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.
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.
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.