Friday, April 20, 2012

Back to School (Yes, I know it isn't back to school time)

One of the complications that comes with writing a blog is timing. I have been wanting to write about the whole "back to school" process for long time, but my discipline has been lacking, but the blog is back and I can't move on without addressing an issue that every parent confronts. Getting a child ready for a new school year is more complicated than I ever thought possible. As I have in the past and will in the future I thank my mother and apologize profusely for everything she did every year of my schooling and for my being completely and utterly oblivious to all that she went through in the process. I love you mom.

As I am writing this, IR is beginning spring break of her first year of traditional schooling. She started kindergarten in August of last year, so the experience we had in getting her ready for this first year of school might seem overdue, but sometimes it takes a long time to digest and contemplate the traumatic experiences in life and I would like to think the time that has passed in the interim may have served to allow perspective on the subject.

There are too many corporate driven holidays to count these days. Too many reasons for people to get out and shop. But the whole back to school phenomena has escaped me for a while. I failed to see why a new school year required new shoes and new clothes and new everything as the ads would have me believe. I still fail to see why a new school year reguires new shoes, but now I understand that back to school shopping is not about shoes. Back to school shopping is about more than new shoes. Back to school shopping is about social status. Back to school shopping is about low school budgets. Back to school is about planning and competition. Back to school is about being ready. In other words, back to school is the litmus test of your readiness to parent a school age child. At least in my limited experience as a parent.

I know I have readers with small children who think they have braved the worst of the sleepless nights and gag-worthy diapers, but I can only warn you of the formidable dangers that lie in your path. Sleep deprivation has its own charms. I see the haggard faces of new mothers as they wander the aisles of the grocery store while their newborn babies wriggle in the car seats. I sympathize. But let me tell you about our first back to school shopping experience.

Start of School: August 22nd

Around April 15th :
My wife calls me as I am picking IR and the neighbor boy up from school. "We need to go back to school shopping for IR" My wife announced. "Okay" I said in agreement, thinking at the the time that it was a little early. My wife loved school at IR's age and I despised it, and our ideas about back to school shopping fell along those same lines.

Around May 25th :
I am laying in bed about to fall asleep and I am startled awake by my wonderful wife. "We need to go back to school shopping for IR!"..."Okay," I respond when my heart rate drops back below 150.

On about six different occasions in June and July I receive this text: "We need 2 go back 2 school shopping!" to which my response is "Okey Dokey"

August 20th: Back to school shopping at Target

We come prepared with the list. Pencils, crayons, hand sanitizer, two folders, markers, dry erase markers, paper towels, moist cleaning wipes, pencil box etc... But it is worse than it sounds because they are specific. The pencils have to be yellow and they have to come in a package of twenty. The crayons have to be in a package of sixteen and the dry erase markers in a package of four and they have to be the non stinky kind. The pencil box has specific dimensions as well. We get to the section of our Target that contains the seasonal items and find four half aisles of pencil, crayon, marker, and folder armageddon. Hand sanitizer is in the pencil bin and crayons are mixed in with the dry erase markers and none of them match the requirements of our little list. Those of you who know my wife know that she only busts out certain words when she is beyond her normal stress threshold, and before I can even begin to think of a way to make all of this sound better she yells "What the hell is this?" I am not exaggerating. The traffic jam of red plastic shopping carts fell silent for a moment as all the parents and kids in our vicinity processed what they just heard.

"Honey, its not that bad, we can get a few things here and try some other places. And please don't yell." I said. But one look at her face told me that I wasn't helping.

"When?" And the look I received with that question was all the answer I needed. This was my fault because we didn't go back to school shopping earlier like she said we should. And then she picked up a box of pencils and threw them in the cart. All the while our two little girls were saying things like "Here are some markers!", and "I found the folders!"

I was of the mind that we could just get some pencils and markers and crayons and be done with it, but my wife was convinced that if we didn't get the right ones that we would be the pariahs of the new group of parents we were going to be a part of. We couldn't have that, so we went to six different stores and pooled our resources with neighbors to make sure that we got everything we needed.

I found out later that most of it goes into the school supplies and the excess is sold at the end of the year.