5 Tips to Prepare You for “Back to School"

When my older son started kindergarten last year I thought I was so prepared. I had bought him a cool backpack from REI, a lunch box that I was sure wouldn’t smell after a week, and a collared shirt for the first day.

Well, I thought I was prepared, but when the first day rolled around, I quickly learned it wasn’t true. Here are the five things I learned:

1)   Don’t buy everything you think you need before school starts.

I went to the back to school sales in the summer and bought my son the cutest blue colored shirt, a couple pairs of shorts, jeans and shoes. The first time I washed the shirt it shrunk an entire size and was even too small for the 4-year-old to wear. Then the 5-year-old went through a crazy growth spurt where he ate everything in sight. So much for the shorts. I bought them one size too big, but they shrunk a bit, too. And I didn’t take my son with me to buy his shoes because until then he really didn’t care. When I showed him the awesome hiking shoes I got him he said, ““These are not cool and I need to be cool!” I hate to break it to you honey, but with these genes, cool is unlikely no matter what you’re wearing.

2)    Find out from a parent with older kids exactly what you need.

The one thing I was excited to buy my son was his backpack because it came from REI and gave me an excuse to go shopping at my favorite store. I love gear and my son’s backpack was super cool – black, sleek with mesh water bottle holders. It’s Kelty so I knew it was good quality. It’s absolutely fabulous except that it doesn’t hold anything. In retrospect, it’s tiny. It needed to fit a lunch box, folder, books, a snack bag and possibly a jacket. But I could barely get the lunch box inside. It survived the year, but I have to go get another one for 1st grade. I’m contemplating a suitcase.

3)    All lunch boxes are disgusting

I looked everywhere for a lunch box that had no fabric so I could wipe it out every night to avoid the moldy, rotten food smell. I found one that seemed perfect, but after a week it smelled like a homeless man used it as a pillow. I had tried the sack lunch boxes from Whole Foods, which cost around $3 and were great because I could wash them, but they fell apart after a couple of weeks. I ended up washing the Kindergartener’s lunch box even though the instructions said not to. Hopefully I did not release toxic chemicals into the box. At least it smells good.

4)    Don’t think because your son or daughter starts school that life will suddenly become easier.

After many years as a stay-at-home mom, I imagined that when my son started school I could start to seriously concentrate on my business. It was the light at the end of the tunnel and I was finally there. Wrong again. It was harder to get any work done. There was homework for my son to do (yes, there’s homework in kindergarten), field trips to go on, and volunteering to be done. Because I had a flexible work schedule I felt I should do as much as I could for the school. In addition to all those, the kids got out early once a week and some days they were off completely.

5)    Don’t say yes to everything. You’ll burn out quickly

On the first day of school, the parents got a questionnaire asking what we would like to do to help volunteer. I checked almost everything off not knowing that I would get a call or email every week asking me to volunteer. At first, I did until I realized it was okay to say no. My plan for the Fall is to volunteer for only the things I’m able to do.

This year, I’m doing very little advance shopping. We’ll figure out what we need as we go.

This post was inspired by the  Yahoo! Motherboard.