August, when summer is coming to an end, and school is just around the corner. As a child, I always loved the start of the school year, new Big Chief tablets, #2 pencils with pink erasers, and a cigar box to hold all my supplies. The one thing I really, really wanted was the big box of 64 crayons, with the sharpener built in the side. With six kids to outfit for school, there wasn't money for any unnecessary extras. I didn't mention it to my mother, and took the little box she handed me without saying a word. The box that didn't have fun colors like fushia and turquoise. Mine had plain old blue and purple and red.
So jump forward 35 years, and I'm shopping with all three of my kids, for school supplies. Two of the three weren't that thrilled that summer was about to end, and within days they'd be stuck back in a classroom seat, having to sit still and be quiet. Looking back, I can see that the fun of choosing school supplies was probably all that sparkled for them, when it came to the thought of climbing back on that bus, and walking into a classroom. Our kids were about 7 years apart in age, so the older one needed folders and notebooks and a calculator. The middle one wanted fun spiral-bound notebooks that had the latest pop-star on them, and sparkly pencils with her name on the side. The last one - a boy - well, the store shelves didn't hold anything that could get him excited about returning to the classroom, to another teacher who was bound to be completely worn out with him byChristmas break.
The discontent, the mumbling and groaning and complaining, grew with every aisle. Like most parents shopping for school supplies, our budget was stretched thin, and my patience was growing thinner by the minute too. Feeling like I was trapped with a bunch of whiny, grumbling kids, embarrassed by their less than wonderful behavior, I quit asking for any input, just threw a bit of this and that into the cart, and headed to the checkout.
As I began to unload the cart's contents onto the belt, one of my children went into meltdown mode 'I don't want to go back to school! My teacher is going to hate me. And I didn't even get the smelly markers I wanted.'
Instead of going back in my memories, to a little girl about seven or eight years old to whom a box of 64 crayons was supremely important, I had my own meltdown. I yelled loud enough for anyone within several aisles to hear me, "I am NEVER taking all three of you shopping again!"
Oh for do-overs. Nobody wants to be 'that woman' shopping at the discount store. So here's a heads-up idea: make it a special date with ONE child.Leave the others at home. Just the two of you go out for a hamburger, or ice cream cone, or whatever. Then let them help choose their school supplies. It'll give you precious time with your child, help them learn to make decisions, make them feel valued and ensure sweet memories when both of you look back someday. When I shared, a few years ago, with my own mother, that I'd always wanted the box of '64 crayons with sharpener' she said she'd had no idea. Being at the store with five siblings, there was little chance of being heard. One-on-one time is a gift, for you and your child.