As the days of summer vacation come to a close, kids start counting down the days until school officially starts with an equal mix of anticipation, and something close to regret. In the Philippines, the school year begins on the first week of June, and by the third week of May, kids begin to go crazy, going on all sorts of crazy adventures, staying up as late as they can—anything, just to prolong that summer vacation feeling. I know, because I have two school-age children and a toddler who are currently driving me crazy with their end-of-summer shenanigans.
Witness Exhibit A, my 11-year-old son, who has became a rabid fan of WWE over the past two months, and can usually be seen practicing his best John Cena face in the mirror and beating the pillows into submission. He has also taken over the TV from 10PM to 1AM on a daily basis, the regular timeslot where our whole family is forced to watch Cena et al. The fact that I have watched Wrestlemania 33 times is beyond me. And also the fact that I know those wrestlers by name (The Wyatt Family, Seamus, Daniel Bryan, Cena… I could go on and on) is kind of a head-scratcher for me. Whether or not knowing all that puts me in the Cool Mom category, I’ll never know.
Or what about my five-year old daughter’s insistence on going on the Dance Central game at the arcade every single time we step out of the house? For those who have never set foot in a Timezone arcade, Dance Central is a game wherein you follow the dance moves of a dance coach onscreen, and your moves are tracked by a sensor, so you’ll know if you have moves like Jagger or if you’re as graceful as a giraffe on ice. And because my little princess refuses to dance by herself, who do you think is the hapless adult who gets dragged to shimmy and shake in front of hordes of teens and tweens? Yes, you guessed it, me.
So as I shake my money-maker to Katy Perry, Kesha, Nicki Minaj, Robin Thicke, and Lady Gaga, I try to convince myself to ignore the stares and snickers and think to myself that I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom (see Amy Poehler in Mean Girls) and that my kid will have wonderful memories of her good ol’ mom who tried her best to make twerking look dignified as much as she could. Am I a Cool Mom yet or what?
A few days ago, I decided to rein in the craziness and have my kids start thinking about school. The hard part was getting them psyched about it. Oh, they know what school means. It means no more staying up late to watch guys on TV hit each other inside steel cages. It means no more dance parties in arcades. It means waking up early, gulping down a quick breakfast while still half asleep, and getting rid of their comfy shirts and shorts and wearing uniforms five days a week. I’m sure parents with school-age kids everywhere can relate to what I’m saying. That’s why I’ve come up with sure-fire ways to get your children excited about going back to school.
1. Go back-to-school shopping with your kids.
While shopping for the kids’ school things will certainly be easier without them, letting them choose their school bag, notebooks, pencil cases, crayons and other supplies will help them get in the zone and psyched about going to school. Before doing this, scope out several malls, book stores, or bargain centers to do some comparison shopping at least two weeks before shopping day, then decide where to take your child. Make a list of what the child needs to avoid overspending. School supplies are certainly cuter and kitschier nowadays, and if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get carried away and buy loads of erasers that look like miniature sushi, so consider yourself warned.
For school bags, check out Landmark in Makati, SM Malls, and Market Market. At Landmark, we scored an aggressively girly book bag for my daughter for 500 pesos, and a sturdy backpack with absolutely no logos or cartoon characters for my son for only 700 pesos. Leather shoes are a must for elementary and high school kids, so we scored a pair for our son for only 400 pesos, while my daughter who’s still in preschool went with a sparkly and very pink pair of Barbie sneakers for 450 pesos.
Notebooks and other supplies can be had at National Bookstore, and branches of this family-owned bookstore/ school and office supplies chain can be found all over the Philippines. Apparently, the notebook du jour for little girls this year should be plastered with characters from the Disney movie Frozen. Those went fast, and I’m not ashamed to say that I did a bit of mild elbowing to get about a dozen of those notebooks before they were all gone. Notebooks (with or without Disney or Mattel characters) cost about 16 to 33 pesos per piece, depending on the quality of the paper.
2. Practice sleeping early, and getting up early in increments.
Doing a practice run is a must for us, so I started by making the kids go to bed at 11PM, then I woke them up at 9:30AM. The next night I made them go to bed at 10:30PM, then woke them up at 9AM. On and on it goes until they get used to waking up at 6AM. Do your own practice runs this way to ease your kids gently into a schooltime routine.
3. Get your child’s opinion regarding his or her choice of snacks for recess.
Several weeks before school starts, buy a few snack foods for your kids to try and see which ones will make it to the approved-for-recess list. This year, we have all agreed to give the cream crackers and chocolate wafers a rest, and they all wanted more ham and egg with wasabi mayo sandwiches and peanut butter and banana sandwiches for recess, plus Oreo cookies for the ride home on the school bus. Thank goodness, because I don’t think I can look at another chocolate wafer for an entire year!
For sandwich breads, try the pandesal from Pan de Manila, or the cheese loaf from Bread Talk. For cookies and crackers, Rustan’s and Market Market both have a wide range of local and international brands that are a hit with the kids. Chips Ahoy Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies anyone?
4. Give your child a back-to-school gift.
Most school-age children often make use of the Internet to do their research, and some schools also assign homework in homework portals. Make learning fun and easy for your child by giving them a back to school gift such as a tablet or a mini laptop. Just make sure to monitor the websites that your child is visiting, and be specific about how much time they can spend online on school days. Another great gift is a cell phone. It doesn’t need to be an iPhone 5! Let’s be serious, I mean, would you give your 9-year-old a smartphone? An inexpensive, ordinary phone that allows your child to text and call will do. A phone can be good to have, especially for older kids so you can check on their whereabouts during after-school activities, and also for younger kids in case of emergencies. Make sure to top up your child’s phone with a set amount of credits every month, and let him or her know that the credits should be used wisely. If he or she uses up the cell phone load before the month is up, let them know that you’ll be topping up the phone on the following month. It’s a good way to teach your kid about budgeting and responsibility.
This summer has been fun, sure, but school days are up ahead, and letting your child know that those days can be fun too will help them look forward to going back to school. It just takes a bit of patience, a little indulgence, and some practice, and before you know it, they’ll be raring to hop on that big yellow school bus.
As for me, I’ve just spent a couple of hours covering books and notebooks in plastic. Now, excuse me while I join my daughter for Dance Central. Lady Gaga is on.