Back to School, 1970s:
1. Take the kids downtown to go shopping at Sears for back to school clothes the last week of August. Get everyone a new pair of corduroys and a striped tee shirt. Buy the boys a pair of dungarees and the girls a pair of culottes. No, Jennifer, you can’t have that orange and red poncho. Promise you will crochet her a better one with much more fringe. Get the girls a package of that rainbow, fuzzy yarn they like in their hair. You are done. You have spent a total of $43.00. Now take everyone to the Woolworth’s lunch counter for grilled cheeses and chocolate milk.
2. On the night before the first day of school (that would be the Sunday night after Labor Day, of course, you know, mid-September) throw the kids in the way back of the station wagon and drag them downtown to Eckerds, K-Mart, Ames, Dollar General, Drug Fair or the like and hurry them over to the back-to-school area to pick out a lunchbox. Make sure to tell them get a move on because you don’t have all night for them to make a damn decision. They need to get in bed by eight and yes, they’re going to miss the Wonderful World of Disney if they can’t decide between The Fonz and Dukes of Hazzard. Good Lord, why is it so hard for them to pick? Tell Kimberly if she can’t make up her mind between Holly Hobbie and The Bionic Woman then you’re going to pick Pigs in Space and you don’t want to hear another word about it until June. Grab a composition book for each of them and a pack of pencils too. That’s all they need. Remember to save some grocery bags so they can cover their textbooks with them after the first day of school.
3. Buy yourself a pack of Virginia Slims on the way out and smoke three of them on the way home.
4. Get up in the morning and make yourself a cup of Sanka with Sweet ‘n’ Low. Line up all the lunchboxes on the formica counter top in your kitchen. Open up a bag of Wonder Bread and do this assembly line style.
5. Spread yellow mustard on bread. Slap baloney on bread. Unwrap American cheese slices and put on top of baloney. Put top on the sandwich and wrap sandwich in tin foil or wax paper. Put it in the lunchbox. Every kid gets the same exact lunch. Period.
6. Alternate sandwich choices could include: Peanut butter and grape jelly, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, the end of last night’s leftover roast beef or the ever popular with children tuna fish with large chunks of onions and celery and Miracle Whip.
7. Put some Planter’s Cheese Balls into a baggie and close with a twist tie.
8. Take Twinkies out of the box. Put one in each child’s lunch box.
9. Fill thermoses with either Kool-Aid or whole milk.
10. Include a red delicious apple even though you know that damned apple is just going to come home uneaten again, which is fine because you can keep adding the same one until it practically rots.
11. Close the lunchboxes. You’re done. Go put some Barry Manilow on the record player and celebrate that your kids are out of the house until dinner time. They’ll grab them, along with a frosted, dutch apple Pop-Tart on the way out the door as they walk a half mile down the road to get to the bus stop.
Back to School, 2014
1. Take five deep breaths and say a positive affirmation. School begins in two weeks. It is the middle of July. Don’t worry, you still have time to order BPA-free bento boxes and authentic Indian tiffins made with special stainless steel that did not involve any child-labor, sweat shops or animal cruelty. Remember, you have Amazon Prime. You can get the free two day shipping and you will have plenty of time to read reviews and make this very important decision because your kids are in summer “camp” which is actually just another word for school in the summer because OH MY GOD you were so tired that day you had to have them home all day with you and you couldn’t go to your restorative flow class at yoga. And that was also the day something went terribly wrong with the homemade glitter cloud dough recipe that was supposed to go in their sensory bin and the very same day that they were out of soy milk at Starbucks and you had to immediately email corporate to let them know that duh, they should actually be selling almond milk and/ or coconut milk. Get with it Starbucks. Soy is so 90s. Ugh, but you digress. The tiffin. The bento boxes…
2. One Week Later: The bento boxes and tiffins have arrived. So has your childrens’ school’s annual list of school supplies that you must purchase and deliver. It is three and a half pages long. It includes a ten pound bag of flour and several cleaning products and also requests a Costco-sized package of toilet paper.
3. Begin frantic online search for backpacks and school bags made from all natural materials yet still “cool.” Have them monogrammed.
4. Take kids shopping at the mall for new school clothes. Buy them each a completely new wardrobe from Gymboree and Crew Cuts. Spend $2,387.07 on your credit card.
5. Take children to the child psychologist to prepare them mentally for the difficult transition to a new grade, new teacher and new classroom.
6. Intently study the allergy list the school has sent you which lists all the items that other children in your children’s classes are allergic to and thus cannot be sent in your child’s lunch either. This is extremely stressful because the last thing you (or anyone) wants to be responsible for is sending a second grader into anaphylactic shock. Make notes on your phone so you can remember what not to buy when you go to Whole Foods.
7. Purchase school supplies for your children. Not to be confused with the 3 1/2 page list of classroom supplies you are also responsible for. They will need paper, pens, folders, notebooks, a calligraphy set, fifteen new apps for their tablets, a graphing calculator, a scalpel, an electron microscope and a centrifuge.
8. Go to Whole Foods to shop for school lunch items. This will take 4 hours and 15 minutes because you have to read every single label to make sure you are purchasing organic, locally sourced, non-GMO, gluten-free, allergy friendly products. You come home with tahini, bananas and a package of brown rice cakes. You somehow spent $76.19.
9. The night before the first day of school prepare the bento boxes. Fill containers with organic, local strawberries intricately cut into the shapes of sea creatures. Include homemade, nut free granola made with certified gluten-free oats. Make a sandwich on vegan hemp bread out of tahini, kale and jicama. Form it into the shape of your child’s favorite Disney character. Make flowers out of non-dairy cheese slices, olives and seaweed. Photograph the finished Bento Box and post it to Instagram.
10. Write your child an encouraging note which includes an inspirational quote.
11. Include a sheet of stickers for good measure.
12. Fill a Siig bottle with filtered water and also include a box of chilled coconut water in the Bento Box because children can never be too hydrated. Ever.
13. Blog about this experience. Pray it goes viral and is picked up by HuffPo.
14. Get up at 4AM on the first day of school. Make first day of school signs for each child to hold as you photograph them on the front step. Make a bunting to hang above the front door. Blow up balloons. Actually, go ahead and make a full on back to school photo booth.
15. Make pancakes in the shape of the letters of the alphabet.
16. Dress kids in coordinated outfits and spend 35 minutes posing and photographing them (with your phone).
17. Load everyone into the car to drive them to school.
18. When they are safely in their new classrooms, return to your car to cry for the next 20 minutes. But it’s okay, really. You’ll be back in six hours to pick them up and drive them to Synchronized Swimming, Cello and Urdu classes this afternoon.