School Supplies and Stomach Aches

I’ve avoided Staples since July 4th. I’ve needed new printer ink and envelopes since about July 8th but convinced myself I could do without them. I dread back to school supply shopping. It’s funny because I love shopping for just about anything else, and this time of year, I do get excited to check out the latest fall fashions in the magazines and the stores thinking about purchasing some new sweaters, scarves and other favorites. But binders and rulers — not so much.

I don’t remember school supply shopping when I was a kid. I remember having a Trapper Keeper, a few spiral notebooks and also making textbook covers out of old brown paper bags from the grocery store. My kids’ school supplies lists are a couple pages long and quite specific. They include things like multiple binders, pencil cases and marble composition books with size and color requirements, plus calculators that look like laptops, have nearly as much functionality on them and cost almost as much.

I finally ventured out to Staples a couple weeks ago by myself when my kids were still away at camp. I ended up spending way too much time in the office superstore. One nice young gentleman with a Staples red shirt and matching name-tag, came over to help me as I stood hunched over the index cards section wondering if it’s better to go with the ones with the size the teachers asked for or the ones with the lines on them, which they also asked for. The young man turned personal shopper and I agreed that it’s better to go with the lined cards.

Without fail, I get a stomach ache during this back to school supply shopping trip, but full disclosure, I also get a stomach ache when shopping for greeting cards. There are too many to choose from, and I get nervous that I will get sucked into the mom birthday card section or worse the Mother’s day cards because then I will start to cry. It’s still one of my triggers all these years later. I’ve also been known to feel a little queasy any time of the year at Target as I can’t deal with the size of the store and the fact that one retail space carries milk, bathing suits and weed killer. It seems wrong to me.

Back to the back to school supplies. My stomach clenches in Staples as I think about the school year ahead – about adhering to such ridiculously busy and strict schedules, driving my kids around each night in what feels like an hour that should be past my bedtime. All the items in my red shopping cart, which will soon fill up/weigh down my kids’ backpacks, seem to somehow weigh me down. Heads up — I hear JanSport is making a big comeback in the backpack department this year.

I like the ease and breeze of summer — the take a walk outside after dinner, let’s meet up for ice cream wherever and whenever and wear flip-flops and our hair up in ponytails every day. With each sniff of a glue stick or highlighter (I am partial to yellow ones even though those multi-colored packs are tempting) I am reminded that those easy breezy days are coming to an end.

I spent way more time in Staples this year with a way bigger stomach ache, and I think I just figured out why.

I only have a handful more of these back to school supply shopping trips to make. Although I am not so great with transition to fall or really any kind of change or letting go of anything or anyone, there is something about the back to school, back to back to school nights, back to the soccer field, back to the carpools,back to the run around to activities, back to the bus stop that I secretly love.

With the back to school and back to all this back to back stuff comes me coming back to being the mom in the way I know how to and in the community of other parents and kids that come together each fall to make it all happen in a way we have always done so a la “time to make the donuts.” There is a comfort in this routine, and although I won’t miss the queasy stomach as I try to figure out whether it’s better to buy the regular paper and reinforcement tabs or the new fancy paper with reinforcement tabs already on them (do you think they will last all year?) I know I will miss this seemingly annoying routine too when it is no longer mine.

I am trying to hold on to this — to all of it and appreciate it while I have it, binder by binder, disinfectant wipe container by tissue box (which they will definitely ask for more of come February) number two pencil by mechanical pencil,  tab dividers by post it notes, stomach aches and all.