Even if you don't have any children, you probably noticed new school supplies in the stores for the last couple of months. Yep, according to most school districts, summer ends sometime between August 15 and September 6, when it's back to school. Parents of school age kids trot off to Wal-Mart or Target or wherever, list in hand, to pick up the paper, glue sticks, rulers, protractors (do they still use protractors?? Do you even remember what a protractor looks like??? Or what you do with one??), notebooks, pencils, markers, erasers, and so on for the little darlings. Oh, and don't forget a new pencil box!
I used to love helping Ratchlet get her supplies together. It was fun to see all the new colors and designs and gadgets that come out each year. Picking out a new lunch box (they never last more than one school year!) and new school clothes (even if it's just the school uniform in a larger size!), all of it was fun, but then I only had one child. I don't know how multiple-child families do it! Just the logistics of doubling or tripling (or more) all those things and keeping it all straight so that Susie and her brother don't get their stuff mixed up (oh Heaven forbid!....."Mo-ooom! Make Susie get her cooties off of my new Darth Vader lunch box!!!")....I shudder to think!
Every year kids get older and the supplies get more complicated and more expensive! No more lunch box, now it's calculators and laptops. The sneakers they "must" have cost more than all the stuff from previous years put together! Oh my, the mind reels!
It's a ritual and process that every family with kids goes through for a whole lot of years!! A huge chunk of their lives is spent in school....from pre-school to kindergarten to grammar, middle, and high schools, then some go on to college (where it gets REALLY expensive....start saving the day you find out you are pregnant! Trust me on this!). Let me reiterate, every year costs more than the year before....pre-school crayons are cheap....college textbooks are NOT!
You will learn that EVERYONE applies for financial aid for college. There is no shame in applying! I've even heard that some people actually GET money! Not us you understand, but some people. Did I mention that it gets REALLY expensive??!
Of course, then if your kids make it through those four years and aren't totally sick of school, they could even choose to pursue a Master's degree and then.... (oh help!).....a Doctorate!! We won't even mention Dental, Medical, or Law School!! If your child chooses that route it's time to take out that 2nd mortgage because you will have used up all your money paying for college and grad school!
Now if you have raised your kids right, (meaning they understand that you are NOT Fort Knox), somewhere along the way they will take on at least partial responsibility for their education costs and will get a job AND apply for loans (which they will then pay off for the rest of their lives!).
Once you get to that point the end is in sight. Usually by the time they are in their mid-to late twenties their school days are over and the financial drain on the Bank of Mom and Dad dwindles to a halt! They are educated and on their way! They have an actual job, with an actual salary!! And mom and dad can suddenly afford to buy steaks again! Oh happy day!
Whether there is one child or six children, eventually the family reaches the point when all their kids are....dare I say it??....grown up. They have moved on. They have moved out. When the last one takes that very last box filled with whatever has been hiding in the back of his closet for the last 20 years, the house will echo every sound, the house suddenly loses its color and verve! Mostly what you hear are " The Sounds of Silence"
You worry, you cry, will he really be able to take care of himself by himself? He can't even find the clothes hamper most of the time! Mom will decide to make one last sweep to make sure nothing was forgotten. "Oh,look, he forgot a sock!! Well, I'll just drive to Denver from Miami to get his favorite sock back to him!! I can check on him and make sure he's all right, but it won't seem like I'm hovering exactly, 'cause he's gonna want that sock...Right???" Yeah, right.
After you've gotten past those first few weeks of empty nest, it won't take long before you turn his room into a crafts room, and you're looking at brochures for getaway weekends....or CRUISES! Then at some point he'll come back for an extended visit, and oh my word, you'll wonder how you ever lived with the noise!!
It's a long and winding road, getting those kids educated, raised to be responsible and functional adults. But the pay-off is worth every penny, every headache, every worry. Courage, my dears, you will survive, as will they.
And looking back, you will be proud!