Late July-Early August:
Begin vaguely thinking about school lunch boxes, since this year you will be sending your first child off to all-day school. Glance briefly at the Land's End and Pottery Barn Kids back-to-school catalogs that come in the mail with their special backpacks-and-lunch-boxes features. Think, Good grief, backpacks and lunch boxes are expensive these days. Recycle catalogs. Figure you'll just go to Target when the times comes.
Start asking seasoned moms about lunch box recommendations. Friend of 2nd grader advises ordering a basic, non-character-themed, sturdy lunchbag from Land's End, since they have a lifetime guarantee and will last through the school years. More expensive at first but will pay off later because it's the only one your child will ever need. You agree this sounds very practical. You check out the Land's End website because, remember, you recycled the catalog.
Child begins begging for Target's Hello Kitty lunch box that next-door neighbor/best friend/bus-stop buddy/2nd grader carried all last year to 1st grade and which child saw every morning at the bus stop. Agree it is very cute. Weigh merits of buying more expensive, boring, sturdy one from Land's End versus cheaper, cute, licensed-character (ugh) one from Target which would make child glow with happiness. (Aware that the Target one will likely break or be grown out of and be ultimately replaced by a plain Land's End one sometime in the future anyway.) Grandma advises glow with happiness. Decide to let child get the Hello Kitty one, since her first year of all-day school is a big deal, she is super-excited about eating lunch at school, and this child never asks for anything. She deserves to pick out a cute lunch box this year. You are a nice mom.
Idly check out the Target website for Hello Kitty lunch boxes. Find the super-cute one neighbor girl had last year. Website says out of stock. Website says not available in stores. Target newspaper ad claims Hello Kitty lunch box is on sale this week. Decide to go to Target tomorrow to check.
Go to Target with daughters. Find school lunch box aisle. Spot Hello Kitty. It is not the same Hello Kitty as last year's model. Not as cute. Child rejects. Hem and haw. Wonder if you should try to talk her into accepting the newer model, since she had her heart set on Hello Kitty and may be disappointed later if she does not choose it. Child refuses. Not as cute. Decide to order plain one from Land's End.
Head over to another lunch box aisle to make sure there aren't any other Hello Kitty lunch boxes. There aren't, but child spots Disney Princesses lunch box. This matches the Disney Princesses backpack she chose last year when she started kindergarten. A choir of angels is singing in child's head. A matching lunch box to go with her backpack! Must have.
You are not sure about this. Is it sturdy enough? It's not as cute as Hello Kitty. Is it the right size? How do you know? You don't. She will never still like Disney Princesses by 2nd grade. You know this.
Child wants Princesses.
Above the lunch boxes are hanging an entire wall of water bottles, Thermos containers, sandwich boxes, special ice packs, and lidded snack bowls. You become distracted by these accessories. How can so many school lunch items even exist? Which do you need? Is there some sort of guide somewhere? Why are there tons of Hello Kitty lunch box containers, but no Princesses ones to match the Princesses lunchbox? You can't put a Hello Kitty water bottle into a Princesses lunch box. Or can you?????
There is a Princesses ice pack, however. Child wants the Princesses ice pack. You agree, because you probably need one of those anyway. Does her current water bottle at home fit into the new lunch bag, or do you need to buy one of these smaller ones, right here in the lunch box aisle? Probably the new smaller one. But how do you know? You don't, and you hate buying extraneous material possessions: so un-eco-friendly. Whatevs. The earth may have to fend for itself when it comes to your entrance into the world of parenting an elementary-schooler.
And how do you know these water bottles won't leak inside the lunch box? You just lay them down inside, and nothing leaks? Really?
What are these metal Thermos-brand short cylindrical food containers? For keeping things hot? And/or cold? Do you need this? You don't know. You suppose so, if you are ever going to send anything for lunch besides a sandwich, which you probably will. But will you, really? Wait a minute: if you have an ice pack to keep the water bottle cold, will that cancel out the Thermos hot-food container's capabilities? This is confusing. Does all of this fit in the Princesses lunch box?
Children are fussing and complaining of being at Target too long.
Call mom, who, since she is largely raising your nieces and nephew, probably knows something about packing school lunches. Mom has no idea what you are talking about. Says the children qualify for free/reduced-price school lunch, so get hot lunch every day and do not pack anything. Ah yes; you remember now.
Your own children are whining that they are hungry and want to go home. Wondering what is taking you so long. They are beginning to rebel.
You buy the Princesses lunch box, the special ice pack, a water bottle, and a hot-food container. You make a mental note to save all receipts.
On the way out, you remark out loud that you feel like you just took an exam.
OMG 1st grade is hard.