I’m sending seven children to school this year – from high school senior on down through pre-kindergartener. And that doesn’t include my two off-to-college boys and one living-across-the-ocean missionary.
Shouldn’t I be in the Guinness Book of World Records or something? After all, managing students is a feat worth recording. That is, if I survive. Let me replay how our school preparation has gone.
“Everyone wash out your lunchboxes,” I call during one of our final summer afternoons. Soon, a display of boxes and bags are lined up on the counter, rinsed and still dripping a bit. It’s exhausting just to consider the food prep each school morning will require, even though many of my little pupils pack their own meal.
“School clothes day,” I call on a different morning. Then, one by one, I go through each child’s drawer with him or her. “School shirt, play shirt, dirty shirt that it’s time to dispose of, shirt you don’t wear so we’re donating to charity, shirt that doesn’t fit you any more (put it in your brother’s drawer)…” The school clothes project takes ALL DAY.
Our next effort is school supplies. With seven children at home now (and six lists) we head to the store. “I’ll go get my pencils!” calls one, and a few wander down one aisle while I stay with the rest to find notebooks, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, folders, lined paper, pencil sharpeners and oh, yes, 50 glue sticks! (I should just buy stock in Mr. Elmer’s company.)
Next we shop for school shoes. Luckily, our two favorite footwear stores are just across from each other in the mall. I take one group of children (the “wear-out-your-tennis-shoes-in-one-month” boys) into one store to invest in high-quality sneakers, while the dainty girls go across to the other store to find some cute (and not as durable) sandals. Luckily coupons and memberships give us a pretty good discount on the 12 pairs of shoes we buy (although purchasing company stock could still be a viable option.)
Shirts, pants, shorts–and of course lots of socks and underwear–and we are finally finished with our school prep. Now comes the waiting.
“I think the teacher lists are posted!” my 5th grade daughter comes running breathlessly into the house one morning. The news spreads through the neighborhood like wildfire, and soon our elementary students are on their bikes, racing to the nearby school to check the library windows. Yep, teacher lists are posted, and they return home eager to broadcast their findings. “My best friend isn’t in my class!” “I don’t know if I can spell my teacher’s name!”
My junior high and high school students are calm but anxious as they retrieve their class schedules online and then call their friends to compare notes. “We have Calculus together,” reports my senior after chatting with his best friend.
Then, the week before school, we head out on one more lovely lazy camping trip. I want to savor every moment: the beautiful blue water, the nights under the stars, the milkshakes on the lawn, the hot dogs over the fire, the late-night movie. I don’t like giving up freedom for the rigors of education. But my children are more than excited to start the school year adventure.
A few more days and it is the “start-of-school eve.” Before I go to bed I check my sleeping students: little “clothes people” are laid out on all of the bedroom floors – new shirts, pants, socks, shoes and hair bows are prepped for the next morning. Yes, even my senior laid out her clothes, and I snapped a picture while I wiped away tears. Backpacks are hanging expectantly in the laundry room, lunch bags are propped on the kitchen counter, sharp pencils and colored markers fill the school boxes.
I look out the window at the soccer nets, and the pool, and the meadow that will now be deserted and sigh at what will be lost. No more sleeping in, or marshmallows on the campfire, or lazy bike rides past bedtime. No more afternoon movies, or all-day read-a-thons, or swimsuit lounging. They (whoever they are) never asked this mom about starting school in August. I’m sure I would NOT have given my permission.
“The summer night is like a perfection of thought,” wrote Wallace Stevens. Yet the sun is already setting earlier, and the summer frogs are slowly disappearing. I suppose school starting is inevitable.
And so it comes the next morning: SEVEN excited students, SIX different grades, FIVE lunches to pack (two students eat school lunch), FOUR different schools (not counting the university), THREE different departure times, TWO boys off to college, and ONE sad mama in a quiet house. I hug them in their crisp outfits and they walk out the door – lunch boxes swinging, new shoes skipping, waving to friends.
The bus pulls up, the bikes round the corner, and then our street is silent. School has started again.