Ah, back-to-school time. There is so much anticipation this time of year. Students are wondering which teacher they will get for homeroom and who will be in their classes this year. They are planning their first-day-of-school outfits and shoes.
They are loading their backpacks with school supplies and folders with cartoons, kittens or race cars decorated on them. Sure, the kids will miss the pool and sleeping in, but getting to see friends again makes it OK.
Then there are the parents. Some parents are happy to do all the shopping and don’t mind dealing with their child’s nervousness and crankiness.
And then there are the majority of parents, who are poor, tired and cranky at this point. There are so many expenses for back to school; school shirts, yearbook, school lunch accounts, school supplies, new shoes, new clothes, etc.
I have decided people can start calling me “Mrs. Bagsunderhereyes.” My bank account is empty and I am Barely. Hanging. On.
Some friends of mine and I group text. Here is a recent related conversation:
Friend 1 (has 2 children): Super Store 1 was out of all things Crayola FYI.
Friend 2 (has 2 children): I felt like Super Store 2 had nothing when I was looking in July when I had to kill time. You aren't a failure, they are. Try Office Supply Store 1.
Friend 3 (has 4 children): I went to Super Store 1 two weeks ago and they were already running low. Went to Office Supply Store 1 yesterday, but just for high school supplies. Last year I found Super Store 2 to be really lacking. So we didn't go back this year.
Friend 4 (has 4 children): I need 21 prong folders. I have procured 5.
Friend 2: Oh good grief.
Friend 3: Paper or plastic? They did have those at Office Supply Store 1 yesterday.
Friend 4: I need composition books that don’t have One Direction on them. Found: zero.
Friend 3: Also at Office Supply Store 1. They're $1.
Friend 2: If all else fails order on Amazon. With Prime it will be here in time.
Friend 3: And I rarely buy the Crayons brand. Sadly. Guess how many packages of #2 pencils they have? It's also zero.
Friend 2: You at Super Store 2 still?
Friend 4: At least your supply list doesn't say sharpened pencils! I am leaving Super Store 2. Headed to office something. Up to $90 so far. Still need all Kleenex. Bags. Wipes. Etc. And lockers. I have 5 lockers. I hate school.
Friend 2: Five lockers? Why so many? And does that mean you have to buy locks for them?
Friend 4: Three regular school lockers, two athletic lockers. I have to buy locks for three of them decorations for all of them. Yes, I will get them locker fun things because getting a locker is super cool. I'm in Wal-mart. If I don't text back, send help.
Friend 3: My youngest child’s were almost $50.
Friend 1: Yeah we did about $60 for my first grader. And that's without a backpack/lunch box. She already had and a few supplies we were given back last year.
Friend 4: Oh. Backpacks. Well I am thankful then. This is why we buy off brands for most. I guess that makes the difference.
Friend 3: No new lunch boxes. And only my oldest needs a backpack right now. My youngest had some very specific supplies like Fiskars pointed scissors and twistable colored pencils, white erasers... I didn't buy the Fiskars. I'm that mom.
Friend 3: I find it ironic that the day I have the most time to make dinner, no one is home to eat it. I guess I won't have to cook tomorrow.
Friend 4: It’s official. I am never leaving Super Store 1. They’ve called for back-up cashiers.
This was the first year that I pre-ordered school supplies. I think it was cheaper and less hassle than buying item by item. However, between Ryan, who is going into seventh grade, and Will, who is going into fourth grade, it was still well over $100 just for supplies.
I spent at least $300 on all the “extras” this year: backpacks, yearbooks, school shirts, school lunch accounts (I had a balance from last year that I didn’t know about), booster clubs, PTA memberships and so on.
I haven’t even thought about what has been spent on clothes and shoes. Thankfully my mom helps me in this department. If you are anything like our family, sports have started, too. Both of my boys are playing soccer and Ryan is playing school football. While there is cost associated with this, right now the stress is just about the schedule.
Thank goodness my awesome husband is an equal partner in this area. Our conversation just went like this:
Husband: So Will has goalkeeper training tomorrow night at 5. Can you get him there?
Me: Yes. He also has Back to School Night.
Husband: When is that?
Me: 5:30 to 7:30. When is practice over for him?
Husband: 6:15. And Ryan has to be at practice at 6:45.
Me: We need to figure out who is doing what when. I don’t even know where to begin.
Husband: You can take Will to Back to School Night if you want and I will stay with Ryan at his practice.
Me: But what am I going to do with Ryan during Will’s practice so he doesn’t just sit at the fields tomorrow night?
Husband: I don’t know.
Me: And when will we eat?
Husband: I don’t know.
Me: How about I drop off Will at practice and take Ryan to eat. You can get to the fields to watch Will’s practice, then I will pick up Will and drop off Ryan to you. Then I will take Will to Back to School Night and feed him and you can stay with Ryan.
Husband: Sounds good.
Now I need a nap just trying to coordinate tomorrow evening. And there are just four members of my family. I have no idea how single parents make anything work. And I have no idea how anyone does anything if they have more kids than driving parents. Bless their hearts.
So if you are anything like me, when school starts (or if it has already started for you) it will be a sigh of relief. You can get into a good rhythm and routine and your August expenses will cease.
Power to you families everywhere! It’s a good thing that we are in this together!
Michelle Sutherlin is a NewsOK contributor and a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years. For more articles about parents and middle school, check out her blog.
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