It's arrived. The dreaded school supplies list.
Back when I was a kid, I showed up for the first day of school with shiny new Buster Browns, a few well-sharpened Number Two pencils and a composition notebook. Now, my kids begin their new year of elementary school with enough school supplies to run a multi-national corporation.
I can't tell you how much I hate shopping for these supplies. Think of a scavenger hunt designed by an insane person who has rigged it so you will fail. Why must this person ask for six blue erasable pens when these pens come in packs of four? Why must a twelve-year-old child have more pens in their mandatory fabric, zippered pencil pouch than I've ever owned in my life? And why must I purchase these pens in an array of colors—green, blue, black and red? Is this to keep the teacher stimulated while she struggles through the kids' homework and tests? I'm not sure the reasoning for so many pens in so many colors, but I'm pretty sure that the more my child has, the quicker she'll lose them. Maybe if she only had one, or two pens, she'd value them more.
Same goes for scissors. Why must I buy two pairs of scissors? And two boxes of markers? Why doesn't one suffice? And why do I have to spend money on supplies for the classroom? Shouldn't tuition cover paper towels? Wipes? Tissues? Hand sanitizers with pump? How about some toilet paper and tampons while we're at it? A year's supply of Xanax? What else does this insane person need to run a classroom?
As I push my cart through Target searching for items I'm convinced don't even exist, I can practically see my daughter's teacher devising the list, a sinister smile plastered on her face. She's thinking, 'You're sticking your brat with me for the next nine months! I'm going to make your last few days of summer as painful as possible."
And finding all the items on this two-page list does take days. When I was a kid, school supply shopping was one-stop shopping. My mom would be able to incorporate our supply shopping with a trip to the local pharmacy. She'd get some toilet paper and paper towels (for our home, not the school) and we'd head to the one small aisle in the store that stocked all the supplies you'd need for school.
How far we've advanced! Today, school supply shopping wipes out days from my life and hundreds of dollars from my bank account. The teachers have arranged it so that even Target, a store that has EVERYTHING, doesn't have a ten-ring binder with a clear plastic top or Prang colored pencils or dry erase markers or Pink Pearl Erasers. And what's with these erasers? Aren't all erasers the same? When I ask my oldest daughter to give me a break and just buy any brand of eraser, she responds as if I've just asked her to cheat on her final or plagiarize on a term paper.
"They have to be this kind."
"I'll get in trouble."
"Blame it on me!"
"No! I always blame it on you. I don't want to start the year off this way. I don't want to be the kid whose mother is always causing trouble."
"IT'S JUST AN ERASER!"
But it's no longer about erasers. Actually, the list has never been about the supplies. It's about how I am ruining my daughter's life if I don't comply. If we all don't comply. The teachers know we will find these erasers and buy all the pens and scissors and dry erase markers. We'll start the year right
Or maybe I won't meekly comply, acquiesce or obey. I bet I could cut this wasteful list by way more than 50% - and if that creates flak, so be it. I'm not raising my children to march in somebody's army - I want them to question "authority" and their arbitrary, nonsensical demands they often make. Blind obedience is the stuff of Jonestown and Heaven's Gate.
It's on. I'm not backing down so much as a single pencil, never mind a 24-pack.
And toilet paper? Forget it.