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by Judy Antell


     You may be reading this issue in 90-degree heat, or at the pool, and you're thinking, "Back to school already?"  In publishing, we have to plan way ahead — but that doesn't mean I'm personally prepared.  My kids are usually the ones trying to cram their toes into last year's rainboots, or wearing mismatched mittens because I forgot to buy new ones before the first snowfall.   

   I am in awe of those moms it's always the moms — who manage to find every item on the teacher's supply list, have the smock and spare clothes ready the first day of preschool, and remember to get their kids' annual physicals before the health forms are due.  I'm the one calling the pediatrician while we're driving to camp, begging her to fax a copy of last year's medical forms.

   I could blame a variety of factors — three kids, fulltime job, busy husband — but the reality is I am a procrastinator. Even if I were a stay-at-home mom with a single child and live-in help, I would probably still neglect to get my kid's hair cut before the school photo.

   I like to keep my options open.  If I buy those rainboots today, what happens if they go on sale tomorrow? If I sign my daughter up for an afterschool class now, what if I find out there's a better option next month?  So I wait until it's almost too late, and instead of musical theater, my daughter winds up with macramé.

   Vacation planning is also something I'm reluctant to do too far in advance.  If I know we're going to the Dominican Republic nine months before I actually go, I'm already a little bored with the place before the vacation starts. We are, in fact, going to the Dominican Republic in February, and we bought our airline tickets in May before the rates skyrocketed. But now, if I see a great deal to Costa Rica for the same week, we can't take advantage of it.

   But maybe waiting till the last minute has its advantages. When we went skiing last winter, we had planned so far in advance that our pre-paid reservation was lost and we had nowhere to stay.  My 14-year-old, Sela, who is onto my limitations, makes me sign her school forms the moment she gets them.  But one time when we did hand in the forms early, her teacher lost it and the money we'd sent it in with it. 

   I may actually be doing my children a favor, fostering self-reliance.  When Nora, who is 9, got her sleepaway camp clothing list, she went online herself and found clothes she needed. 

   These are the life skills you just can't teach.

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