Forget the Parenting Books — Here's How to Really Plan for Kids

When you’re expecting a baby, preparedness is the name of the game. We do everything we possibly can to be prepared, right? Those What to Expect books are perennial bestsellers for a reason, and we stack them on the bedside table like we’re students prepping for the most important exam of our lives. We make sure we’ve got a hospital bag with all the essentials, right down to the lip balm and the perfect labor playlist. We neatly fold and put away a plethora of teeny onesies and socks, stack the boxes of diapers we’ve stocked up on (in varying sizes, naturally), and arrange and re-arrange the arsenal of baby lotions and butt creams. They’ve even got a cutesy name for all the extra preparing we do as our due date approaches: “nesting.” Because “illogically cleaning your baseboards and ceiling fan blades like the baby will critique your housekeeping” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

But as a mother of four whose youngest “baby” is an entire decade old — and whose oldest is nearly a grown adult — I’m here to share some hard truth with you: it’s only easy to prepare for a baby. When those babies turn into kids? Prepare to be … well, unprepared. You will find yourself caught off guard more times than you can count throughout their school years, frantically scrambling for something they “have to have” mere moments before they have to have it. Kids are notoriously unhelpful at planning ahead. So for those of you who are past the baby stages, I’ve put together a guide of things you should most definitely keep on hand during your child’s school years — from elementary all the way through high school, in my experience.

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Poster Board

Inevitably your kid will come to the 9pm realization that they have a very important school project due … tomorrow. And there you’ll be, braless and ready for bed, and you’ll find yourself throwing some street clothes on over your PJs and driving to the nearest store that’s open late (because, moms) in desperate hopes of finding the necessities: i.e., a poster board. You can usually scrounge up markers and glue sticks and other things needed to cobble together an acceptable project at the last minute, but one thing you don’t typically keep on hand is poster board, even though it’s the backbone of virtually every school project — ever. So keep some on hand at all times, lest you find yourself driving through the darkness to a drugstore at 10pm, wondering why you’re such a sucker.

A Variety of Weird Clothing

Sometimes your kid will randomly wake up and recall that it’s Pajama Day, or Dress Like a Tourist Day, or Twin Day or Tie-Dye Day or Crazy Sock Day at school … and that they really neeeeed to dress up according to said theme “because Mom, our class gets a pizza party if we all participate.” This is when a box full of the most random items comes in handy: a Hawaiian shirt and a cheap lei; tie-dyed everything; a gray wig; weird hats and headbands and googly-eye glasses because you just never know. Take my advice and start stocking up on Halloween clearance sales and thrift store finds when your kids are small, because before you know it, it will be “Dress Like an Old Person for the 100th Day of School” … and you’ll be ready.

Forks and Spoons

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If you can open your silverware drawer and still find an abundance of usable utensils, then your kids haven’t hit the teenage years yet. Because once they do? Hold onto your forks, folks. They will steadily disappear from your kitchen until your silverware drawer looks like someone robbed it. You’ll go on an irritation-fueled scavenger hunt and find spoons and forks under beds, in drawers, stuffed between couch cushions, and everywhere else spoons and forks are not supposed to be. My recommendation? Just keep some extras stashed somewhere. Hoard them when your kids are small, so that when they’re fork-filching teens, you’ll have plenty of backup.

Now that I think about it, the same could be said for bowls, actually.

Extra Socks

If I had a nickel for every time my kids “can’t find any socks,” I could fund my very own sock factory. We have long blamed dryers for eating them, but the reality is that kids just can’t take their socks off in a pair and throw them in the hamper. They take them off and throw them basically everywhere but the hamper, which leads to socks getting kicked under the couch, behind the door, carried away by the dog, and heaven only knows what else. Then what happens? It’s 10 minutes before the bus comes and they’re trying to come up with a matching pair when the mate could be … literally anywhere.

Tape

There’s gotta be a scientific term for how kids are drawn to adhesives like moths to a flame; I don’t know it, but all I know is that every time I reach for the roll of tape it’s empty (having been put back in the drawer that way, because kids are experts at not throwing things away). It’s not like kids need tape, but they use it up like it’s going out of style. And they find innovative uses for it, too … like taping things back together that they’ve broken in hopes that you won’t notice. Or my personal favorite — wrapping their, ahem, “junk” in tape, then coloring it with a yellow highlighter pen and shining a black light on it in the dark bathroom so it would glow. Not saying one of my sons did this when he was three, but …

Printer Ink

Are you lucky enough to own a printer? Then, for the love, make sure you keep ink on hand somewhere. Because there’s some unwritten rule that says two things: a.) your kid will suddenly need a very important form printed out and signed (or straight-up lose one that you need to replace) and b.) you will be out of printer ink. It never fails.

(Psst … HP’s Instant Ink is a subscription service that can keep this particular problem at bay. One less last-minute crisis to think about, just sayin’.)

Snacks? Well, Not So Fast …

This one is tricky. Seems like a no-brainer, right, to keep a bunch of snacks on hand? Well actually, this is the one curveball this list is gonna throw you. Because while it may seem obvious that you should stock up on your kids’ favorite snacks, kids are fickle jerks who will change their snack preference the minute you spring for the jumbo economy-sized pack of whatever it is. Then you’re stuck with a jumbo economy-sized pack that irritates you every time you look at it.

Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list — but if I went on about every time my kids have left me scrambling for a last-minute solution, we’d be here all day. I’m just passing on the fundamentals, so share this with anyone you know who thinks they’re prepared. Because if their cabinets are full of diapers and wipes but not tape dispensers and poster boards, well, they can’t say they didn’t get a fair warning.

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