Parenting, Abington style: Don’t forget to put a note in the lunch box

As summer comes to a close, I’m reminded that I am not a Pinterest mom, an Etsy mom or even an Instagram mom. My Facebook feed is filled with first day of school photo ops, mine included. But my craftier friends’ kids are pictured holding homemade, perfectly printed signs that detail the year, the grade, and the age.

I have seen countless magazine articles and personal posts that share adorable lunch ideas for elementary school-aged children. The latest trend is the Bento box, taken from Japanese culture. It’s a great idea for keeping the different foods you send separated, but parents are taking it to a whole new level. They cut and gather cold cuts into flower shapes. They skewer cherry tomatoes and fresh baby mozzarella balls to make healthy lunch kabobs, laying them on a beautiful bed of basil leaves. Sandwiches are cut in the shapes of animals, with Cheerios, raisins, or blueberries creating the features on their faces.

Organizational ideas abound. Don’t just plan the week‘s dinner menu, pre-cook all your family’s meals for the whole week every Sunday, Create a home-command-center, complete with pre-printed notes to teachers, color-coded hanging wall files, a dry erase board and a mural-sized master schedule. Lay out the entire week’s clothing on days-of-the-week-labeled hangers.

I could use the excuse that I am an older mom (with children in first grade, last grade and in-between) who has seen and done it all and is simply tired. But the truth is, I was never gifted at super pro-active planning ahead. Back to school shopping in my household has always occurred on the last day before school starts, due to my denial that summer was really ending. And, while I have the rudimentary organizational skills necessary to keep my family functioning, I have never had the ability or inclination to make practical things pretty.

After all these years of parenting, I know what needs to be done and I have accepted that I will do the bare minimum, and it may not be pretty. In order to start the school year on a fairly lazy but decent foot, there are some basics things I firmly ascribe to.

Get any needed dental and medical appointments out of the way before school starts.

Get haircuts.

Have one bin in the house, at least 8 X 10 in size, for each child. That way, when they come home from school each afternoon with numerous papers such as newsletters, permission slips and party invitations, you have somewhere to put them to refer to later when you have time.

Have a pencil box at the ready for your elementary school-aged child to use to do their homework. High schoolers will handle this themselves, and middle school students will be in the process of coming up with their own system that works for them. But the younger child, who really just wants to go play, needs to have quick and easy access to pencils, erasers, crayons, safety scissors and a glue stick.

Stock up on grab-and-go snacks and drinks. The last grocery shopping trip before school starts is always one of the biggest of the year. You want quick and easy things to throw in a backpack for a snack. Even high schoolers will want something quick to grab if they are running late in the morning or are planning for an after-school practice, meeting or extracurricular activity.

I can think of only one superfluous thing I do when it comes to the back to school routine. Certainly not every day or even every week, but when I have the time and the thought enters my mind, I will write a little note and stick it into the lunch box. I still remember the feeling I would get as a little kid, sitting at a crowded lunch table in a noisy cafeteria, when I would find a note from my mom. A few words, a smiley face scrawled on a napkin, or a lipstick kiss was enough to bring a secret smile to my face and remind me of how much I was loved.

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