Archive for the ‘back-to-school’ Category

The Last First Day of High School

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When I first quit my job to stay home with my kids I had big plans. Being with my kids was my only job and I was going to make the most of it. Those warnings about “appreciating the time with your kids because it goes by so fast” were not going to be lost on me!

I learned, rather quickly, however, that it’s really hard to appreciate EVERY moment, like the ones when, sleep-deprived and delirious, I would curl up on the floor of my younger son’s bedroom, praying that my mere proximity to him would help him drift back to sleep at four in the morning. I wasn’t trying to wish away his babyhood but, at that moment, while he giggled and babbled at me through the slats of his crib, clearly not going back to sleep, I would silently repeat the mantra, this too shall pass.

Then there were those mind-numbing days when we would make our daily park/library/grocery store circuit, desperate to fill the hours before bedtime. Soon they will start school full time and I will finally be able to get things done, I would think.

Once they were in school I longed for the days when they would be able to do their own homework without my nagging, take care of their own things, and eventually be able to drive so I could skip the carpools and late night pick ups. Just this summer, for instance, as I waited up—again—for my youngest son to get home, I caught myself thinking, once summer is over and he is back at school I can finally go to bed before midnight.

This too shall pass…

And then it did.

And now summer is over and it’s my youngest son’s last first day of high school and I’m wondering what happens when this passes??

What happens to me when my nest is empty?

When I dropped him off for the first day of his senior year of high school I thought I was simply sad because it had all gone by so quickly; he would be heading to college next year and, given his uncommunicative nature, I would probably rarely, if ever, talk to him. But then, when I realized that at this time next year I will have no one left to drive to school (or pick up after or make dinner for or dote on…), my unease grew rapidly. Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of doing whatever I want with my time and I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to be.

In my rising panic I turned to my good friend (who also happens to be a therapist) to help me deal with my immediate need to calm the f**k down. Christina Jones, LCSW, suggested that I view this new phase of my life as a time to figure out who I am today and who my “future self” can be.

“What if you see this as an opportunity to discover who you are now and accept that it might not be who you used to be, even as a mother?” she asked me.

I could tell this was not going to be a quick fix.

“You can never really go back,” she added, “But you can take who you’ve been – in every chapter in your life – and figure out who you are now. That can be exciting.”

Hmmm…exciting, terrifying, anxiety provoking, all of the above?

This isn’t the first pivot I’ve had to make. When I decided to go from full-time lawyer to full-time mom, I went into a bit of spiral, as well. I would joke that I was a “retired lawyer” instead of admitting that I was a stay-at-home-mom – I simply couldn’t let go of that persona even though it was my idea to make the change. It took me a while to let go of who I had been—or thought I was—and to come to terms with the idea that my focus had shifted and continued to shift with each new phase in my and my family’s lives.

And here we are again; new phase, new focus.

This time, as I plan my next act, I will try to be more mindful of the passing days and try to embrace even the moments that can’t end fast enough. In a year I will be a “retired stay-at-home-mom,” and who knows what else. Maybe “the mom who has to nag her college graduate son who moves back home for a year to save his money while he works before grad school”?

This is very exciting.

 

 

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What NOT To Bring To A College Dorm (And a Few Things Students Couldn’t Live Without)

Around this time last year, just as the first Hello Kitty notebook hit the shelves at Target (signaling the start of the back-to-school frenzy), my older son and I started shopping for his dorm room.

Ugh!

It should have been fun—all the possibilities! But my son had very little enthusiasm for the process and I had very little patience.

Thankfully we don’t have to do it again. But, if I did, I would have done it a little differently.

I still wouldn’t have let him shop alone, though. If I let my son pick out what he “needed” for his dorm room the list would have looked like this:

  1. Food
  2. TV
  3. Xbox
  4. Mini fridge

He would never have thought about buying sheets (“I’ll just take the ones off my bed at home!”) or a shower caddy (“What’s a shower caddy??”).

Of course, not all kids would be as clueless…but it helps to have a parent tag along and it helps to have a plan.

I’m here to help with that plan.

I polled my older son’s friends, their parents, and my friends to find out what worthless items they purchased for dorm rooms—items that seemed essential or items that were on a list somewhere as a “Must Have” but were never—and have never—been used by an actual student.

What not to buy/pack/bring:

  • Too much clothing – specifically, according to one mom, “The twenty button-down shirts that my son HAD to have but never wore.” Two words: no space.
  • Too much formal clothing – If you are in a fraternity or sorority or you have a major where you need to make formal presentations, you may need a suit jacket or a couple of dresses – you won’t need multiple suits, several dress shirts or five dresses and four pairs of formal shoes. See above: no space.
  • Too many shoes – Again: no space.
  • Real plates, knives, forks – use disposable. I know, I know, you are worried about your carbon footprint but, according to the kids, “you will never, ever clean the dirty plate/fork/knife,” and well, that’s just gross.
  • Printer – “They take up a lot of space and there is a print room in every building.”
  • Plastic cleaning gloves – Ok, I admit it. I packed these, and, not surprisingly, they returned home, unopened at the end of the year.
  • A vacuum – If you don’t already have one, don’t buy one. Someone on the hall will have one that your kid can borrow for the two times he actually vacuums.
  • Laundry basket and a laundry bag – No room for both. Bring a collapsible laundry bag.
  • A lot of hangers – “Extra shelves—maybe—would have collected more clothes,” according to one mom.
  • Bulky luggage – pack clothes in collapsible bags or use heavy-duty garbage bags for transport.
  • A Panini press or any other kitchen appliance – save it for an apartment.
  • An iron– this one depends on your kid. One boy swore by it. “College dryers tend to make clothes incredibly wrinkly,” he explained. While another girl said that she never took hers out of the closet.

Now for what the kids couldn’t live without:

  • A foam topper and mattress pad. My son’s bed was at least 6 inches higher than his roommate’s and seemed obnoxious to me at first but my son said it was the comfiest bed he has ever slept in.
  • A fan – Remember not every dorm has air conditioning.
  • A collapsable storage ottoman – Storage AND extra seating! Items that pull double- duty are always helpful.
  • A 6-ft. power strip (or two). Who knows where the outlets will be.
  • Portable speakers – “I couldn’t live without [them]” and “We were always moving around but still wanted to listen to music.”
  • Garbage bags – “Lots of garbage bags.”
  • A mini hot water kettle – Most kids, my son included, thought this was really useful “to make tea, ramen, oatmeal, hot chocolate, etc.”
  • Light bulbs – “You may get a desk lamp but they don’t give you light bulbs,” one mom reminded me.
  • Plastic storage bins – Perhaps not as many as I bought for my son but he did use them to keep things stored under his bed (again probably not in the way that I would have organized them – I mean who puts the snacks with the playing cards?? There should be a separate bin for games, right??).
  • Extra toilet paper.
  • Can opener/bottle opener.
  • Mini fridge.
  • Head phones.
  • Some wall decorations. Emphasis on some.
  • Extra sheets and towels – NOTE: this one actually made both of the lists above. One mom said they were useless as her son never broke out the second set, while my son used all three (yes, three!) sets of sheets but never washed them until Thanksgiving – he just stripped off the dirty sheets and threw them under the bed. Whatever it takes to get them to use clean sheets, right?
  • A plunger – “I lived in a suite-style dorm and shared a bathroom with three other freshman guys.” Enough said.

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive and it will depend on your kid but remember, most dorm rooms are about 12 x 14 feet – for two people!

Less is more, people.

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What would you add to this list? Let us know.

Yet Another Thing I Will Miss When My Kid Goes to College

We are less than a month away from the day that we leave our older son behind at college and head home to a slightly emptier house.

In order to avoid thinking about that for too long, I have been putting my energy into dealing with all of crap that needs to be done before he leaves for school: dorm room shopping, doctor’s appointments, haircut appointments, clothes shopping and, as a last-minute stressor, wisdom teeth extractions.

I’ve also been cleaning out closets, reading articles about easing the transition, and trying to get a prescription for Xanax to help with my separation issues (just kidding – I actually bought a case of wine).

I am going to be ready…or so I thought.

This morning I found a box of donuts and a bag of gummi candies on our front porch. They were from my older son’s friends. Apparently, he’s been having a rough week that I was unaware of. Yes, I knew about his sun poisoning and previously mentioned wisdom tooth pain, but the other part of it—the possible end of a long-term relationship—I was not privy to. He turned to his closest friends for that support and they rallied.

See, the best way to cheer up my 18-year-old is to feed him, so that’s what they did.

I cried.

My son has the nicest friends; they really look out for each other. But, more than that, they are really a great group of kids to have around…and they are leaving, too.

I’m going to miss having them around.

I may bitch and moan occasionally because they are at our house a lot, but I really only care when I’m in the mood to sprawl out on the couch in my stretched out yoga pants, eat cookies and watch bad TV. (I try not to do that in front of the kids lest they think that’s what happens when you’re older than 45, move to the suburbs and have kids. I don’t want to scare them).

The reality though is they usually don’t mind if my husband and I are around—yoga pants and all. They sit with us and even invite us to play board games or poker with them. Once, when a couple of the boys were hanging out with us, one of the boys told my husband and me about his plan to go to Las Vegas with our son for their 21st birthdays.  “You should come, too,” he said.

“You probably won’t want your parents with you in Vegas on your 21st birthdays,” I explained smiling as I pictured the scene.

“Why? You guys are cool,” he said. And he meant it!

No, really. He meant it!

I could have cried but that would have shown him how un-cool I really am.

The fact that these boys don’t want to flee when we walk in the room is only one of the reasons that I like them. They work hard at their jobs and at school, they do charitable work without being hounded and they are respectful of our home. They may eat all of the ice cream but the bowls are in the dishwasher when they are done and the counters are wiped clean. I can’t get my 14-year-old to do that; hell, I can’t get my husband to do that!

But the best thing about these boys is that  they are really, really nice to my youngest son.

That wasn’t always the case with my oldest son’s friends but, somehow, over the years, the friends who were mean to his little brother stopped being part of his posse.

I know it’s not easy to have a little brother around all the time (I’m a little sister, after all) but no one seems to mind him or, if they do, they don’t let it show. Half the time, a couple of them will be hanging out with him in our family room while the rest of the group is in the basement. Other times they invite him to join in. Just the other night my husband and I came home and found our youngest beating the older boys at poker, the next day he was playing tennis ball golf with them, and, as I write this, one of those boys—his “brother from another mother”—is working out with him as he prepares for soccer tryouts.

I’ve been worried about how my youngest is going to handle the separation from his brother but I didn’t think about how he might deal with the separation from his brother’s friends.

Thank God for social media…

I, am only “friends” with one of the boys on Facebook (his request, not mine) so I will have to get my information from my kids or hear snippets when they are back for school breaks.

In the mean time it will be odd—and a little quieter—without them around.

They will be missed.

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, it’s not Christmas, it’s back-to-school time!!

I have always loved back-to-school time but as I’ve gotten older my reasons for loving it have changed.

When I was a kid I loved shopping for supplies and buying new fall clothes. I still get the itch to buy a nubby sweater in mid-August just so I have something new for school. And, of course, I loved buying school supplies because there is nothing better than a brand new box of 64 Crayola crayons. (Burnt Sienna and Periwinkle will always have a special place in my heart).

Then, once I had kids, back-to-school time was equally exciting because the kids were excited (and I could buy Crayola crayons again- yea!). Everything was new: New teachers! New classrooms! And, even though their friends lived within a two-block radius and they spent their days together at the park the kids still couldn’t wait to see their friend IN SCHOOL and have recess IN SCHOOL!

As the kids have grown, all of our attitudes toward back-to-school have changed.  I still buy school supplies – but they are no longer as interesting to buy. Now it’s more like a scavenger hunt. Do you know how hard it is to find a composition book filled with 4×4 graph paper? I don’t think it actually exists. I think the teacher just puts it on the list because he hates us.

And the kids don’t even look forward to school anymore. First of all, they no longer get recess which, lets face it, was always the best part of school and second, they don’t need to go to school to see their friends because they are always at my house.

Which is why I’m singing Christmas songs.

The most wonderful time of the year has to be back-to-school time because I get my house back – at least from Sunday night through Friday afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong; I like that my kids have their friends over but there are times when I would really, really (really) like to put on my pajamas at 8:00 pm and sit on my family room couch within striking distance of the fridge.

We have a basement but it’s not very large so the 15-20 kids who end up at my house are usually sprawled on my family room couch. Even if they are in the basement I don’t want them to come upstairs to find me in my Mickey Mouse pajama top dipping into a box of cereal with a white wine chaser.

Some things are really best done privately.

The problem isn’t just that these kids are at my house all night. It’s that our youngest has his friends over from the time he wakes up until dinner, when his older brother’s friends are just arriving.

You are probably wondering why I just don’t kick them out – tell them to find someone else’s house to hang out in.

Then you are clearly not the parent of teenagers.

I want them here because I know where they are and who they are with. If I kick them out, even once, I’m afraid they will end up at the house where no one strolls through the kitchen casually making eye contact to check for dilated pupils or smelling for beer and tequila.

And, so, I put up with the inconvenience of eating popcorn (and sometimes dinner) in my bed with my comfy clothes on—but no pajamas—and I patiently wait for the “Hap, Happiest Season of All”: Back to School.

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