Hunting for School Supplies Isn’t For Sissies

Originally posted Aug. 25, 2009

School starts Wednesday. We’ve had a good summer, though, and I wouldn’t mind another two weeks of hanging out with my kids, so I’m not exactly ready to send them back to school. Plus, back-to-school time also highlights the fact that my babies are growing up. Too quickly for my taste, but that’s another post.

School is starting whether or not I can wrap my head around that fact, and I have to make sure my kids are ready.

I got serious a few weeks ago when the monster list of school supplies Noah needs for sixth grade arrived in the mail. Two rolls of scotch tape, two highlighters, gym uniforms, a jump drive for computer class, 48 #2 pencils, three glue sticks, a pair of pointed scissors (with a total length no longer than six inches, to be precise) and six boxes of Kleenex, to name but a few. It was overwhelming, but I wasn’t alone in my quest. At the store I spotted several other parents hunched over shopping carts and clutching their own lists. Pens pen in hand, they made laps around the bins of pencils and notebooks, victoriously crossing off the items as they found them. I even heard a “Yes!” as one mom triumphantly tossed rulers into her basket. Who knew that school supplies could inspire such glee? Others weren’t so lucky, though, and sported that hallmark eyes-glazed-over look folks get when their feet are tired and they’re on a fruitless, endless search.

I tried to steer clear of them.

This may sound ridiculous, but these days parents are faced with the pesky conundrum of possibly ‘breaking the rules’ by purchasing the wrong brands, hence the long faces. But what if the Crayola brand of colored pencils the teachers require costs $3.49 and the store brand is only $1.99? No contest, for this mom. But, what if, God forbid, we get a teacher who unintentionally singles out our kids for not having the ‘right’ products? Are we setting poor examples for our kids if we don’t comply? Maybe, but isn’t independent, critical thinking worth modeling? Geesh. I stand in store aisles every August and have these absurd existential debates with myself.

It’s not pretty.

Thank goodness this year I opted to take advantage of the Storm Elementary PTO’s offer to buy pre-purchased and assembled school supply kits as per the various teachers’ requirements instead of hunting for Holly’s supplies. Bless them. It means that there will be one less mindless quest for this mom.

But I couldn’t resist getting her a few pencils that smell like root beer or those fancy Foohy eraser tops that look like monkeys, her favorite animal.

I did okay with Noah’s list, for the most part. I found the two purple folders with fasteners (Noah won’t be thrilled with the color but they’re on the list) and even discovered notebooks for a nickel. A nickel! I had a ‘moment’ trying to locate the proper sketch pad he’ll need for art class, though, and thought I had it made when I finally found a compass for math, but then I hit a brick wall trying to find the right calculator. I can’t just send him with the one I bought last year, apparently. This time he needs a serious Texas Instruments calculator. The store had several, but he needs the 30XIIS model, specifically. I almost pulled my hair out combing through them until I scored one, the last one. I did my own little jig, but then I took a closer look. It was a fuchsia color. Fuchsia?! Noah would be mortified if I ever brought home a pink calculator. That just won’t do. It took three store employees 20 minutes to locate another one, the only other one in the store, and luckily it was black. Crisis averted. My boy won’t be laughed out of math class his first day of Middle School, after all.

The funny thing is, the following week I saw several of the right calculators at two other stores. You know how you can search high and low for something, finally find the last one on the face of the earth, and then later you see them everywhere? It was like I was being taunted by calculators, but I digress.

I conquered Noah’s list and narrowly avoided all things pink, but I blew it in the pencil case department. It turns out that Noah won’t be caught dead using one with a puppy on it. He’s only in sixth grade and the puppy looks like our dog, Jake – and, in its defense, the case was a royal blue color – but no matter.

“Puppies are a girl thing, Mom.”

“Yeah, okay,” I sighed, wondering when he got so old.

I’m really not ready for school.

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