PHOTOS, FROM TOP: COPYRIGHT © 2012 BY BEN FINK; COURTESY OF MELISSA D’ARABIAN
with Melissa d’Arabian
ast year, I saved all my back-
to-school shopping for the last
day of summer vacation. By
the time my four daughters—
then ages 7, 6, 5, and 5—and I hit our
third store of the day, I was over-
whelmed. I surveyed the packed Old
Navy and imagined the worst: the
ve us squashed into dressing rooms
made for one; agrant violations of
the garment maximum; me rehang-
ing clothes like a madwoman.
Trying to corral my shoppers
(who—unlike their mom—just
the mall), I announced, “Sales rack
rst!” But my girls weren’t listening.
They were in a huddle, the older ones
giving the twins a
pep talk, explain-
ing the major
privilege of starting
shopping in “a store
with a dressing
room.” The li le
ones listened as
intently as if the
wisdom were com-
ing down fromMount Olympus.
Watching the girls delight in this
coming-of-age ritual reminded me
that back-to-school time is not just a
date on the calendar. For kids, it’s like
New Year’s Day, a chance to reinvent
themselves. (“This year, I want to
be great in math!” my 7-year-old
announced.) It’s their opportunity to
hit the restart bu on. And that begins
with fresh backpacks, more grown-up
shoes (goodbye, Velcro), and cool new
lunch boxes. Why had I dreaded this?
It’s true, school shopping can be
a hassle. But our yearly pilgrimage
to multiple stores to track down that
clearance backpack or 10-cent glue
stick provides an annual
yardstick of my daughters’
growth, like the pencil
ticks on the wall register-
ing their changing heights.
As the supplies we stock
up on—from shoes to
grade by grade, they make for a time
capsule of my children’s lives.
This year my oldest girl told me
she needs narrow-ruled instead
of wide-ruled paper, and we’ll buy
more ballpoint pens than crayons or
chubby markers. For the rst time in
d’Arabian history, not one princess
will make an appearance on any item
of clothing, backpack, or lunch box.
I just bought
all four girls a
soon enough the
oldest will need
one that doesn’t
come from the
dollar bin but can
exponents. Another tick.
Years ago, someone gave my
husband and me some good advice:
Don’t let the inconveniences of your
kids’ infant years dictate the family
you create; instead, be guided by the
family you imagine si ing around
your future Thanksgiving table. My
greatest challenge is not le ing small
daily hassles obscure the big picture—
the glorious mess that is life.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to
enjoy every minute. But embracing
the chaos can be a great coping
mechanism for parenting. Or a
ridiculously long checkout line.
Note to self: Shop earlier this year.
and recipes in her
Ten Dollar Dinners
cookbook and stay
in touchwith her on
Facebook, Twi er,
Donate good-quality school supplies
from last year (backpacks, lunch
boxes) before buying new ones.
Have a special lunch while school
shopping, even something as simple
as a picnic on a mall bench.
Let your child pick one new item that
is just for fun. (I love the dollar store or
bin for this!)
In the first few weeks, invite the
families of your childrens classmates
over for coffee and muffins. Kids love to
connect with peers in their own home.
Have your child write three questions
on a note card to give to his or
her teacherWhat is your favorite meal?
Do you have pets?to develop a
WAYS TO MAKE BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL
THE HOST OF FOOD NETWORK’S
EMBRACES THE BACKTO SCHOOL SPIRIT
Melissa’s four daughters, from left: Margaux, 5;
Valentine, 8; Charlotte, 7; and Océane, 5.
© PARADE Publications 2013. All rights reserved.