So, school’s starting back. Do you want to know how I know? I’m getting those emails again—the fall consignment store emails from all over the city and the neighboring cities, because I like to canvas the area. My kids aren’t even in school yet, which is why everyone else’s joy at the school supply display at Target makes me want to hit it with my cart.

Because my kids are still little, I’m not the mom at the consignment store sifting through the sparse racks of six-to-ten year olds. And I’m not the newly pregnant woman in newly bought maternity clothes with her mom (soon to be grandma!) at her side standing with hands on hips by the Bumbos. They are beaming and pushing buggies around the plastic bags filled with rattles and Melissa and Doug puzzles. They are just excited to be here, in the Toys R Us of motherhood in that magical time when motherhood means milkshakes and fries and foot rubs from spouses with only a touch of indigestion at the end of the night. Their motherhood is still contained. It sleeps through the night. Their hair is usually clean and they’ve got makeup on. Real makeup, like lipstick, and somebody’s been at them with an eyebrow pencil.

I’m that other mom. If you look over a few rows, I’m the one bushwhacking my way through the size twos and threes and fives, tossing anything under $4 into the basket. Who cares if it’s mismatched? Does it come with elastic pants, easy ones to get up and down if we’re at the gas station in the middle of a potty training moment? Is it cheap enough that I won’t feel bad if the potty training is a fail and I have to leave those gingham shorts in that gas station trash?

If you can’t find me in the clothes, look for my rear end sticking up over the bicycles and scooters. I’ll be the one ripping the “sold” tag off three different ones to buy some time until I can decide. I’ll discreetly replace them, lay them down gently on the seats for the next passerby, when I’ve made up my mind. You’ve got to play a little dirty at the consignment game.

Which leads me to how I got in here in the first place. You might have seen me in line two hours before the general admission. I was the one checking my phone so I wouldn’t have to meet your eye. I was the one smack in the middle of the new moms, standing right next to the lipsticked twenty-something and her mother (soon to be grandma!). Only the new moms are supposed to be in this line, getting first dibs on secondhands. But it’s exactly because I’m not a first timer that I know how to play this hand. Think about it. New moms are the ones who need the consignment sale least of all! They’re having baby showers and registering at Land of Nod and Pottery Barn Kids. They want everything to smell of hand sanitizer and fresh packaging. They will mail in all their product registrations. They will supervise the putting together of that shabby chic crib with the antiqued finish while they fold newly washed and never worn onesies.

I’m them, just several years down the line. I’m now looking to avoid visible stains and cracks in bike frames. That’s my litmus test for money well spent. I’m not looking for “first” clothes. We’ve stopped counting ages in months. This is why I’m unashamedly taking my place in the new mom’s line. I know we won’t overlap. Her hand will not be reaching in the pile for the same pair of Levi’s. Her baby will be in skinny jeans and a clean white tee. We’re on opposite sides of the aisle. My aisle’s been around the block.

I won’t tell her any of this, of course, any of the things that will come later. I want her to have her moments, just as I had mine. She probably won’t ask anyway, bubbling like a fountain with a joy that is all-consuming. I’ll just mosey on my way, as discreetly as possible, past the gatekeeper, into the chaos, in search of the necessary clothes and toys to get us through another season, because I’m that mom, the seasoned one who knows her business. But if you see me in those early hours in line in front of the repurposed gym waiting with ticket in hand, I’m just a new mom, like all the rest.

Jamie Sumner

Jamie Sumner is the author of the middle-grade novel, Roll with It. Her second and third middle-grade novels with Atheneum Books for Young Readers will be coming out in 2020 and 2021. She is also the author of the nonfiction book on motherhood, Unboundand the forthcoming bookEat, Sleep, Save the Worldfor parents of children with special needs. She is also mom to a son with cerebral palsy and she writes and speaks about disability in literature. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Connect with her at