Packing the backpack

Help your kids be cool for school


Kristin Gehring


The backpack. Think of the backpack as your child’s car. It’s what takes them out into the world. Give its selection process respect. Perhaps your child already knows exactly what kind of backpack must be obtained. You must find that backpack. Take money for lunch and make a day of it, because the store that had them last week just ran out. Perhaps your child is not sure and needs to look. Take along a good attitude. You and your child will not give up until you find the backpack that perfectly fits his or her needs and personality. It’s worth it. Say it with us: It’s fun to shop for school supplies together.

Washable markers. Some hateful children will let their mothers buy a set of only eight colored markers when their school list says “box of eight colored markers.” Hopefully, these are not your children, and you will have a chance to splurge on a set of 16—even 32—lovely markers in jewel tones. Life is short, and so is money. Let your children see you splurge where it counts. They don’t need new shoes.

Calculator. Do not attempt this purchase without specific instructions from your child’s teacher. You will get a CZX instructional algebraic logarithmator, when what they needed was a scientific square root geometron. You will lose the receipt for the one you got. If your child is in junior high school, you spent $85.

Scissors. Be careful here. Your investment in a decent pair of scissors will be an investment in your child’s future. The cheap pair of scissors that breaks may suddenly appear as two knives in today’s zero tolerance educational environment. Just to be on the safe side, label each scissor blade “half a pair of scissors.”

Glue. Elmer’s is still out there, bless its wonderful, white, liquid stickiness. But really, Elmer’s white is so last century. Get the cool blue glue that dries clear. The start of a school year is exciting. Your glue should be, too. For older children who have to produce multiple collages or other visual aids involving poster board and pictures printed off the Internet, you’ll find rubber cement actually is the best adhesive choice. But schools never seem to use it. Can you get high from sniffing it? Hmmm.

Dictionary. Sure, why not? Go ahead and buy one. Don’t spend much. They won’t use it. If they don’t know the meaning of a word, they will a) look it up on the Internet, or b) ask you. If you tell them to look it up themselves, they will a) whine, then b) give up and guess. And people wonder why the world is going down the tubes. It’s because no one uses books any more.

Notebooks. Same principle as pocket folders (see below). Yes, we could get the ones on sale with the perfectly fine, brightly colored covers. But then we would be conferring absolutely no school supply status upon our beloved offspring. And we don’t want ashamed offspring slumping into school on the first day, do we?

Pocket folders. We don’t want to hear how you can get these for a dime each at the grocery store. Those are the flimsy, solid-colored ones. Maaahhhmmm! Did you see the ones with the horses or the puppies or the superheroes or the overly developed cartoon teenage girls? They work better.

A compass and a protractor. Oh, isn’t that cute? A compass. Isn’t that the one that tells you what direction you’re going, or is that the one that helps you draw a circle? And then there’s the protractor, which is either the circle-drawing instrument with the sharp point or that semi-circular plastic thingie. Even if you were good at math, don’t try to talk to your children about it. Math language is different now, and your children will just think you’re stupid. Which you’re not, of course.

Pencils. Why get plain yellow pencils when there are glittery, rainbow-colored ones with ice-cream-swirl erasers? Because they write better and the erasers actually erase without leaving a smudge. But that’s you talking; your child wants the fancy ones. Get both, and don’t scrimp on the regular old No. 2s. The cheap ones don’t write as nicely.

Three-ring binder. The most important choice of all, one would think. Mysteriously, most stores offer a pathetic paucity of choice in the binder category. Get the kind with a clear plastic overlay over the cover so your child can slip in artwork. Or at least get stickers for decoration.

Pencil case. Note. Do not shop for this or any other school supply without your child present. You will be sorry. Your child will not like it. His or her first days at school will be ruined, and it will be your fault. As every schoolchild realizes, the pencil case reveals one’s cool quotient. You, the parent, understand the cool quotient in indirect ratio to the age of your children. Don’t make us explain that to you.


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