Lighten up: Trying to survive the annual back-to-school shopping
Every fall, here they come, with shining brown eyes and lists as long as Santa Claus's.
Visions of glossy backpacks, expensive shoes and 64-packs of Crayolas - built-in sharpener included - dance in their heads. These two kids need more school supplies and clothes for one year than I needed in my entire academic life. College included.
My checkbook and I want to cry.
We have no choice, though - off we go. We join throngs of other parents and children, crowding stores each autumn for the annual Running for the Rulers. This adventure takes preparation, stamina and the proper footwear.
Moms of America, heed my word: Never, never, never wear flip-flops when shopping for school supplies. Many a toe gets tromped, many an ankle twisted in good 'ole aisle 6, what with the pushing, shoving and bloodshed. Mommy-fights break out - tussles over the last pack of college-ruled paper or three-pack of glue sticks. A solid sneaker is best. Perhaps a steel-toed boot. And a bulletproof vest.
In full riot-gear, the kids and I push through ramming carts, kicking legs and flying fists. We pause at the Crayola display for the Buying of the Crayons. Time for a little educational dialogue between my six-year-old son and I:
Me: Where are all the crayons I bought you last year? The 24- packs, the 48-packs…
Son (swinging legs and hanging off cart): I don't know.
Me: Well, what about the crayons the Easter Bunny brought in your basket?
Son (hanging off cart, looking at ceiling): I don't know.
Me: What about the crayons Grandma bought you this summer?
Son (trying to tip cart while looking longingly towards toy department): Huh?
The boy has a point. Does anyone know where the crayons and the rest of last year's school supplies go? I mean, we buy them every year - many should still be functional.
But they just disappear - quite like that one sock in the dryer. All these little thingies and doo-dads have to exist somewhere on Earth. They must live on an unknown tropical island with the orphaned lost socks. Playing beach volleyball and laughing at the stupid humans.
Shaking off my tropical fantasy, we press on through the gory fray. Several hours, a couple of concussions and hundreds of dollars later, the kids and I finish Operation Bloody Red Crayon.
Time now to buy The Shoes. This is not a task that my 12-yearold daughter will permit at my beloved Wal-Mart. Oh no. We must head to Ridiculously Priced Shoes 'R' Us for this fun. More quality family dialogue:
Daughter: I want Nike Shox shoes. All my friends have them.
Me: Well, how much do they cost?
Daughter (with an off-hand wave): Oh, I don't know, I think $70 or $80 or something.
Me (choking on Diet Coke, fuel for Back to School Mommies everywhere): I can see where they get the name! I am in "Shox!" Can't you just the regular $50 Nikes? Didn't I just buy you Nikes for cheerleading?
Daughter (Big Brown Eyes filling up): But Mom!
Sigh. Up and down the rows we go, hoping for a Nike Shox miracle. Oh, we see some alright. For $84.99 (and up) you too can have the fab, made-in-a-China sweatshop shoes of the moment.
Looking over at my daughter, I think what a great kid she has been, what a lovely young lady she will become, how kind she is, occasionally, to her brother. She looks over at me - more Big Brown Eyes - and smiles hopefully.
Aw. Isn't it worth skimping on groceries a few months so her pretty feet can have the absolute coolest logo for her back-toschool escapades?
Logo? Groceries? Logo? Groceries? Logo?...
Logo over groceries? WTH - I mean Heck - is wrong with me?
Quickly, I shake it off. The child has obviously implanted subliminal messages on my Ipod. Again. (Just Do It! Just Do It! Buy the Nikes! Buy the Shox!..)
After many arguments, tantrums and tears - on my part - the Great Shoe Debate of 2009 gets settled. She will get $40 Converse Chuck Taylor shoes. Next pay. When the checkbook and I 'bounce' back.
Dawn Weber is a Brownsville wife and mother of two pre-teens who commutes daily to Columbus for her full-time job.