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That Back-to-School Magic Is Lost When You Have Teens

When I was in elementary school, I looked forward to the first day of school almost as much as I looked forward to Christmas morning. I’d get all my school supplies laid out, I always had the perfect outfit, and I couldn’t wait to see all my friends again. After the 4th of July, I’d already had enough summer and would start thinking about the year ahead.

A lot of that carried over into junior high and high school too. The summer before 7th grade, I got a new haircut right before school was in session. I’d waited because I wanted to have a completely new look. I’d flip through my YM magazines over and over getting makeup inspiration. I’d go back-to-school shopping like it was my job. My girlfriends and I would all talk on the phone the night before and tell each other what we were going to wear. Our bathrooms were turned into mini spas and we spent hours grooming.

Walking into school for the first time in months in the fall and showing off our new duds and summer tan complete with highlights (thanks to Sun-In) was always a moment filled with equal parts anxiety and excitement. It always felt like a new beginning; you never knew if someone was going to change their look, who had started dating over the summer, and who had the coolest new duds and school supplies.

I fully expected my own kids to feel the same way about the first day of school — and in their younger years, they did. They loved going back-to-school shopping. We’d make an entire day out of it and go out to lunch. Then we’d come home and they’d model all their clothes, tell me what items were their favorite, and we’d get everything organized in their drawers. They loved their new lunch boxes, backpacks, and school supplies, and always had a tough time waiting until school started to use them.

As their mom, I’d be just as excited as they were to wake up on the first day of school, drop them off, and walk them to their classrooms. There’s nothing like seeing your kids happy and excited about something, but honestly, I think a lot of parents are like me in that they relive their own magical school days when they get to support their kids through it.

But after my kids finished middle school and started high school, something happened: all that magic seemed to wear off, and now they no longer care about things like school supplies and new haircuts. Getting a back-to-school picture has become more torturous than anything, and my kids have zero excitement when I pry them out of bed for the first day of school.

They don’t sugarcoat the fact they can’t stand going to school. They don’t really put any thought into what they’re wearing, and they all wing it when it comes to what they’re supposed to bring to start the year off. I remind them to double-check their lists and make sure they are prepared about 10 times, but still, they don’t seem concerned. (And by that, I mean they don’t care at all.)

With each passing year, I keep hoping that some of the spark they used to feel on the first day of school will come back. However, every year they just seem to care less and less, and be more excited for the whole thing to be over than for the new school year to start.

Maybe it’s because these days, they get to see their friends all summer long — practically any time they want — on their phones. Perhaps it’s just not on-trend to be excited about school when you are teenagers. I have no idea. All I know is that I still love that time of year; it still feels magical to me. But even though I’ve tried to get my kids to share my sentiments about it once again, they don’t. I’m thinking that since my daughter will be a senior this year, and my youngest will be a sophomore I should just give up and realize this was a whole lot more fun, and a whole lot less of an ordeal, when they were in elementary school.

So, I’ll just keep the magic alive by taking myself back-to-school shopping and out to lunch. I will still try and force a perfectly-posed picture of them. And I will still sit in the parking lot and watch them walk into the building, even though they act like they don’t know me … and remind me several times on the way to leave as soon as they’re out of the car.

Getting ready for a new year was a lot more fun when they were younger — but I have to remember this is a different time, my kids are who they are, and being the mom of teens is hard enough without trying to force them to be excited about the first day of school.

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