As a kid, one thing that always helped me battle the back-to-school blues was back-to-school shopping. I’m not talking about new coats, hats or sweaters that was a nightmare. Everything felt too itchy and too hot. The thing that got me revved up was shopping for school supplies. My mom and I would hit the stores, each of us as excited as the other, buying sparkly new binders, shiny clean notebooks and the coolest pens around. On the first day of school, my girlfriends and I would whip out our pencil cases preferably pink, plastic or Peanuts and compare and contrast all our stuff.
So when my oldest son started grade school, I was excited to take him shopping with me. Because he attends a private school, we were given a list of things to buy. A very specific, color-coded list: one red 1.5-inch binder, 24 HB non-mechanical wooden pencils, four folders (purple, navy, blue and yellow). The list went on. Talk about wind leaving sails. Still, I figured there were always the pencil boxes, markers and other odds and ends we could choose together.
Except my son had no interest. I chalked it up to him being the oldest. He couldn’t have known the joys of school-supply shopping because he’d never been in a real classroom with his very own desk. When I returned with my bag of treats, complete with special name stickers, he remained unimpressed.
This year, my second son is starting grade school. He, too, refused to join me at our local Staples. So off I went, muttering about the moms of girls were so lucky they got to bond with their daughters over paper products while my sons sat around comparing silly penis tricks (“Look! It’s a vagina! Look! It’s a cheese string!”) and swear words.
When I got to the store, it was mobbed. Moms and daughters everywhere, nary a boy to be seen. And they all looked downright miserable. At least three different girls were on their smartphones, texting their friends before they committed to a pencil grip. One mother smiled sadly, explaining that her daughter would “die” if she brought the wrong color duotang.
Every aisle told the same story: happy moms shopping alone, gleefully throwing any color combo of staplers and scissors into their trolleys, while daughters tried not to pull their own or their mothers’ hair out. It was a glimpse into a whole other life. One I’d never know. And it’s a good thing, too I’d hate for anything to tarnish my school-supply shopping memories. Especially now that I’m reliving them, despite flying solo. I figure since my kids won’t come with me, next year I’ll make the school supply pilgrimage with my mom. And I know she can’t wait!
(Photo: Comstock Images)