We live in a marketing-driven world that is fuelled by events. No sooner are recycling bins filled with ripped-off Christmas paper than hot cross buns are in the shops.
I saw hot cross buns, conveniently placed right at the front of the supermarket, before we had taken the Christmas tree down. Last year, instead of railing against the injustice of it all, I simply bought a packet. They tasted nice but, for some reason, not as nice as they do in March or April.
So, I'm cool with the hot cross buns. What is bugging me this year is the back-to-school marketing. You know how it rolls – banners in shops, TV ads, Facebook ads, junk mail flyers. All spruiking the urgent need for me to get my kids' pencils, rulers, bags, shoes and lunchboxes sorted for their next year of learning.
I was aware of back-to-school marketing from early January but friends tell me they saw it before Christmas. This means that means parents were being encouraged to think about their kids' return to school within days of them starting holidays.
Forget back-to-school, I haven't even done more than the basics of end-of-school tasks. On the last day of school, my kids' school bags came home looking like they'd done a year's hard labour (which I guess they had). I made sure they were emptied that same day, but this is only because I learned the hard way that leaving a bag unpacked over summer is a bad idea (especially if bananas are a preferred fruit).
The stuff we unpacked from the bags is untouched. My kids' pencil cases hopefully have a few functioning pens in amongst the mess of worn-out, stubby and broken writing implements, but I haven't looked yet. I don't even want to think about the piles of notebooks filled with carefully shaped letters, high-level maths problems and creative writing exercises that my kids insist on keeping even though we'll never look at them again.
I am not interested in thinking about back-to-school preparation.
And neither are my kids. My daughter noticed the huge signs in the shop and I was assailed with cries of "Oh no, the holidays are nearly over!". I have no interest in her crying over returning to school when there are still more than three weeks of holidays left.
And here lies my main problem with the early start of back-to-school marketing. I want my kids to enjoy their summer holidays. I want to enjoy them too. Like many parents, I struggle with summer holidays – especially finding enough time to work in amongst having the kids around 24/7. But ultimately, this is a time for enjoying more relaxed days, soaking up the warmer weather, and spending time with friends and family.
I long ago learnt that a quality holiday was one when you could lose track of the days; not caring whether it was Wednesday or Thursday, and not yet counting how many days are left before returning to routine.
Losing yourself in a holiday is bliss and, in this overly scheduled world, I want my children to experience that.
I will get into back-to-school preparation. I do like to make sure my kids are back in a reasonable routine and I prefer not to be labelling a box full of coloured pencils with their names the night before school starts (though I have done this many times). Despite my kids' general reluctance to think about school before it starts, they also like to know that all is in place ready to go.
I reckon the week before school goes back is a great time to get organised. Around this time, I'll be very keen for school to restart for all sorts of reasons!
But December and early January? No thanks. Like hot cross buns not tasting the same when it's not Easter, back-to-school marketing simply doesn't hit the spot when holidays are just beginning.