I am fully capable of helping my children muddle their way through middle school drama. I can comfortably engage in spirited conversation on a variety of important and trivial issues. I have a reasonably high IQ score.
Why is it that hunting and gathering school supplies is so far outside my comfort zone?
I know how to make a list. The stores I frequent even try to simplify things for me by setting up gigantic, idiot-proof Back-to-School Zones containing everything each of my three children might possibly need in support of their return to their schools’ freshly buffed hallways and dust-free chalkboards.
But I H.A.T.E. this chore. I have had the grade-specific, administrator-approved, itemized lists all summer long. And yet I put it off as long as I possibly could because “MIssion School Supplies” gives me a headache and makes me whiny.
Why? I’ll tell you why. In fact, I have a list.
1.) Because in each of my years as a Parent Who Is Required By Law to deliver her children back to school with specific sets of items designed to optimize their learning potential, such as antibacterial wipes and #2 pencils (no mechanical pencils, please) I have never once managed to find everything on the list in one store. Always at least two. Last year, it was four.
2.) Even though I feel certain that there must be an efficient way to accomplish this chore, I always end up aisle-jumping in order to cross things off “The List” in order, for fear of missing something, only to return to each aisle no fewer than four times in search of whatever might be the next thing on the list.
3.) Since I have three children in three different grades, multiply the steps in item #2, above, by three. Do NOT suggest to me that I try to fulfill the needs of each child all at once while in each aisle, because that’s even worse. The order of the items in each list is not at all logical or consistent, and with three lists going at once… dammit, I’m starting to twitch.
4.) Some far more organized and less manic parent has always arrived at the store earlier in the week and exhausted the supply of, say, 1-subject wide-ruled spiral notebooks, of which I must purchase seven. Sure, there are plenty of notebooks, and I suppose if I were smarter I would just grab a handful, count to seven, and be done with it. But I feel obligated to figure out which notebooks are on sale so that I’m paying $0.99 each instead of $3.99. After digging through the mess for a while, usually as soon as I start feeling like I’m conquering the beast, I realize that five of the seven notebooks in my cart are not wide-ruled, but college-ruled. I sigh heavily as I throw back the rejects, only to discover that the vast majority of the wide-ruled notebooks remaining on the shelves are of the three-subject variety.
5.) Target doesn’t allow shoppers to drink vodka while perusing the school supply section.
6.) By the time I’m finished, my very roomy cart is full to the brim:
7.) My total school supplies bill for three kids, including tax, is $163.87. My kids are very grumpy about the loot that they see hauled into the house, because I never return with the cool, multi-colored binders or Phineas & Ferb folders. I go for the boring stuff. Store brand pencils. Plain notebooks. Sorry kids, Mom is cheap.
8.) Ah, number eight. To any readers who may also be teachers or administrators, let me ask you a favor. Please tell me the truth. I’ll keep it to myself.
Folders. Some are paper and some are plastic. Some come with prongs, others have pockets.
The item on the list that says, “4 three-prong plastic folders with pockets in solid colors; avoid black.”
Level with me. This is a joke, right? I mean, I actually admire the hell out of you if it is, because it’s brilliant in its evil purity. But, honestly. I can find paper folders with prongs and pockets. I can find plastic folders with prongs or pockets. But in Store #1, there are no three-pronged plastic folders with pockets. In Store #2, I thought I found them! But they only come in… yep. Black. Finally, sweet success in Store #3. I almost wept. Different colors and everything. But. Seriously?
9.) Finally, I return home. I sort through every last eraser and sharpener, highlighter and red pen. But I know it’s not over yet. It really was a good idea, in theory, for the district to limit itself to one list per grade so as not to add to the August confusion, but we all know that there will be a second list, to be fulfilled after Back-to-School Night, when each teacher tells us what they really want their kids to bring to class.
I have heard tales of some stores that sell bundled packages of all the necessary supplies by school and by grade, and of other energetic districts where sharp-minded parent volunteers band together and offer supply kits for sale at Back to School Night.
Oh, I love this idea.
If anyone wants to help me figure that out for next year, please come find me. I’ll be at Target, buying more glue sticks.