"Could you just change into these?" I ask him, holding out the good pair of jeans - the ones that don't look like they were used for barn chores and tree climbing.
"These ones are fine, mom," he says, brushing past me to take his cereal bowl to the sink.
"They're so sloppy," I tell him.
"That doesn't bother me," he says, peaking into his still empty lunch bag. "Why does it even bother you?"
And I guess it shouldn't. He's twelve years old - certainly old enough to make his own decision about his outfit.
I make him change into something less I-just-picked-this-up-off-my-bedroom-floor. But he doesn't complain. He's excited that he's going to see all his friends again.
Noa's bouncing and 'can you braid my hair?' and 'I want the pink shoes to be my indoor ones - no the grey ones - no the pink ones!'
I pull out the ziplock of yesterday's leftover pancakes. I'd made extra because they think it's special if I make their sandwiches on cold pancakes instead of bread.
"Peanut butter?" Noa asks, her chin resting on the counter beside me.
"No nuts at school," I remind her.
Zander tries to sneak a baggie of trail mix into his bag and I take it from his hand. "No nuts at school," I say again.
They're eager for the bus and have their shoes on five minutes before it's time to trek up the driveway. "Go stand by the barn so I can take your picture," I tell them and they comply - acting goofy and Noa all giggly.
"Why do you have to take a picture on the first day?" Liam asks.
"It's what good parents do," I tell him. "Say cheese!"
We walk to the end of the driveway and I make awkward small talk with the triplet's mother. She's so sad that she has to work until 7:00 tonight and I know how lucky I am because Monday is my regular day off and so I always get to take my stat holiday on the Tuesday but I don't say that because she already feels bad enough.
The bus comes exactly when it said it would and the children line up to kiss me and line up to leave me and I wave to the bus driver and then wave to them as they disappear into grades 1, 3, and 8.
Am I the only parent in the world who hates back to school?
Those commercials - the ones with the parents celebrating and dancing down stationary aisles to 'It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year' - I don't get it. To me, school is chaos. It's the morning rush for this mother who is not a morning person. It's the constant inventory of juice boxes and granola bars. It's the hustle of brushing hair and brushing teeth and finding socks and being grumpy.
Oh summer, hast thou left me so soon???
Summer - who's mornings dawn late and who's sunshine dresses children in outdoor opportunity that allows me the grace of uninterrupted showers and slow beginnings that make each day seem full of potential and free of anxiety. Those days without a rush to the bus - when alarms are pushed back and dirty clothes don't matter because they're just going to get dirtier and dinner time means I'm yelling their names from the edge of the deck and they come back, smelling like dirt and sunshine, with new freckles and tired smiles on their faces.
I don't find freedom in school. I think school is wonderful and education is important and I take great pride in the achievements of my children but I'm not celebrating the return of the morning routine. I dread it. And no matter how organized I am it never seems to improve so all I can do is pull up my britches, set my jaw in a determined line, and grind through the next ten months...
May you rest in peace.