were little, we did back-to-school haircuts—little soft curls on the
ground, breaking my heart. They proudly
paraded their backpacks around, even
though those bags seemed big enough to
carry the boys themselves.
Then those sweet little boys with their
gigantic backpacks and first-day-of-school
haircuts morphed into middle-schoolers.
They won’t wear coats. I have to bribe them
to get a first-day-of-school photo. The new
clothes can’t look too new, and the hair needs
to be perfectly messy. An enormous amount
of effort goes into such effortlessness.
This fall, my oldest is off to high school.
It really is the beginning of the end. I am
keeping up a brave face, but inside, ouch.
The sun is once again in my eyes.
Both boys still need stuff. The back-to-school shopping is one constant. But what
they need less of is me. They need me to back
off, and let them figure out the ropes. Let
them falter a bit and have their backs. Again,
I wonder if they are ready. And again, they
probably are, and I will catch up—eventually.
I will have a tissue in one hand and some
Champagne in the other. And again, when
my sons head off to school, no longer holding
my hand, they will still hold my heart. C
Elke Govertsen, a writer and founder of
Mamalode ( mamalode.com), lives in
Montana with her family.