I Survived Back to School Shopping

My youngest child will be wearing a nightgown to school on the first day of the new academic year. It’s red and silky and adorned with a princess. It reaches down to her feet and came with the odd-but-apparently-required tags proclaiming its inflammability. She is absolutely convinced that it’s a dress, but it’s definitely a nightgown. But she loves it and she’s four, so YOU try explaining to her that she can’t wear it to preschool. I dare you.

The nightgown/dress was the product of an exhausting but successful back-to-school foray to Lexington last weekend. I confess that I seriously considered hitting the local Walmart while the kids were with their dad and calling it a day. I can’t always muster the requisite fortitude to go shopping with my offspring. In fact, I usually avoid it at all costs.

My angels can charitably be described as “active” and going out in public with them requires constant vigilance and advanced sheepdog tactics. They’re good kids, but they move fast and they touch things. Constantly.  I see other people’s children walking calmly beside their parents in stores and I just stare, awestruck. My children skip, sing, and try to give high-fives to the mannequins. They start impromptu games of hide-and-seek and periodically declare the floor to be lava, a game that invariably involves a lot of shrieking. They also squabble (forcefully) over who gets to hang off the front of the shopping cart while pretending to be the figurehead on a ship. Sigh.

Where was I? Right, the back-to-school shopping trip. Since it’s the start of the school year, I pushed down my reservations and took them with me. I try to balance the fun of buying new things with a few basic lessons in money management. My oldest daughter insisted she needed a new backpack. I maintain her old one is fine. So we compromised: new backpack instead of new outfit. My son fell in love with a baseball cap he was sure would be the perfect finishing touch to his new outfit and, when I declined to add it to the cart, was willing to spend two weeks’ worth of allowance to buy it himself. It’s not the choice I would have made, but that’s the whole point. It’s his choice – and he felt good about it.

Parental self-restraint was more difficult to come by when we reached the school supply aisles. I absolutely adore school supplies. Big bins of new markers make my heart race and Pink Pearl erasers are downright sexy. I made a token gesture of frugality – insisting on eraser caps for the multitude of pencils we already own rather than buying all new #2’s – but then happily shelled out for new scissors, colored pencils, notebooks, and folders even though a thorough cleaning of the art room at home could probably have produced everything they needed. There’s just something so inspiring about a fresh, clean spiral notebook.

To celebrate our successful shopping trip, we grabbed dinner at Bob Evans. With three energetic children under the age of nine, this is about as far as we venture into the land of “grownup restaurants.” I have no idea if the senior citizens at the nearby tables found it charming or horrifying when my youngest child started doing pushups on the floor near our table. She got bored waiting for her meal to arrive and – having seen the havoc that kid can wreak when she’s bored – calisthenics seemed better than the alternative.

When we got home, the big kids eagerly opened their new supplies and packed their backpacks while my youngest waltzed happily around the living room in her new nightie. She has informed me that she will be wearing it every day. I don’t doubt it and I don’t mind. That’s why God made washing machines with a quick wash cycle.

Here’s to another great school year!

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