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Friday, August 19, 2016

On Your Mark, Get Set…

I hate to brag (no, really), but for once, I’m ahead of the game.

Today I finished up almost all of the school supply shopping for my older kids. Man, it feels good!

And this is new for me. Most years, I’ve finished getting supplies a day or two before school starts. The night before school, I’d find myself awake later than planned, counting and organizing and assembling everything they needed to bring the following day. But this year I’m almost a week early. Some might call this “last minute.” But they are wrong. The last minute is the night before school starts.

When I arrived at the store this morning, the school supply section was somewhat busy, but not the mob scene it will be next week. I groaned to a woman near the binders. (And I know that I’m fortunate that I can buy supplies. I heard about a village in another country where students shared a single pencil. I am grateful, really.) But school supplies shopping means summer is ending. And I’m not ready.

Gathering supplies is not hard, per se. However, you have to be very much awake, and this morning I was not. Noticing details on the front of spiral notebooks takes an attentive mind. You easily could buy wide-ruled paper by accident, when college-ruled is on the list. Finding a three-subject spiral notebook as opposed to a five-subject spiral requires that one is alert. And once you find the five-subject spiral, you then must make sure it’s college ruled, not wide ruled. And what if the only ones left are yellow or pink, and your son is not fond of those colors? Nope: supply shopping is not a slapdash chore. You’ve got to bring your A game.

Plus, these days kids are using more advanced equipment than when I was in school. They use computers. They use scientific calculators. Requiring me to find the right thumb drive is even more complicated than sending me out into the wild to get the correct spiral notebook! Still, it had to be done. And I survived the expedition with only a few minor cuts and bruises.

As for my middle child, she wanted to get a lead on this chore and last June she told me that we should get her school supplies. Early. In mid-June the last thing I wanted to think about was the upcoming school year. I needed a break from school. This was the week after school let out, and I was exhausted from the school year, to the point that I had no fight left in me and getting the supplies (much as I didn’t want to) was easier than arguing with a very strong-willed child. I caved. The silver lining, though, was that today I had only half as many supplies to find, which was a relief. (But don’t tell her I said that.)

After I returned home, I stacked up the new school supplies, labeling some, and unwrapping others. I got a surprising sense of satisfaction, unwrapping erasers and permanent markers, and counting pencils. (Clearly, I need to get out more.) But stay with me for a minute. Before new supplies are put to work in class, they are beautiful. Shiny plastic markers gleam. Spiral notebooks aren’t bent yet at the corners or hanging onto their covers by a thread. A smooth, new pink eraser has a certain potential. Its edges are still crisp. It has not yet been stabbed by a pencil wielded by a school-aged boy.

(As a side note, did eraser stabbing bother anyone else when we were kids? I was such a meek child. It never occurred to me to stab a sharp pencil into an innocent eraser. But many boys in my class seemed to take great joy in this activity. For me, this felt very aggressive! Plus, once stabbed, it was only a matter of time before the eraser split into two pieces. Silly (short-sighted) boys…)

Assembling school supplies means that I no longer can be in denial about the approach of the new school year. This summer raced by far too fast. I’m not ready to be the homework cop again. I’ll be honest: I’m not excited about book reports. But school time is coming, and I will adjust. Still—please hold a good thought for us parents, because the school year is intense not just for kids but for us, too. Let’s take a deep breath together, shall we?

On your mark. Get set…ERASE!



  1. I LOVED school supply shopping as a kid. Stationary is my kryptonite!!! I didn't care how crowded the UCLA bookstore was when we were at MHS, OMG! NOTEBOOKS! New Pilot Fine point pens!!! And the Baytree bookstore at college? Swoooon....until Stanford. OMG A real store...I could have died...Maybe I should do you school supply shopping for you? Except I might spend waaaay too long in the pen section...

    1. Hi Mary, so glad this brought back happy memories. I love your enthusiasm!

  2. Do they still sell pee-chee folders? Too cute, Sar.

  3. I still have one from back in the day...

  4. We finished early too! And I am like you, early meaning not the same week as school starting. I learned my lesson from years past. I must admit, I enjoy the shopping. My type A personality gets excited over the new pens, pencils, notebooks, crayons, etc. It's an enthusiasm I share with the kids thankfully. All sorted, labeled and packed in the new backpacks! Now to push myself to get excited for the actual school year... That's another story.