Then: You’re trying to enjoy the final lazy days of summer when, while watching TV on the Sunday night of Labour Day weekend, you catch a glimpse of a back-to-school commercial. You cry real tears. How could summer be over already?
Now: The last day of school has barely passed and the back-to-school commercials are already trumpeting savings on binders and shoes. The back-to-school display at your local Staples went up July 2, alerting you to the new washi tape designs and backpacks that will sell out before you can get your kids to make up their minds.
Then: You head over to the nearest mall to grab a new pair of pants and some shirts. You beg your mom for cool jeans from Stitches, but she can’t stand the loud music playing in the store and refuses to go inside with you. You make a vow that next year you’ll shop with your friends instead.
Now: In July, you create a detailed list of items that will be needed and keep checking websites for deals on artisanal underwear and organic cotton dresses. You notice some cute winter stuff at Joe Fresh, so you add that to your ever-expanding list. You can finally rest once you’ve bought every article of clothing your kids claim they’ll need.
Then: You grab your new outfit for the first day of school—only it’s not exactly new because it’s a hand-me-down from your older cousin. At least you cut the neckline so your shoulder peeks out daringly. You throw on a pair of Stan Smiths or Tretorns and run out the door.
Now: You’ve planned and colour blocked each child’s outfits for the first week in advance. Of course, the kids had plenty of say in their outfits and they’ve chosen well—everything is subtly colour coordinated yet still quirky and offbeat. Their new Converse sneakers make you feel pretty cool, though.
Then: The Roots book bag you begged for last Christmas is still totally awesome. Lunch boxes are for nerds.
Now: You panic when you realize that schoolbag trends have changed once again. Where can you find a retro-looking knapsack that holds a laptop and your child’s collection of sparkly gel pens? But it’s the search for the perfect lunch box that really takes up your time. The $40 bento box from last year never recovered from your attempt at kale Caesar salad with home-cured salmon and aioli—perhaps tiffin boxes wrapped with homemade ribbon is the way to go this year. You stock up on BPA-free sandwich boxes for the days you feel lazy. You buy a stack of reusable snack bags made of organic, bird-safe cotton from a company that loves children and pays fair wages. You invest a small fortune in reusable water bottles that won’t leak, crack or dent—then invest another small fortune in three months’ time when they’re all lost.
Then: You pour some milk on your Cap’n Crunch and off you go!
Now: You get up extra early to make spelt berry pancakes with a coconut cream chia pudding topping. The kale and cucumber smoothies may be rejected, but, hey, maybe you can convince the kids to start their year off on the right foot.
Then: Turkey and processed cheese slices on white bread, an apple that you’ll never eat and a few Twizzlers. Since it’s the first day, you might even get a Jos Louis as a treat. Water, milk or Tang goes in the Thermos.
Now: You’ve carefully and artfully arranged each child’s special meal. Every morsel is organic and full of healthy fats and fibre. You usually give treats on Thursdays, but since today is special, you’ve whipped up some quinoa banana muffins with chocolate chips. You check this year’s list of banned items and make sure your reusable items pass the school’s three-point approval rating. You’ve been workshopping your lunch box poems and jokes in your private Facebook group—this year, the kids will love them.
Then: Photos? Does anyone have first-day-of-school photos at the bottom of a shoebox somewhere?
Now: Now’s the time for your Pinterest addiction to pay off. You’ve been practising your chalkboard lettering all summer and your boards are perfect. Each child holds up his or her grade and wish for the school year. It takes about 32 minutes per child to get a smile—good thing you rehearsed their silly-face poses last week. Your crack Photoshop skills are a lifesaver when it comes to removing tears. You upload the photos to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine and Ello and email the grandparents who aren’t on social media. You yell at the kids as they take another 27 minutes taking selfies and uploading them to Instagram, Snapchat, Zedge, YouTube and a bunch of other social media platforms you don’t even know about.
Then: You wait for your BFF to pick you up, scream in delight when you notice you’re wearing similar outfits and run out the door waving goodbye to your mom, who is still in her PJs.
Now: The timer starts ringing when your 10-minute mark nears. You start shaking your keys and yelling as the time to leave gets closer. You load your kids in the car, but one kid forgot his backpack so you run back inside. Another kid forgot his expensive water bottle, so you run back inside. You pull out of your driveway with seconds to spare. The only problem is that you’re still in your PJs—your artfully chosen first-day-of-school outfit is still hanging in the closet.
Then: Your mother meets your teacher for the first (and perhaps only) time at parent-teacher interviews in November.
Now: You start phoning the school after you drop off the kids to set up one-on-ones so you can go over your child’s strengths and idiosyncrasies and how purple crayons make him anxious. You hope to set up biweekly Skype sessions with the teacher and get your name in the running for class parent early. No one calls you back.
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