Slice of Life Tuesday: School Shopping, Redux

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s no secret that school supplies give me joy. For me, and for many folks I know, it’s why I got into teaching. Yeah, yeah, there’s all that noise about making a difference and touching the future, but have you seen a perfectly pink eraser?

I’m not a shopper, but I could spend all the time in the world browsing notebooks, pencils and art materials. If, for any reason, you need to keep me occupied for an hour, just drop me off in the middle of the school supply area of any store.

So way back when my children started school, I had visions of us shopping for school supplies together (please tell me you see where this is going). I dreamed of sharing – of reveling! – in the sheer delight that can only come from a new pack of colored pencils. We’d go through the school supply list, using our time in the aisles to bond and get excited about the school year to come.

My expectations for school shopping and the reality couldn’t have been any different. The kids whined, fought with each other, and were completely uncooperative. Any joy I had about markers, glue sticks, or pristine journals was promptly stomped to bits by constant squabbling and complaints.

It took me a few years of torture, but I eventually figured out that the best thing for all involved was to grab the list and do the darn shopping myself. My kids didn’t really care what I bought them, so long as they had what they needed that first day. (Actually, that’s not entirely true. My older son developed a preference for matching folders, binders and notebook color for each of his subjects, even choosing colors that he felt were suitable to the class at hand. Hope springs eternal…) Once I figured that out, it freed me once again to enjoy that time – alone! – with the school supply list.

So.

Why on earth did I think that college preparation would be much different?

This time, I pictured my younger son and me cruising through the stores with our shopping list, chatting and dreaming about college life, how the dorm room was going to come together, (now please tell me you see where THIS is going!) what sorts of things he’d need to survive the transition, literally and figuratively. Or perhaps we’d be huddled together around my computer, comparison shopping the best blankets and power strips.

Yep. That…wasn’t a thing.

By the time we made it through one store, I knew we had both had enough. I felt the grey hairs sproinging one by one. Did you know that it’s possible to get stressed out over hangers? Or pillows? Or room fans? Or coffee makers? Sproing. Sproing. Sproing.

So now, I’m clicking and shopping. By myself. I’ve got my chai tea, a trusty dog for company, and the satisfaction of knowing I can do this, pain and conflict free. Lap desk? Check. Ethernet cords. Check. Ironically-chosen pink blanket for the dorm bed? Checkitty check.

And really. Isn’t that what most of parenthood – most of life – is about? Releasing ourselves from expectations so that our current reality becomes easier to focus on?

While we’re on the subject of releasing expectations, I’ll leave you with this thought. Right now in our house, things are messy. Not in the figurative sense, I mean truly. Literally. Messy.

As long as it’s out of my living room by next Tuesday, I think I can live with this!

That little mama dream I had of piles of clothing, sorted out by what goes, what stays? C’mon. Who am I fooling? That’s not going to happen. And that’s okay. It may boil down to my son scrambling for a half hour with a bunch of garbage bags, but as long as the clothes are gone from the living room by the time my son is, I will be just fine.

Gratuitous doggo pic. I think she might miss the mounds of clothes. And maybe her brother. But mostly the clothes.

Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations…

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24 Responses to “Slice of Life Tuesday: School Shopping, Redux”

  1. Gail Says:

    Giggle giggle gag!!

  2. arjeha Says:

    I think the dog has the right idea. As for shopping with the kids. Maybe you could write a novel. One where children enjoy shopping with their parents. One where parents and children agree on every color and style. I will look for it in the fantasy section of B & N.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      The dog ABSOLUTELY has the right idea. It’s soft, it’s squishy, and it smells like teen boy (laundry can only do so much, y’know). And yes, that story could be in fantasy – maybe even sci-fi, as there would have to be some kind of body-snatching happening!

  3. Beth Preis Says:

    And, this is why the higher power(s) created labrador retrievers (or fill-in your fav breed)…Thank you for ALWAYS hitting the perfection needle and placing it to where it really belongs. Yes, releasing expectations, and being grateful for what we have and what is!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Absolutely, Beth! There is something to be said for the joy of the nose bump, the pet-me whine, the tail thump. As for gratitude, always. There are few things that gratitude can’t improve, if only by an inch…

  4. cmhutter Says:

    I had the same experience with my son. He wasn’t interested at all! I enjoyed shopping for him on my own and he was happy with all that was there. Now my daughter on the other hand had very specific lists of wants for college that were pushing my economic sense. She did have her clothes in neat piles by color and season. Getting ready to send her off was a bit stressful for me until I learned to be hands-off. I wanted to be involved but needed to let it go. Adjusting expectations is the one of the biggest lessons to learn as a parent. Both kids have done well and now we begin Senior and Sophomore year. I hope your son have a great year at college.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      So glad to know that I’m not alone! The way I see it is, if he REALLY had a preference, he’d let me know. He’s…*not shy* about giving me a piece of his mind when he wants. Then again, maybe that’s another reason I love him! As for your daughter, my older son (who will be a junior at college) is similarly methodical in his preparation. I hope your kids have a great year as well!

  5. Amy Ellerman Says:

    Again, laughing all the way through this slice. Your internal monologue works so well: “By the time we made it through one store, I knew we had both had enough. I felt the grey hairs sproinging one by one. Did you know that it’s possible to get stressed out over hangers? Or pillows? Or room fans? Or coffee makers? Sproing. Sproing. Sproing.”

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! Yes, my kids know that I have lots of fun making up words. Because sometimes, the one you need just hasn’t been invented yet!

  6. Tim Gels Says:

    Oh my gosh, your grey hairs sproinging had me laughing out loud! It’s funny how we find ourselves at odds with our offspring when it comes to the simplest (and most complex) of things. May your living room floor appear again soon!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      A mama can only dream of that living room floor again. And as for the sproinging, my younger guy and I joke around that I name grey hairs for who gave them to me. He’s got a whooolllle annex on my head ; )

  7. onathought Says:

    YES! release the expectations. My daughter is enjoying shopping for college .. my sons don’t even like shopping for middle and high school supplies … so I’m thinking our dorm readiness will look like yours!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes, I saw your post on this too. Looks like we are definitely having parallel experiences. This time is hectic and weird and strange – but I think it will iron out just fine =)

  8. Shaista Says:

    You bet! Our kids teach us the strongest lessons in letting go and deep-breathing! I have spent an entire summer scouring for colleges, attending college essay-writing workshops, filling out forms – basically and mainly rolling my eyes – while the student himself has been inside, with those earphones securely in place. I relate so well to this post!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      They absolutely do! I’ve always said (and I stand by it) that transitions are always harder on us as parents than they are on kids. I also know what you mean about feeling like we’re working harder than they are on the college process. It was hard with the community I’m in – there’s a LOT of pressure around both school and college. So I definitely identify with that side of the conflict…For me, that was another thing I had to let go. And once I did, it felt like a relief!

  9. Karen Says:

    This was absolutely wonderful, from that first paragraph that convinced me we were soul sisters, through the delightful sproings, up to the doggo, and all the way to the “releasing expectations” mantra. Perfection! *chef’s kiss*

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Ha! Thanks! Figure a confession of being a school supply devotee would meet with agreement in this community =))

  10. Ms Victor Reads Says:

    This was so fun to read! Yeah, my sons never cared unless their teachers had specific lists and then I HAD to search every store for just the right whatever. Dorm shopping they had to figure out on their own because we lived in Germany and went to the US to study. Now as adults, they send me a link and I hit purchase for Christmas/birthdays.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you. It was fun to write! I’d also say you’re pretty smart just to go with the link and the wish list. Sometimes it’s just as easy to take care of things that way…

  11. jaclynfre Says:

    Sharing our love with others is always tricky since the risk of diluting this source of delight is very real. At the same time, the possibility of validation and shared interest holds promise. I love notecards and gel pens (who doesn’t?)! Check out these adorable stand up pencil cases.
    https://notebooktherapy.com/collections/pencil-cases/products/stand-up-pencil-case?variant=14477063815283

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Oh heavens those stand-up cases are ADORABLE. I already have two different cases for my pens – one orange zippy monster, and one boring (but much more functional) green jobby. But THIS. I may have to get myself a back-to-school present! And…yes. It’s much easier to get googly-eyed about things we love when we’re around other people who love them just as much. Which is precisely why I adore this community!

  12. Raivenne Says:

    HAHAHAHAHA! By the college years I realized the Fates cackled at me aplenty by giving me both Oscar Madison and Felix Unger (dear GOD please tell me you got the reference without Google!). There’s me a semi-normal(ish) mom stuck between a prissy fussbudget, and a staunch contender for “if a tornado struck would we know?”

    I am the epitome of the joyous Dad in the old Staples commercial for “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” and my sons the two children trudging behind.

    God I miss those days!
    God I’m so glad they’re over!”

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      First of all, YES! I totally got the reference. I’ve been one or the other depending on context and living arrangement! And I also waver between the two as a parent.

      For what it’s worth, that Staples commercial still ranks at the very top of my list. It never fails to make me giggle!

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