It’s September. Do you know where your parka is?

One of our back-to-school rituals is the annual first-day-of-school photo. Each year, as the boys head out the door, we snap a picture (or 12) of them. We take one on the last day of school, too, so they can see how they’ve grown over the course of the year.

Any planned photo opportunity also means an opportunity for me to try to get them into shirts with a collar. This is a bit of an obsession of mine, and I recognize that it’s my own hang-up. The kids could care less if they look presentable on the first day of school, or any day, for that matter. On his first day last year, Sebastian wore the same shirt that he’d worn to daycare the day before, one that had spent the night damp and crumpled in his backpack.  His first day was supposed to be the following day.  I’m still cringe when I think that he went to school — his first day! — in a wet, crumpled, paint-splattered Thomas the Tank Engine t-shirt. I recognize that I  harbour some deep-seated fear that if they’re not wearing something nice, their teachers will think we’re slacker parents who don’t care. And their teachers, who in my paranoid world have nothing to worry about but what kids are wearing, will judge my children for it.

I tell you, it’s my hang-up. And I own it.

So, school somehow sneaked up on me this year. It didn’t sneak, really. Mostly, I was distracted by the new house and work and…and I forgot to buy new shirts for the boys for their first day. Most sane parents would simply root through their childrens’ clothes for something clean, right? Well, I’m clearly not sane, so I joined the other hundreds of parents wandering the downtown core shopping for their kids on Labour Day.

And you know what I found?

Snowsuits. Racks and racks of snowsuits. Long sleeved shirts. Turtlenecks and wool sweaters. Nary a short-sleeved polo shirt or back-to-school sale to be found.

Now, I know that in some places, kids go back to school before Labour Day, so back to school sales typically start sometime around June (around when my kids are getting OUT of school). But this was crazy. Despite the grey, overcast and cool weather we had this past weekend, it’s still typically steaming hot the first week of September in Toronto. Today’s forecast high is 30 degrees celcius. Are retailers seriously expecting anyone to be shopping for winter gear now? Is there any benefit to buying a snowsuit in September, and if there is, how do I not know about it?

Is everyone more organized than me?

I finally tracked down some polo shirts at the Old Navy in the Eaton Centre and made a hasty retreat away from all the other sad-faced folk staring at the down vests and wooly hats in confusion. I have learned my lesson, though. Next year, I will be prepared! I will go shopping for first-day of school clothes in April!

And…oh yes, they will be on sale.