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     The first week of school is always the best of times and the worst of times for both parents and their kiddos. As mamas, we wait all summer for that magical day. The day when the shiny yellow buses will pull up to our homes and whisk our insufferable yet adorably clad children from our shoving arms and then babysit them for 8 whole hours.... for free. The day when we find ourselves standing quietly in our kitchens, alone yet joined with every other mother in the world, as we take a sip of coffee and finally feel hope in the thought that we may get to finish the entire cup without a single interruption. The day when we spend thoughtful amounts of time picking outfits for the next day, packing a variety of lunches that comply with the food pyramid, having a snack ready for the lovelies when they walk in the door after their hard day of learning, and then we feed them the delicious (yet nutritious) dinner that we actually had time to plan, prep, and cook.
     Our kids are equally as excited about the first week of school. The thought of getting away from their siblings and being around peers is thrilling where they are free to discuss deep things like action figures, rock collections, and dress shoes with a quarter-inch heel.... things that their families couldn't possibly understand. The promise of little to no homework is a dream come true as they get to know their yet-to-be-frazzled teachers, who are still wearing smiles and giving free passes to rules forgotten over those long summer months. Children are just as excited running to the bus as they are to be running from it at the end of the day, and the prospect of learning new things isn't "scary", "too hard", or "unfair". Yes, autumn is truly a magical time.
     But we all know that after autumn, there must always be a winter....
     It is almost with certainty that before the first snow fall (or maybe even by the third week of school?) things will start getting a bit.....hairy. Instead of meticulously picking out a fashionable yet practical outfit for each kiddo the night before school, we will be scurrying around in the morning looking for clean things (aka things that don't stink or stand up on their own) and that don't look hideous together. (And even if they do look hideous, we won't mind all that much.) Daughters will be sent to school wearing skirts on gym day, and sons will wear, with utter certainty, a white t-shirt on art day. Peanut butter and jelly will be eaten 5 days in a row because no one had time to do the shopping, and the food groups will get overtaken by Halloween candy, Christmas candy, Valentine's Day candy, and Easter candy. Dinner will turn into chicken patties and tater tots being scarfed down before running frantically out the door to fundraisers and sporting events.
     And if we think that we have it bad, let's remember our poor kids! We must keep in mind that their brains turned to oatmeal over the summer, and that will become painfully obvious to parents, teachers, and the children themselves as simple review questions take a nasty turn to something called "learning new things". Their world's will be shattered by new concepts named "geometry" and "grammar". Tears will be shed. Pencils will be thrown. Homework battles will ensue. Along with spelling words, our kiddos will also learn street smarts by winter. You know all those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you'll be packing? Yeah, there's not a chance in this world that they're eating them. They will have learned the handiness of trading or the sneakiness of throwing it away when they realize that everyone else's parent has also packed them a 5th PB&J that week. I doubt this will lead to a life of criminal activity or gang-related violence, but we'll never know for sure, will we?
     It's the first week of school and it's the best of times. So enjoy it. Every minute. If you're home, kick your heels up for a half hour (ok ok, an hour) and watch a T.V. show with a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Celebrate! You earned it after the summer you gave them. And if you're a mama working outside of the home, stop by that coffee shop on your lunch break and treat yourself to a second scone, because you don't have to spend those extra few minutes calling the sitter to see if she got the glue out of your daughter's hair, courtesy of her brother. Enjoy. Every. Second. And then, after week two is in full swing, put on your big girl panties and start doing your push ups. Because we all know that the craziness is about to hit the fan and we will want to be prepared. And we can do it! We MUST do it! Remember that no one ever died from PB&J, spelling tests, or forgetting to pack gym shoes. Give yourself (and your kiddos) a little bit of grace as the weeks trudge on and mop up the crap as it drops. It'll be OK, I promise you, from one crazed Mama to another. Just don't forget the coffee.