2020 had it's challenges, I'll admit, but I appreciated that the anxiety-inducing back-to-school shopping season was cancelled last fall. My family didn't need anything because the kids were distance learning on school sponsored laptops while wearing old pajamas. Not only did my family quickly adjust to the distance learning model, we embraced it.
Yes, I admit I was "that parent" during the shutdown. Thirty minutes before log-in time, my kids rolled out of bed, brushed their teeth, ate a quick breakfast and logged into fully charged computers. My kids were never camera ready, but they were ready to learn. Most mornings someone started class shirtless with a mug of coffee in his hand (kid's temp, decaf, don't judge me) and the webcam off. I've been drinking coffee during zoom meetings during the entire shutdown myself, and pants were not a thing. #leggingsarelife
When my children resumed in-person learning last spring, I still didn't shop for anything. School was only half a day and it was ending in 8 weeks, so I thought, "why bother?" I replenished our supply of masks, introduced my kids to the concept of hand-me-downs, and sent them to school.
In the 2021-2022 school year, we resumed all day in-person learning. I wasn't exactly upset about that. I love my sons and appreciated the time I spent with them during the shutdown, but that grocery bill wasn't pretty and they missed their friends.
But I wasn't ready to return to the back-to-school shopping ritual.
I'll admit: although I love the back-to-school commercials, I had quickly grown accustomed to not spending a large amount of money in the fall. I wanted to continue to be mindful of the family resources and not overspend. So I asked myself, "Self, what did we do before the shutdown to reduce the cost of back-to-school shopping?" The first thing that come to mind was " start clipping those coupons!" But I do not want to rejoin the world coupon clipping community.
So I asked myself again, "what did normal people do to reduce the cost of back-to-school shopping before the shutdown? All of the fun community festivals and events came to mind. The backpack giveaways at parks and recreation centers, and the free shoe giveaways at the Oakland Coliseum. Maybe I could go to those? Yet once I was really honest with myself, I admitted I didn't want to go to those either. I just wanted to opt out of the whole back-to-school thing.
So I did. I found some upcycled almost new backpacks from a fellow mom who was giving them away, and the essential school supplies were purchased at the East Bay Depot for Creative Use. I saved money, my anxiety disappeared, I reduced the family's carbon footprint a bit, and my boys were overjoyed to return to school.
So I guess what I am learning is that although California has re-opened, I get to decide what parts of the old normal I want to return to. And opting out is always an option.