Back to School

This week, Teresa McShane talks about the challenges of getting ready for back to school.

No sooner have the schools broken up for the summer than we are being catapulted into the maelstrom of ‘back to school’ stress . Ads emblazoned on bus shelters about deals on copy books, pencils and uniforms. Posts on Facebook ask, ‘Are You Ready for the New School Year…?’.  Buy One, Get one Half Price!’.  Get 15% off your school books THIS WEEK ONLY!  Kit your Kid out for a Fiver at www….etc.

By my tone so far, you might have gathered that if anyone is looking here for tips on how to ride this wave of chaos, I am not the person to ask.  With three weeks to go before D-day, I am in official ‘melt-down’!

I am a mother of two boys, one of whom is returning to secondary but the other is just going into 1st year.  Luckily, the school they go to is fairly on the ball and we received their booklists swiftly in July with Child A’s school report, a bill for our ‘Voluntary Contributions’ and a note of ‘Dates for the Diary’.

No excuse for complacency now.  I seize the moment accordingly and head straight for the local bookshop, feeling organised and in control.  Three hours later I get the text informing me that my books are ready for collection. 

I am on a roll. 

Unfortunately, I am told, as I hand over my credit card, that they don’t have book ‘x’ or book ‘y’ until next week and they are ‘unlikely to have book ‘z’ until the first week of August’.  So, before I even start, I am already knocked back.  Don’t even get me started on the uniform!  “What do you mean, he’s just too small for anything in stock?”  In any case, the ticks I was hoping to apply deftly to my ‘To Do’ list have been halted in their tracks and I am already starting to unravel.

At least, I think, I did get their bus tickets organised.  But even that wasn’t straightforward and though I was reeeally concentrating, somehow I managed to double-order!  Why do all instructions these days seem to be cryptic?

Or, is it just me?

I wonder if my own mother struggled in this way, to get us organised for the start of the new school year?  Did she experience that creeping tingle of stress in the back of her neck at the thought of the task at hand?

Apparently, it has always been a nightmare.  But how lucky we are now that we no longer have to make that annual crusade to Oliver Plunkett Street.  And how novel that many schools now adopt a ‘Book Rental Scheme’ enabling students to borrow their books for a modest fee.  No ordering online ‘back in our day’, I’ll have you know! 

So, what am I doing wrong?

I made my list fairly early on in the summer and I really thought that this year I would be on top of things:

-          Empty school bags (and lunchboxes)

-          Drop booklists to shop

-          Buy copies/pens/etc.

-          Buy uniforms/shoes

-          Sort bus tickets

Now, at a glance, that seems fairly straightforward!

Maybe it was when I figured (naively), “it’s only June. I have loads of time…!’ that things went pear-shaped? 


Or, maybe it’s the ‘in-your-face’ marketing that didn’t exist in our mum’s day, putting us under pressure.  It places that ticking time bomb in our brains that the proverbial will hit the fan (or at least cost us much more) IF WE DON’T GET ORGANISED RIGHT NOW!!  So, maybe, just maybe, it isn’t actually my fault at all?

With a renewed sense of perspective and calm, I remind myself that I have nothing to fear.  The visitors are gone, the festival is over and the camps are shut up for the season.  With THREE WHOLE WEEKS left at my disposal I can purchase the school uniform items I need when available and collect books x, y and z, at my leisure.  

Roll on 28th August!

(However, I do take responsibility for the mouldy sandwich left in the lunchbox!)