When I was a little kid, I loved school supplies. A new box of crayons, a fresh spiral notebook complete with Smurfs on the front (shut up, I’m from the 80s), a Bionic Woman pocket folder. Nothing says “I’m ready to learn” like a watermelon scented eraser.
But now that I’m a mother of four, back to school shopping has turned stressful. In addition to the sneakers, backpacks, lunch boxes and mountains of glue sticks, there’s the cash for school planners, expensive graphic calculators and oh crap, we need a new printer, too. You know, so that in addition to the rainforest-worth of paperwork the schools sent home, we can also go through a few more reams of paper for school projects. Sorry, Al Gore!
Forget private school. Pretty soon, parents are going to need a bank loan in order to afford to send their kids to public school.
And to those of you who’d say “You shouldn’t have had so many kids,” I wish your zero-population ass had been around when I “kept trying for the boy,” but that train has already left the vaginal station, so for now, I’m just a broke breeder and you can sneer it up.
Now I don’t mind buying a protractor, some colored pencils, or even the splurge for the Beatles Yellow Submarine and Def Leppard Hysteria spiral notebooks at Wal-Mart. But you know what really burns my biscuit? (Sorry, I have no idea why I just turned into Flo from Alice there for a second.)
The non-school supply school supplies.
It started with the “box of tissues.” I didn’t mind that so much. I mean, what’s one extra buck at the dollar store? It doesn’t fit well in the backpack already crammed with composition books, but I can see how schools don’t want to keep supplying the tissues our kids are snotting their way through all year, so having a stock for the classroom seemed reasonable. Then we moved into antibacterial hand sanitizer. Okay, okay, I figure, even though I don’t let my kids use that stuff because my daughter’s hands got so dried out from the alcohol-crammed stuff that they actually bled, everyone generally agrees we don’t want germs spread more all over the classroom than they already are, correct? So Purel it is, school. Well played.
Honestly, I don’t even mind the little “wish lists” of post-it’s the teachers put up at back to school night every year. I don’t mind volunteering to buy sticker rewards, or magnetic tape or an extra set of markers—and besides, the teachers shouldn’t have to be the ones ponying up their already-don’t-make-enough cash for the classroom cause.
But this year? I drew the school supply spending line on the beach of education versus parenting.
On the list was “Clorox Wipes.” I know, this seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but I stood at the Walgreens and looked at the $3.69 price tag on the Clorox Wipes, and in an already strained household school supply budget, I thought, “No. I don’t mind paying so the kids can blow their noses or sanitize their hands, but cleaning supplies? This is getting ridiculous. I love the wipe product as much as the next frumpy housewife, but I don’t even splurge on Clorox Wipes for my own house unless those suckers are on sale! I refuse to buy them at a non-sale price for a room full of second graders (plus: does a teacher need 25 plastic containers of Clorox Wipes to get through a school year? How much crap can these kids spill on their desks? This should be a wish list item, I decide.)
I moved on down the list, comparing prices on exorbitant three ring binders and buying stickers so my kids can decorate the five/$1 plain pocket folders because the trendy ones are too expensive. I felt proud in my little parental rebellion. ! am not pay to clean the school! The old people would have a fit about this. They pay fixed-income, hard-earned tax dollars for these schools—what the heck are they buying if not cleaning supplies! Back in my day…
Of course, thanks to the mom guilt that births itself like a placenta every time we have a kid, I will probably buy the damn Clorox Wipes when they are on sale and send them in.
Mary McCarthy blogs at www.pajamasandcoffee.com.