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What’s on Mom and Dad’s Back-To-School Supplies List?

Ah, back to school…new notebooks, brand new shoes the kids have saved for the first day of class, the perfect first-day-of-school outfit and a new lunch box sans the crumbs that build up in the crevices over time. Many of my fellow parent friends are appropriately caught up in the excitement of a new beginning, checking off school-supply lists, filling grocery carts with pencils, erasers, rulers, etc.

As parents of teenage boys, however, back-to-school is a bit different. The grocery cart is just filled with our normal grocery list, and I got more excited than they did about ordering supplies online; when the package arrived, they grunted a barely audible, “thanks.”

There was a time, however, when we had all four kids - two girls and two boys - in tow, each two years apart in school grades, holding their back-to-school lists and shouting in the aisles of Target – “I need this! Where is that? I want a blue one!” When I was living through it I remember thinking, Lord, please help me just survive this current moment. Now, when I am at the store and see other families, I smile and reminisce. As I visit friends with younger kids I enjoy it when the young student enthusiastically shows me the entire bag of supplies, one item at a time.

I love the idea of new beginnings. I always have looked at back-to-school as the mid-year New Year’s Eve, a second chance to make commitments, start new habits and make changes based on the new, post-summer family schedules. I get excited at the idea of new, blank notebooks that will soon be filled with notes from the latest teaching trends, stories and day-dream doodles.

On Facebook, I enjoy seeing pictures posted by my teacher friends of freshly decorated classrooms, welcoming kids to the 2017-2018 school year. There is excitement in the air. Teachers get a renewed start. Students get back into a routine, and parents look forward to returning to some semblance of normalcy, from the summer freedom – no schedule, schedule.

By the time the Fall season officially rolls around the mood usually shifts, from excitement to full on engagement, ranging from stimulating lessons to missed assignments and parent teacher conferences. By Thanksgiving, the kids are looking forward to the holiday vacation days of Winter Break. In January, the official New Year creates a spurt of enthusiasm that has to carry through Spring Break and Easter, and then it is in the home stretch until the school year ends. The cyclical nature of events is so engrained that we may take it for granted.

We often refer to it as the school year “routine,” a sequence of actions, so regularly followed that it can become monotonous. Now, I am starting to get hives. While chaos happens every day, there is some uniformity among the seasons, things to expect at certain times of year, and an ebb-and-flow to the chaos that resembles a routine.

Perhaps routine is on my mind this week because I did my annual calendar mapping exercise, where I take the school calendar, the kid’s individual activity calendars including extra curriculars and mapped events on one family calendar so that we can plan ahead for holidays, long weekends, conflicts and more. It was a little easier this year with only two kids at home, but nonetheless, I can already anticipate some issues that occur around the same time. This is the hazard of a planner; while anticipation is helpful, the planner feels stress well before the events.

Without the distraction of a crayon, marker, folder or back-to-school list, I decided to create my own list to change up the routine and build on the excitement of another school year and new transition.

  • Meet at least one new person a month! Having 9-10 new people in my life will give me many new perspectives to share with and stimulate thinking.

  • Create the anti-bucket list! Leo Babauta at Zen Habits suggests you remove that pressure and focus on the here and now with an "anti-bucket list" instead.

  • Add a new podcast on the drive to work or during your daily walk. Pick a topic for pleasure, not related to work, or kids or marriage. Just listen for fun!

  • Follow a blog writer that makes you smile! Again, there are a number of topics and passionate people who write short quips to stimulate thinking.

  • Make yourself guilt-free passes! Cash them in for yourself on a day when you are feeling overloaded with guilt as a parent and give yourself a break. (Note: you would gladly give one to another parent, why not you!

  • ???

What would you add to the list…not as an additional thing to do, but as a way to capitalize on the energy of a transition time and continue the feeling and experience of a new box of crayons and blank pages on which to write your story?

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