What I’ve learned after 13 years
This year is Emmett’s Senior Year. It’s big. And I can’t believe it’s here. I know it’s cliche but…the time goes way too fast. Some days feel like time is creeping by but when it gets to this moment it feels like the years are a blur more than anything.
Why this one is different
Like every year, I’m torn with feelings of letting the lazy summer sleep-in mornings (even if it’s busy we rarely HAVE to be up by 6am) go to the wayside for the next 9 months and being grateful for schedules and life being back into some kind of order. This year I was especially wishing for the summer to go slow and the school year to remain at bay. This year marks the end of having Emmett at home all of the time and means next summer is the beginning of prepping for college and our family dynamic changing dramatically.
To celebrate 17 years of seeing Emmett start his last first day of school (let’s all agree that college first days of school are much different) here’s a list of things we’ve learned.
Over 17 years we’ve found:
No one sleeps well the night before school starts. Miriam said it’s like the night before Christmas. The anticipation makes it impossible to sleep. The kids are wired, summer sleep hours still haven’t worn off and no one is tired at the school bedtime hour. And to top it off Emma can’t stop bouncing around, saying stuff that makes no sense, and being completely happily funny…until 11pm when we just want her to go to sleep because 6:30 comes way to early.
Brand new clothes on the first day of school are unnecessary. For many years we went back-to-school shopping. Until we realized that the weather doesn’t suddenly change on the day school starts. It’s still 1000 degrees! So now, my kids just pick out their favorite summer time outfit to wear to school instead of dying of heat from the fall time outfit we purchased for the first day of school.
Back-to-school clothes shopping happens, for us, sometime in October/November when it’s time to wear the winter clothes that are in the stores.
Wearing a great outfit that gives you confidence is a must. “It is better to look good than to feel good.” Billy Crystal had it all wrong (for any of you who grew up in the 80s). What kids really want is to feel great on the first day of school. They want to feel confident…not sweaty.
I remember a few of my first days of school…getting a new outfit when I was a kid and not wanting to wait until the weather was cooler to wear it. I couldn’t get home fast enough to peel off the sweater I had worn, that was now dripping in sweat, after walking home from the bus. Choosing something to wear that looks great AND feels good for the first day of school is a key for day one of school.
The first day of school is a social event. No school work actually gets accomplished. There’s nothing to stress over. You get to see all of your friends you missed over the summer that didn’t live in your neighborhood or that went away for them entire 3 month break…or most of it.
One full tree is harmed per kid that goes to school. The stack of papers that comes home from school is usually enough to make sure that one tree was used per child in order to make sure all said papers could be signed and brought back to school on the second day.
Thankfully, there were a lot less papers this year. There were so few papers my kids didn’t even remember to get my signature stamp from my studio.
Cleaning the house 2-3 days before school starts is a great idea. This is my favorite. A lot of people have spring cleaning. We have end of summer cleaning. Everyone goes through their drawers and pulls out everything they out grew over the summer, we go through closets, and we clean all of the stuff that we ignored during our summer bliss.
It feels great to have the house clean a few days before school begins. It feels fresh and in order. And then we get to put all of our energy into having fun for the last 2-3 days of our summer break.
The story of back-to-school starts way before the picture on the front step the morning school starts. I see lots of creative ideas on how to take pictures of kids on the first day of school. The thing is…the first day of school story starts long before the first day of school starts.
We shop for school supplies, we get the house clean, we play, we have a back to school dinner, etc. I try to remember that our back to school story starts before the front steps at 7am on the day school starts. I talk more about this one here and here.
Kids grow out of being followed into school getting their picture taken. I only have one child that lets me follow her into school. So I’m savoring it. I think I’ve only got one more first day of school to walk into her class with her. When 6th grade ends so does the walking into school….even if your friends think it’s cool that your mom is photographer.
After 6th grade all bets are off and the first day of school is not the day your mom says hi to your teachers or sees your friends in their first day of school outfits. These days are super close to being over (this link made me gasp at the years that have passed).
Everyone likes to talk when they get home from school the first day. Good questions are key when they walk in the door or at the dinner table that evening. I love hearing the stories of seeing friends, what teachers said, who they predict to be their favorite teacher this year, and all of the conversations that are bursting to be had at the end of the day.
I always think the first day of school is going to be so awesome for ME! I always think I’m going to get a boatload of work done that I’ve put off because I’ve been playing for the last 7 days before school starts or I’ve only been half doing because I’ve been trying to be half mom/half business woman.
It never happens. I try to work. I get some stuff done but I’m not nearly as productive as I imagine I’m going to be. Part of it is because I am anxious to here first day of school stories. And part of it is because I hope that I was a good mom over the summer. The other part is realizing that another year is here and it doesn’t seem real. Another part of it, this year, was because it’s Emmett’s senior year and I realized there’s still so much to squeeze in before next year at this time.
It seems like I should be hanging from the rafters in complete and utter joy now that I have the house to myself again. Instead, out of nowhere, I cry at least once.
It doesn’t get easier as they get older. It seems like the first day of school should get easier each year. It doesn’t.
Summer is awesome but routines are a sigh of relief…for everyone. As much as the first day of school means the end of summer randomness I do love that it also means getting back to routines. During the summer it’s much harder to stick with our nightly reading (which we all miss). It’s so nice to get back to the things that keep us connected in the school year.
Leave the 2 days before school begins open for playing and making the best of the last bit of summer (with a clean house). I love getting to play knowing that everything is in order for the first day of school! As much as the kids don’t want to admit it, they do, too.
Back to school dinner is a great time to talk about what’s about to happen this year (eat out or eat at home). We’ve done our Back to School Dinner at home where everyone helps to get dinner made and we sit on our back deck. We’ve also gone out to dinner. There’s no right way to do it but we love the chance to sit around the table and talk about what’s ahead and what the first day of school is going to be like.
Get your class schedule before school begins. I have three kids that are no longer in elementary. Emmett gets his schedule from the HS and the girls get theirs at back to school night. Having everyone’s schedules opens up discussions about what to expect. Our middle school lets everyone practice their schedule…they get to actually change classes together with their classmates. It’s a great way to get ready for the first day of school.
Buy school supplies at least 7 days before school starts or you won’t be able to get them all. Trust me on this one. I may or may not be admitting to knowing how many school supplies are available at midnight the day before school starts.
You don’t need all of your school supplies for the first day of school. This one we learned because of what we know from the previous thing we learned. No one needs those supplies on the first day of school. The most anyone needs (unless you’re in elementary school) is paper and pencil.
Notes in lunches are a great way to start the year. They can be funny or encouraging. Notes are a fantastic way to give my kids support and fun on the first day of school. I like Nacho and Napoleon quotes and include a little of my own tip for the day. A note I sent to school: “Be grateful, Juan Pablo, today is especially delicious. TIP #327: It’s best not to have beans come out of your nose on the first day of school.”
It’s wayyy harder to get up for the 2nd day of school than it was to get up for the 1st day of school! It’s true.
I really can’t believe I’ve already done 13 first days of school. Life is so full and so fast and so crazy.
What lessons have you learned about the first day of school?
Davina Fear is a Familyness Photographer and Adventurer. She photographs Day in the Life sessions for families while she road trips around the country and has plastic sword fights at QuikTrip at 4am (see those adventures on her instagram feed @davinafear ).