A Tale of Two Kinder-GARNERS: 1991 vs 2015


As you read this, dear reader, my tiny 6 pound 13 ounce 19″ long infant baby has somehow turned 5 years old and walked into kindergarten like it was no bid deal… Oh… Okay then… What is this madness?

maddox 1st day

As I’m sure most of my fellow school-age mamas out there know, HOLY COW THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS AND IT DOESN’T EVEN STOP AFTER THE FIRST DAY. Has it always been that way? I asked my mother what my school supply and summer reading lists looked like the summer before I started kindergarten in 1991. Or what my homework load was like, so I’d have something to compare Maddox’s to. Her face was a mix of utter confusion and disdain. “Wait, Maddox has a reading list? Do they know he can’t even actually read?” (Valid). Getting my kid ready to be the best and the brightest is apparently way more challenging than anything previous generations dealt with. Here is a quick look at a tale of two kinder-GARNERS, 1991 vs 2015.

1. Morning before school 1991:

If I had to guess, I’d say I was wearing my favorite pair of Oshkosh overalls, my L.A. Gear white high tops, and an Esprit shirt. I remember my Little Mermaid backpack, mainly because it was bigger than me and perpetually empty, save for some Yikes pencils, slap bracelets, and Treasure Toll pencil toppers. I say that I am guessing about my wardrobe, because there are literally no pictures of me that morning. I had a lazy eye and my mom, always prepared, quickly sent a note into my teacher using her standard yellow legal pad paper, detailing why I had to wear an eye patch. (I was a really fancy 5 year old.)

Did anyone else have this backpack?

Morning before school 2015:

I spent way more time than any 28 year old woman should freely admit making colorful signs for Maddox to hold up for an early morning photo shoot including what day it is, what his career aspirations are, and that he will graduate in 2028 from high school. Maddox picked out a MineCraft backpack and it is stocked with personalized pencils and a binder to collect work and correspond with teachers. Just like the rest of you mamas, I took at least 20 pictures (thus causing a 7:15am breakdown), shared them with everyone via Facebook and Instagram, and plan to follow the morning’s events with a clever #isurvivedmyfirstday sign. His first day outfit was carefully selected and perfectly coordinated. I have corresponded with his teacher via email for weeks cluing her in on any specific needs he may have or any issues I could see arising in the school year ahead.

2. Supply lists 1991:

I vaguely remember having some notebook paper, crayons, and markers bought for me… Mainly because I wasn’t allowed to use markers at home. The paper I never actually used (because kindergarten) but I’m sure the crayons and markers were put to good use. I HAD TO HAVE some cool pencil grippers, even though I couldn’t really write yet, and a pencil box from Sanrio to hold my matching Hello Kitty and Spottie Dottie pencils that retailed somewhere in the neighborhood of one million dollars each. No big deal though, because anything else we were expected to have was provided by the teacher or our parents could grab later in the school year.

Supply lists 2015:

Around late May, I was given access to a school supply list via Maddox’s school’s website portal. Linked for the entire school, and with sub-headers that were class specific, this list included a nap mat, stuffed animal, towel/blanket/sheet to cover said nap mat, reusable water bottle, crayons, markers, colored pencils, appropriate sized backpack (but it cannot roll), lunchbox, Clorox wipes, paper towels, change of clothes for each season, raincoat, gym shoes, extra undies, a classroom fee of $35, unicorn tears, angel wings, and a leprechaun among other items. How does someone who is so small need SO MANY belongings?

[Sidenote: teachers, you are super human gods and goddesses and I am well aware that you have to spend your own money on classroom supplies as well, so I am totally not coming after you at all here because if it were up to me y’all would make better salaries than NFL players and get presents for having so many humans to be responsible for every day.]

3. Snack time 1991:

Every day, without fail, I had the same thing in my lunch box for snack time: a green apple cut into pieces with the skin still on (“Because that’s where the nutrients are, Ashley.”) and $.25 for a carton of Flav-O-Rich chocolate milk, all in a brown paper bag. Well into the year, I got a cool plastic lunch box with matching thermos (riddled with BPA I’m sure) and was allowed to bring…

Apple juice. With an apple. Thanks, mom.

Snack time 2015:

I made an entire Pinterest board dedicated to healthy, fun, and creative snack ideas. I am a woman possessed, making sure everything is healthy, yet fun. Varied enough in dairy/veggie/fruit but still filling for someone who has lunch at 10am. Then I have this silent conversation with myself on the regular:

I wonder if these organic chocolate milk boxes are really any better than the store brand ones… I mean… the cow looks so happy on the carton… I feel like Mr. Cow wouldn’t lie to me. But then there was that link on Facebook, about how organic milk really isn’t all that organic… What if there’s poison in here? Or mold like those pouches? Crap I think I bought pouches. I wonder if the other moms bought pouches too? If I bought it at Target, I feel like it’s fine. Would Target lie to me? <Googles ‘organic milk,’ Googles ‘mold in pouches,’ gets distracted, ends up watching a YouTube video of a cat dancing… Decides everything is fine.>

Snack time, apparently, is hard no matter what year you’re in.

4. Pick up 1991:

Nana was waiting at the bottom of the parking lot in her grey Grand Am when we were dismissed from school. Running free and totally alone, across the bus lanes closest to the school building, weaving in and out of the parked cars that had to have stayed there all day to get that good of a pick up spot (we got out at 1pm after all), then down the concrete steps the the lower level parking lot below, with my giant backpack bouncing all around my tiny body, I opened the passenger door and slid into the front seat. I could have just as easily been getting into OJ Simpson’s white Bronco or in the car with a space alien for all my teacher knew.

Pick up 2015:

After filling out two pages of electronic documents to be kept in Maddox’s digital file detailing who can retrieve him from school, he is ready to be released for the afternoon at exactly 3pm. And by released, I mean walked out to my car (or another approved vehicle per the list) by a teacher or classroom parent where he gets into the very back of my 3rd row seating and into his carseat, but not before they check to make sure I have his name and classroom written on a piece of white copy paper that will now reside on my dash for all of eternity, and that I am not a space alien/serial killer/stranger/ax-murderer.

5. Homework 1991:

Ummm… was that a thing? I don’t think that was a thing. All I did after school was go home with Nana and watch The Young and the Restless.

Homework 2015:

From the information we were given at orientation, Maddox will have worksheets to complete and about a half hour of reading time every night. The worksheets will supplement whatever skill they worked on in class that day, and apparently by listening to me drone on about the llama wanting his mama for a half hour, he will be a step closer to actually reading on his own. We will accomplish this sometime between me removing the iPad from his body, getting everyone fed, bathed, sports-ed, separating him from his brother at least 4 times, and answering a million questions that take longer than said homework about why he actually has to do the homework.

6. The Rest of the Year 1991:

I remember a Halloween party where I dressed up like the Queen of Hearts, peeing my pants while playing house in the corner of the classroom set up to look like a miniature condo, and that my cubby was always crammed with papers because I never took anything home and I guess my parents never thought to ask me if there was anything worth seeing in my cubby. As far as contacting my teacher, I think they maybe had her home phone number? My mother can’t remember, “But it was kindergarten, honey. Why would we have needed to contact her? They called us that time you pee pee’d while playing house.” (Again, thanks mom).

The Rest of the Year 2015:

Maddox’s teacher sent home a hand-out asking for specific jobs to be completed by parents, a packet detailing classroom policies, and the tardy/absence policy. There was a timeline of upcoming events (all requesting volunteers) and at least three different ways in which she could be contacted; four if you count the school secretary. Parents were encouraged to share special skills and talents, should they be beneficial to the overall classroom environment. Folders are sent home and checked every night, parent-teacher conferences will occur at least twice a year, and report cards will be issued in paper and digital format 4 times per year. If we have the school’s app, we can also grab information there, as it will be frequently updated.


Wherever you land, whether it is wishing the ease of those 1991 school days gone by were upon us, or relishing in the preparedness of 2015, let’s all get through this school year in one piece. And if preschool last year was any indication of this year, let’s all keep it together and limp across the finish line into the next school year (hopefully with no one peeing their pants while playing house).

Previous articleBack to School Paper Pushin’ – with Free Printable!
Next articleDogs & Babies: Do They Mix?
Mama to Maddox, Walker and Finn plus three unruly dogs: Nick Carraway, Ladybird, and Charlotte. Owner of Nest, a custom painting and furniture restoration business run out of my SoKno home. I've written for Knox Moms since 2014, and have also written for The Dollywood Company, Her View From Home, and Today.com. I'm a recovering type-a personality, overcaffinated, sleep with too many pillows, am a better person near water, and love a good British period drama or anything about gruesome true crime. I'm going to die trying to pet something I shouldn't or lifting furniture I have no business lifting, and am a firm believer in convenience meals. Probably a top contender for the title of World's Okayest Mom.


  1. Seriously, this is one of the reasons I’m not teaching anymore and also why I am homeschooling my kids. School has gotten beyond ridiculous. Also, thanks for the fond memories. Oh for the days of Anne Frank folders and Trapper Keepers. Let’s not forget time to play Heads Up 7 Up which was fun and had zero educational value ; )


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here