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All You Gotta Do

Writing lists always makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something without actually accomplishing anything


It only takes one.

Just one friend, one neighbor, or one sister-in-law who mentions school supplies in the middle of the summer, and just like that — boom — your summer vacation is over.

School supplies? Already?

Winter clothing being sold in stores this week?

In 85 degree weather? Isn’t that a tad premature?

I quickly glance at the calendar and discover that not only is the start of school rapidly approaching, so are the Yamim Tovim.

I push aside a fair amount of panic and remind myself that it’s still only midsummer.

Oh, Rosh Hashanah is happening the minute summer is over?

School is beginning uncommonly early this year?

I shove aside panic once more and have another iced coffee. I sip my coffee while acknowledging that Denial is one of my favorite states to visit. Because once I accept that school is almost starting and Yom Tov is around the corner, I’ll know there is so much that has to get done before then.

And while I love writing to-do lists, I also love sitting outside drinking iced coffee while my boys are in camp.

There. Is. So. Much. To. Do.

Writing lists always makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something without actually accomplishing anything.

So let’s start our back to school list, shall we?

1.Buy new school clothes

Allow me to start by saying that I like to dress my boys alike.

I’m not overly committed to it, but when possible, I like to match them.

First of all, it’s pretty cute. Second, when dressing all the same gender in a row, it’s convenient to just grab a stack of matching shirts, and off we go. Third, when they match each other, they’re easy for me to spot in a crowd, a life hack that can’t be overstated.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, when getting my squad of boys ready in the mornings the very last thing I need is one child looking at the other one and saying, “Hey, he has a hood on his shirt! I want a hood on my shirt too!”

“Why does his sweater have a pocket and mine doesn’t? I also love pockets! I will not go to school without a pocket on my shirt!”

This isn’t my first rodeo. I know these kids, and I know the limits of my morning routine. We have absolutely no time for multiple meltdowns and wardrobe changes.

So, matching clothing it is.

Now with fall sweaters hitting the stores in August, I need to find all the right sizes. That usually means running to many stores or calling them and tracking down the last sweater in the size I need that’s already sold out.

That’s always fun.

I believe it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that not one pair of pants will make it through the summer unscathed. And while I believe that boys live their best summer lives by participating in activities that will rip every pair of pants at the knee, these pants must be replaced so the general public knows these boys have a mom who is On Top Of Her Game.

  1. School supply shopping

Obviously, their knapsacks and school supplies from last year are in no shape to be used again this year or no longer even exist. If you think replacing them is a straightforward task, that’s because you don’t realize what the type of knapsack and notebook says about a boy’s personal identity.

If it’s the wrong type or the wrong shade of blue, know that you will be exchanging it under duress before the first day of school.

  1. Buy new shoes

It’s the dreaded errand.

Here’s why: Every single person on the planet needs to buy new shoes at the end of the summer. Summertime has a wondrous growing effect on children, causing them to go up at least a full shoe size in a mere two months. Couple that with parents motivated by the importance of first impressions on the first day of school or the imminent arrival of the Yamim Tovim (or both), and the entire community gathers in the local shoe stores, waiting and waiting and waiting on line.

(Here’s a tip for community leaders: Are there ideas / thoughts / messages of inspiration you would like to disseminate to the community at large? If so, arrange for a large screen to be set up in the local shoe stores. Play your desired message on a loop during the weeks before school. You’re welcome.)

Some savvy shoppers measure their children’s feet at home and order shoes online, avoiding the crush of humanity at their local shoe store. As luck would have it, my kids are a hard fit. They not only need to be measured; they must also try on every shoe in the store in their size before we find a pair that works. So scratch online shoe shopping for us.

Do you know what happens when you attempt to take a handful of boys to a packed shoe store?

Does the very image strike fear into your heart?

It does to the people who work in the shoe store around the corner from me.

Truth be told, I’m actually quite blessed to have a wonderful shoe store owner who goes out of his way to help me when I walk in with all of my boys each season. He’s a very wise and understanding individual, and by that I mean he knows (from experience) the speed with which my children can deconstruct a shoe display. When it is at all possible, this kind man gets me in and out as fast as he can manage, for all of our sakes.

After purchasing new shoes, which they’ll outgrow sooner than you can imagine, we’re finally done with our shopping which brings us to…

  1. The first day of school picture

You would think that with all of the planning and advance shopping, I’d be joining the scores of other parents who take the requisite first day of school pictures to share with friends and family, so we can all admire how big everyone has gotten and how nice they all look.

But boy, would you have been mistaken.

Somehow, something always happens on the first day of school, and once again we’re rushing to make the bus.

Pictures? Posing? Taking the time to coax smiles out of boys who no longer think it’s cool to smile for pictures?

Last year, when my various friends and family members shared pictures of their kids smiling prettily for the camera on their first day of school, I wanted to send a picture of the back end of the school bus as it pulled away from my house with all of my boys miraculously on it.

I would have captioned it: “First day of school. We had to run for it, but we made it. We’re starting a brand-new year with excitement, optimism, and new knapsacks. And for that we’re grateful.”

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 757)

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