Back-to-School Rituals I Passed Down to My Children
Last year, I had my first real back-to-school moments as a parent with my oldest daughter, a kindergartener. While some rituals have changed since my own school days, so many others remain the same. As we shared this rite of passage, I thought of my parents and the ways we used to get ready for the start of a new year. Here's how we re-create those moments together now — with slightly modern updates.
Protect the books
My school books were always covered in brown paper bags to protect their often worn covers. My mom taught me how to use grocery bags, turned inside-out so store logos wouldn't show, and cut them to fit snugly over each book. She taped up the edges just so. As I went through the motions for my kindergartner's first book of letters, I saw my mother's hands in my own. Then, of course, my kid got to decorate the book cover with stickers, crayons, and some very special letters . . . she wrote her name!
The best part of all is our annual family dinner, when we gather around the table and talk about our hopes and goals for the coming year. It's a moment of renewal, almost like its own New Year's Eve in the Fall, and we do it all while sharing a delicious bowl of pasta — another family tradition! The recipe is easy to make, especially with little kids who have a passion for pasta. They can toss in the pasta with the sauce and tear up bits of basil to add a sprinkle of bright green to the top. Now this is kicking the year off right.
Make an in-store shopping trip
Schools often issue a list of supplies your kid needs in advance, and it's easy to type those items into an internet search and have them shipped to your door. I'm not saying I haven't done that for certain things. But there's something about the real-live stationery aisle in a big store: the one where the colored pens and cool notebooks with their crisp white paper sit on shelves next to glue sticks and highlighters. We also pick out lunchboxes and backpacks in person because size, shape, color, and overall style vibe just don't come across on a computer screen, and any school-aged kid will tell you that stuff matters a lot. And here, my kids can get what they need while maybe choosing a little something extra — a pack of sticky notes to use creatively, a glitter pen for art projects — like my dad always let me do.
Have a Day of Yes
As my kindergartener says, “At school, people tell you what to do all day long.” I can’t change that for her, but I can offer a special family tradition on the day before schools starts: The Day of Yes. Ice cream for breakfast? Yes. Wear pajamas to a play date? Yes. Make the kitchen messy with the DIY Slime kit? Yes. A movie before bed, even if it’s one we’ve watched 100 times? Yes. You get the picture. Instead of stressing out about the impending first day of the new school year, we say yes to my daughter all day long. I don’t remember every first day of school from my childhood, but the Days of Yes? Those were the stuff of dreams.
The backpack and lunch upgrade
The big stuff like lunchboxes and backpacks needs to be seen in person as well. Size, shape, color, and overall style vibe just don't come across on a computer screen, and any school-aged kid will tell you that stuff matters a lot. Picking out a new backpack (which we do once every few years, as my own mother taught me) and a new lunchbox (which we'll spring for annually) are two of the most fun parts of back-to-school shopping. Of course, after that we have to hit the grocery store to figure out which snacks will be the favorites this year, as tastes change. Finding the right balance of fresh and crunchy snacks, hearty fare, and little treats is a timeless tradition.
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Life is nothing without passion. Ours is pasta. It’s not just our favorite food; it’s our favorite thing. Visit #PassionForPasta to help plan your back-to-school meal plan.