We have hit a milestone in our household. Our boy-girl twins will be starting Kindergarten this year. I admit that I was a crying my eyes out as they showed pictures of each of the graduates at their preschool graduation. The event was bittersweet. We have been going to the same place, every workday, for seven years. We started there with our oldest as nervous new parents and are leaving feeling like seasoned parent-veterans. I will sincerely miss seeing all our favorite teachers and seeing the cute faces of little friends.
And now we face our newest adventure. All our kids will be in “real” school. For the first time, our kids will ride a bus to school. Instead of just one kid with homework, we will have three. And while we are all very excited for this newest phase in our lives, it can be a little overwhelming.
But before the school year begins, we get to shop for Back to School. I say “get” because I think my husband and I get more excited than our kids. Remember the excitement of picking your cool new folder, the perfect color pencils, and getting new markers and paints? That was the best. You would get new school supplies and then get to show them off to all our friends on the first day of school. It was one of the best parts of that day.
Our school offers an option, for a flat fee you can order your school supplies and have them delivered to school on the first day. My husband balks at this every year. I think he gets more excited about the school shopping than the kids, and feels it is an important ritual that we all participate in.
So as school approaches, we print the school supply list for all three kids and head to the store. And this is when the “fun” begins. While the kids stand in the aisles picking out notebooks with cute puppies, their favorite cartoon characters and rainbows, I frantically run aisle to aisle trying to find the exact items on the list. Gone are the days of personalizing your back-to-school items. Now every item is clearly defined for uniformity. Colors of notebooks, specific boxes of markers, counts of pencils are defined and listed. And one item from the list is ALWAYS missing. I have already heard from other moms that this year there are no plastic yellow folders with brads. Every other color is there, but not yellow. There is a paper yellow folder with brads, but not a plastic one. I have already decided I am going to be a rebel and get the orange folder instead.
So to make the experience more like what we had as kids, we let our kids select their at-home homework items. They each get a notebook (or two or three) of their choice and at-home pencils and markers. This is how my husband and I relive our back-to-school experience. And when the kids get home they want to start doing homework immediately. I sometimes record them running around singing a made up “homework song” to remind them of their desire for homework later in the year.
As we finish up the school supply shopping, we turn our attention to back-to-school clothes. I actually like shopping for clothes for my kids. While I find trying to find clothes to fit me challenging, kids’ clothes present fewer issues. Our biggest concern is waist – they are all skinny – so as long as the pants and jeans have adjustable waistbands, we are good to go.
It is at this time we see how our kids have changed. How their interests and tastes have evolved. Last year it was mis-matched socks, character t-shirts and skinny jeans for my oldest daughter. My youngest daughter was determined to wear dresses with stretch pants every day. And my son was pretty easy. He was happy with the same five super hero shirts and any pair of jeans in his closet.
We have a strategy at our house that pretty much applies to everything. Our kids have big personalities and are more than a little opinionated. They like to make their own choices. So we manage the choices. We offer three options and they pick what they want from those. This ensures that we can live with the final decision and they feel like they have picked for themselves.
We try to apply this to clothes shopping. It can get a little dicey as they go through the departments and start picking items. We try to limit the number of out-right “no’s”, trying to rationalize with them when items are too far outside the parameters. Dresses mean no monkey bars at recess. Cowboy boots can be hard to run in and will cause blisters. Super hero capes are just not allowed in class.
The two big considerations for us are 1) does it fit and 2) will it last? We have learned over the years that there is a balance between value and quality. There are many brands and stores we have tested and marked off the list because they don’t last or the fit is uncomfortable.
Things I look for in clothes for my kids:
- Adjustable waistbands. It is a must for all three kids. They are all really skinny and the adjustable waistband allows them to keep their pants up and grow into the sizes.
- Durability. Jeans that tear at the knee are all too common. My kids love to play outside and run around. They also fall down. Jeans that can withstand the wear and tear are important. As soon as they tear in the knee they are out of the school rotation and become at-home jeans. I need to make sure we have as many school jeans as possible.
- Softer fabrics. My daughter has dry skin and, in the winter, jeans will rub her skin and cause a rash. I look for stretch fabrics and softer materials to limit her skin irritation.
- Comfort. Who likes stiff jeans? If the first experience is bad, especially with my son, he will never try them out again. It is a one-shot deal. If they are comfortable, he will try to wear them every day.
I am excited as we begin our Back-to -School shopping. I can’t wait to see what styles emerge from my little fashionistas this year. I’m even more excited to see how our lives will change with three elementary schoolers.
Now that school has started, what are you excited for?