On their very first day of school, your child’s world, which up until now you’ve been able to finely orchestrate, will suddenly expand. And you will confront two equally powerful truths: 1. This is a huge and momentous step toward their future. 2. This is their first real step away from you.
The good news is that 3. It marks their first real belonging to a community, who yes, will threaten the order you have arranged for your kid so far, but also will provide a scaffolding of support and friendly faces that will help you as you guide your kids into the great, wide world. The school community — the teachers and the administrators; the “lunch ladies” (#tbt) and the janitors and the nurses and the crossing guards; the other kids and their families — is just about our modern-day culture’s last vestige of that longed-for village. Aside from the unbeatably thrilling sight of a fresh box of crayons and a new, carefully chosen little lunch box, that’s what makes it exciting! But that’s also what can make it a little (or extremely) nerve-wracking.
As a little girl, I looked forward to going back to school with a mixture of anticipation (New notebooks! New shoes! A new chance to astonish everyone with my amazing new post-summer personality!), and dread. School wasn’t always easy for a bookworm being raised by a single mom with very limited means and a penchant for tofu-based lunches. When it came time to send my own daughter, Isabella, off into the mean streets of the 2’s room at the Playhouse Co-Op Preschool, I worried that I’d pass on to her my own anxieties about never quite fitting in. What I’ve learned since then, over a series of first days — first day of pre-K! (sob!)… of kindergarten! (sob, sob!)... of first grade!... middle school!... HIGH SCHOOL! (sob, sob, and sob!) — is that even though our children each have different personalities and different needs, different challenges awaiting them, our best hope is that the proverbial village will both rise to meet them where they are and in fact give them something else we never even thought of to help them blossom. The bell rings and they are off; as parents we can only wish to enjoy watching them find that perfect lunchbox they'll one day look back on with a pang of nostalgia.
Romper’s Back To School issue is all about making these school days — that little universe stretching from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. — the best and the easiest they can be. We’ve tackled some of the classic logistical and anxious first-time-school-parent questions in the hopes of making it a little easier to enjoy the process as your kids discover their own sense of identity, outside of and beyond you, their parents.
Be nice to all your friends, and if someone is alone at recess go and talk to them, and maybe then you can be their friend and they'll be your friend, and your mom can call their mom, and you can have a play date. —Olivia, 7
In this issue, you’ll find out how to tell if your kid is adjusting to their new schedule, great advice on creating an after-school routine that works best for you and your family (whether you’re a SAHM or work at an office a million hours a week), and 15 super easy Instant Pot recipes that will save you time and effort and actually get eaten. We asked teachers to tell us how they help kids who are really missing their parents at school, because that’s something we worry about! (Surely they miss us as much as we miss them, right?) And then we turned to the real experts on this back-to-school thing, and got 13 first-graders to share their words of wisdom for soon to be kindergarteners.
In Romper’s latest A La Cart, curated with love by our alarmingly stylish senior lifestyle editor Anne Vorrasi, feast your eyes on 109 products that deserve consideration for a spot in your kids’ back-to-school wardrobe. You’ll find plenty of clothes for the space-enthusiast “explorer,” the kid who’s more of a “foodie” than you are, and even the little “minimalist” who really prefers to keep it simple — and that’s just for starters (we’ve also got your dreamer, your rock star, your Sporty Spice, and your aspiring paleontologist covered). There’s some great stuff in there for you, too: cute everyday pieces that are slightly elevated to make you feel a little more put together (if that’s a priority) — or just an excuse to shop for yourself because YOU EXIST, TOO. And yes, there are a ton of affordable options! Because we know that back to school means a big financial burden for most families in America.
I think that we all get wrapped up in things like, 'Well, the swimsuit doesn't belong down there.' Don't worry about that. That's not important. You know, it does belong down there if it's in use every day. —Clea Shearer, @TheHomeEdit
Once you’ve got all the stuff, of course, the question is where to put it. This time in Contain Yourself, our series where we go inside the homes of fascinating people and find out how they, well, contain all their stuff, we asked the founders of the immensely satisfying and beautiful Instagram account The Home Edit to tell us once and for all just how to organize an entryway so it actually stays that way. Whether you’ve only got a little corner where shoes pile up on the regular (hi!) or a full-on mudroom (I am jealous), Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, who have two husbands and four kids between them, have the tips and methods that will help. Their “drop zone” approach is going to change all of our lives, I just know it.
One thing that every parent needs to survive a school year? A sense of humor. In the quiz that acknowledges the real test is your performance in the drop-off lane, Brooke Preston digs into your personal lewk, whether No. 6 shearling clogs or a pair of aggressively casual Crocs, and delivers a hilarious assessment of what you are telegraphing to other parents with your “style.” (Scare quotes hers, and also likely yours.)
And last but in no way least, we’re thrilled to share with you Meg Boggs’ takeover of #Before9am, Romper’s Instagram series devoted to showcasing just how much a mom gets done before most people are even awake. This amazing blogger’s day starts at 5:36 a.m. and is a gorgeous reminder of just who exactly is running the world (it’s a job that often starts with making breakfast in our undies).
Before you unlatch your backpack from the hook, know that “8 to 3” kicks off Romper’s annual back-to-school coverage, the rest of which you can find under “more back to school.” From now through September, you’ll find new reports on the questions parents want answered, helpful lists so you stay on top of it, and essays and op-eds that explore what going to back to school means for families around the country. As always, our coverage acknowledges that the back-to-school experience isn’t the same for every kid in the U.S.
My job, and my joy as a mom for more than a decade, has been to let the process of discovery unfold for Isabella on her terms, while being there to support and facilitate and try (try!!) to keep track of the approx 172,000 pieces of paper that come through homes with school-aged children via a backpack every September through June. This fall, that little 2-year-old I so nervously left in the care of her very first preschool teacher all those years ago is somehow going to be a junior in high school, and she’s never once been left home from a field trip because I lost the darn permission slip. (Though, I still have two years to go — I won’t call this one yet.)
— April Daniels Hussar, Managing Editor
To help make the world a little bit more right for all our kids, you can support the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) or Save The Children’s U.S. Programs Support Fund.