I feel like this might not be the most positive post. But it’s my blog and I get to tell the truth.
I can’t get excited about “Back to School” anything. This isn’t to say that I’m not looking forward to the school year starting up. Believe me, I am! We’re currently in the middle of Week 11 of Summer Vacation. School for us starts after Labor Day.
What I’m talking about is all the fuss that’s made over “Back to School.” The sales, the school supplies, the new gadgets, the Buy Buy Buy mentality that every store in America is trying to get you to embrace. Going back to school doesn’t mean you have to buy everything.
You can go back to school wearing the same clothes you wore all summer (around here the temps don’t dip until late October).
You can go back to school with any old notebook and old pencils and pens.
You can go back to school with last year’s backpack, lunch box, sneakers, or whatever.
(Pretty anti-American of me, right? Check out the data. “According to NRF’s 2013 Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year. Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion.”)
Now, I like shopping. I like deals. I like buying new things for my kids. But I don’t like being made to feel like I have to—that my child’s self-esteem will suffer without all-new stuff. Nobody needs all-new stuff.
I don’t like the way I get sucked into shiny ads or sales, looking for deals and cute things that we don’t really need. And I really don’t like the way that ads attempt to suck in my kids. (Leave us alone! We’re fine just the way we are.)
And I REALLY don’t like the giant, nationwide push to make fashion something kids need to think about. (Fashion is bullshit and can even be harmful. In this regard, I am lucky. My boys seldom notice fashion trends. At this point, this is what they look for in a shoe: “Does it make me really fast, Mama?”)
When the weather turns colder, we’ll buy jeans.
When there are no more pencils or pens in the kitchen drawer or my office, we’ll buy more. (And I’ll check the kids’ desk and “drawing baskets” first.)
When the shoes don’t fit or are too worn, we’ll buy new ones.
I’ll replace the T-shirts that are too stained or don’t fit anymore.
Just a few new things will do.
I’m tired of everyone trying to sell me stuff, aren’t you? Fending off the online ads and the billboards and the junk mail is exhausting.
Keep it simple.
Replace what you must. Reuse stuff from last year; get as much use and joy out of it as you can.
Spend your money on experiences instead of stuff whenever possible. Aren’t you struggling with too much stuff anyway? Yes? So is your child.
So, here’s what I think is important about “Back to School.”
If you still have summer vacation left, LIVE it. Go back to your list of “things to do this summer” and see if there are a few more experiences that you can squeeze in. Want some ideas?
- Make popsicles. Yes, again.
- Visit the zoo.
- Spend as much time as possible at the lake/beach/swimming pool.
- Hike in nature.
- Go to a drive-in movie as a family. Remember those? They’re still cool.
- Go to the library, point your kid at an age-appropriate section and say, “Choose anything!”
- Break out the old pencils and do a little bit of math or writing. Warm up those skills just a little. Don’t overdo it!
Think of any special thing that you can’t or don’t do during the school year and do that!
Now, if you don’t have any summer vacation left, if your kids have already started school as many public schools in our area have done, here are a few more tips that can make “Back to School” safe and sane.
- Spend your time and energy establishing a good rhythm that works for your family.
- Focus on your values and reinforce them.
- Don’t sweat it. Allow for some time to adjust.
- Choose five new, easy recipes that you and the kids can make on school nights.
- Whenever time and weather allow, go outside.
- Be reasonable when buying.