Finally, it is back-to-school time for many children, but more importantly, it’s back-to-school time for parents as well! It should be an ecstatic time for everyone, but here in Texas, buying back-to-school supplies can put a damper on all that excitement.
In a state whose motto is “Everything is Bigger,” so is school shopping. It is a retail bonanza almost as big as Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter. I’m just waiting for Hallmark to come out with a card!
Click here for the debut webisode of “Mamas Gone Wild!” with Nikki Woods and Mary Flowers Boyce.
As a former educator myself, I understand that most teachers are strapped, and so are many of our school districts. I’ve taught school in a horrendously underserved school system and would have loved to have gotten a fourth of the materials my kids’ classrooms get each year.
Check out this statistic: The National Retail Federation estimated that households with students in grades K-12 are expected to spend an average of $548.72 on school-related merchandise. That’s $548.72 per child! Who doesn’t long for the days when all you needed was a pack of pencils and some notebook paper?
So you can understand why, when they sent home the list of required list of supplies, I freaked out. Not only do you almost need to go back to school to add up the cost, but also to understand what several of the friggin’ items are. Is it just me, or is it wrong for a mom with a million things to do to have to spend 20 minutes trying to figure out if she’s got the correct three-hole punched plastic divider with pockets on the side? Seriously?
And what the heck do they need with all those plastic bags – and brand-name expensive ones, no less! It has already made me bitter and cynical, and my kids are only in third and fourth grades. I can just imagine how stressed out I’ll be by the time they get to middle school. I have evil visions of the Elmer’s Glue people giving kickbacks to the school principal or one of my son’s teachers stocking her own personal pantry with Kleenex and Clorox wipes!
I mean, who monitors what goes on these ever-expanding lists? And when are we allowed to question it? When they request a pair of size 9 Jimmy Choo pumps?
Now that I’m done shopping – last trip, 8 p,m. the night before the first day of school – I can rationally consider why the whole thing has me and other moms I know so upset. It isn’t so the expense, although I may have to forgo my bi-weekly pedicures for a while. And it isn’t because I resent the first-graders using Kleenex tissue when I’m forced to buy the generic brand.
The real issue is that back-to-school shopping puts parents (and moms, in particular) in yet another situation where we will be judged. We’ve done school already, graduated and, if we’re lucky, landed in careers that we love. But once a year, we all have to go back to school and, in a sense, be graded by teachers and administrators who are checking to see whether we know the difference between fine-tip and broad-tip markers.
I talk a good game about not becoming consumed with this kind of stuff when I actually have a team of people to manage at work, but in reality, like most high-achieving parents, I’m worried sick about screwing up this assignment. I want my kids’ plastic bags of pencils, pens and paper to be the best. I want a gold star, a smiley face and an A-plus from the teacher. Don’t think that may happen today, though.
Oh, well. There’s always next year!
Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.