Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thank the Lord, these school supplies are make-believe

I haven’t bought glue and pencils in more than 20 years.

I remember as a child looking forward to school supply shopping. I didn’t care for school all that much, but something about that aisle of paper and folders was so hopeful. The year was beginning, we were starting anew. Things had a chance to be different. We were advancing - and were one year closer to graduation. Hallelujah.

Not to mention, the aspect of shopping for brand-new things. My chosen vocation requires me to replenish pens and paper somewhat frequently and I admit to being one of those people that gets a little heady looking at 20 different varieties of post-it notes and stationery. Yes, my name is Jennifer, and I’m an office supplies geek.

Last week, however, my trip to the school supplies aisle was all business. Tasked with pricing the supplies to send the average kindergardener to school starting Friday, I hit my nearest retailer with a shopping list purloined from one of the elementary schools, and a deadline. I needed to get home - my neighbor was making dinner and I offered to get a couple of the ingredients while I was out.

I’d like to say shopping for pencils, glue sticks and washable markers, the stuff of kindergarten life, brought back memories. It did not. It did raise a few questions. One: what does a kindergardener need with a highlighter? I didn’t use those until at least junior high; a neon, NON-washable marker in the hands of a 5- or 6-year-old just seems dangerous. My neighbor, who is raising a toddler of her very own, agreed with me.

But everything else on the list made sense, even the teacher’s “wish list” consisting of Ziplock bags, Kleenex and the omni-present hand sanitizer. This particular teacher requested three 12-oz. bottles to get the year started; swine flu be damned in this classroom.

The whole list, required items and wish list stuff, came to around $30. Not bad, but I couldn’t help but be glad I wasn’t actually buying the stuff.

Thirty dollars for the basics is doable, but I don’t have to tell those who are parents, there’s many, many more expenses. For instance, I’ve yet to put a stitch of clothing on this imaginary child and a book bag wasn’t on the list. Sticking to the “basic” items alone, I’ll be sending this child off to school naked, with pencils, markers and hand sanitizer balanced in his arms. Someone should call social services.

Obviously, I wouldn’t do that, even to my imaginary kid. But it makes me glad I don’t have children. Children are expensive, between the supplies, the clothes, the shoes and the other “must-have” items of the season. While the teacher’s “wish list” probably shrinks, the child’s gets longer as they get older and discover things like, God forbid, Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers. Surely that child will be blackballed from kickball and traumatized for life without the correct pop culture reference on his or her T-shirt and back pack. What’s a college fund? I’ll just start socking cash away for future psychiatric treatment.

Yeah, I think I’ll stick to dogs for the foreseeable future. They’re just easier. When my mother came to visit, she accused me of “spoiling” my dog. I told her, “This is his life. He’s not going to have to get up one day and go to ‘dog work.’ “

I won’t ever have to send him to school, either, and thank God for that.

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