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Why I Hate Back-to-School Time

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Guest blogger Kimberly Seals Allers: While nothing will bring me more joy than putting my two "little people" back on the school bus in a few days, what it will take to get us all there is, quite frankly, a real pain in the ass. As soon as August rolls around, the TV becomes full of ads featuring cheery kids in bright plaid outfits and cutesy hats who are dancing around to upbeat music as they board a yellow school bus. You may notice something, however: There are no moms in these ads!!

kids infront of school bus
And that brings me to why I hate back-to-school time. It's not just the mad rush of back-to-school shopping and the way otherwise-normal people go absolutely CRAZY over 10-for-$1 glue sticks. (OK, maybe it is ....) And it's not just how my girlfriends start showing up at Old Navy at 6 AM for "doorbuster specials," just so they can get a few T-shirts for $2 -- or, worse, start calling me up at 6:30 AM to ask if I want them to grab a few tees for me. (Yes, thank you, but I want to know: Why did you get up at 5 AM to buy kids' clothes?! Save that kind of energy for Nordstrom. Seriously!) 

No, what I really can't understand is why kids' school-supply lists are now so long that they have to be collated, bound and sent parcel post. WTF?! Every year, I'm eager to see what else we are going to be asked to bring to school. If it's not disinfecting wipes and mops (hello, don't our taxes pay for a school janitor?!), it's paper towels or DVDs or chinaware. Next we will be asked to supply our own desks and chairs! (I hope I'm not giving them any ideas ....)

Last year, I made the never-to-be-repeated mistake of getting my school supplies on the night of the first day of school. Let's just say, I could have gone postal in Staples. I haven't stood in a line that long since I was outside Madison Square Garden trying to get New Edition tickets. From the way the line looped up and down four aisles, you would have thought that the Gloved One himself was in there looking for a glittery folder and a monkey backpack. 

Of course, the only reason why I, a sane woman, was even in the war zone known as Staples on the first day of school in the first place was because I had registered my children late. I registered my children late because, for the previous three years, the "wasband" had registered the children at his address. (Technically, he lives in a better school district, and it's part of our legal agreement.) But last year, the new girlfriend -- whom I affectionately call "Chunky but Funky" -- made a huge stink about said legal agreement, and my wasband didn't have the balls to put her in her place. (At least, not by the first day of school.) And so I had to stand on line for three hours and register my kids in my own school district on the day before school began. 

I share this so you can understand the mama-on-the-edge mindset I had when I was standing on line (again!) that night in Staples. I was ready to stab someone with a number 2 pencil. If I could have found a compass in that mess, I would have been arrested. But the place looked like Beirut, and there was barely anything left. 

At the end of it all, Kayla's folder for the first day was plain white and came from my home office. "Draw your own pony or star," I told her. Builds creativity, I told myself. But I still think the frenetic back-to-school-shopping mayhem among moms is crazy. The "Did you do your BTSS?" phone calls. The "Done with BTSS???" texts. The "BTSS sale at Walmart!!" alerts. Enough already! Remember when you went to school with a (plain) notebook and a pencil, and how you hoped that your backpack got torn up (or you tore it up real quick yourself in early August) so you wouldn't be rockin' the same pack next year? I'm all for buying one first-day-of-school outfit, but after that Kayla has to wait. (It's still hot here, anyway; she can wear her summer clothes for a few more weeks.) 

But the truth is that after eight weeks of museums, amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, pools, beaches and countless "Mommy, I'm bored" moments, most of us would gnaw off a limb to get our jokers back in school ASAP. Schools, we beg you to take them off our hands! We'll buy 55 supplies and coffee and biscotti for the teacher's lounge if we have to! 

I'm so over summer. And I'm over the back-to-school frenzy. What I really need is that moment after the last school bus pulls off and I get my minute-to-myself and my 8 AM-to-3 PM days back.


next: Should Schools Offer Flavored Milk?
121 comments so far | Post a comment now
Laurie September 9, 2010, 8:39 PM

Seems like everything you’re complaining about you’ve chosen to do. So why complain? Or, better yet, why do it? I don’t get it. “BTSS” is a marketing ploy; you don’t have to play along. Those lists at Staples? THEY made them up, not the schools or the teachers.

ME September 9, 2010, 11:16 PM

Yes BTSS are a marketing ploy but the lists at Staples aren’t made up by Staples. They are provided by the schools/teachers.

Melissa September 12, 2010, 3:48 AM

My daughter attends preschool, and they asked us to bring things in when we brought the kids for orientation. Well, we had been on vacation for 2 weeks beforehand… and frankly I was trolling CVS and Target the hour before orientation. BUT I also figure, I can send in anything she doesn’t have in her backpack at some point, because standing on line at Target during Labor Day? Not so much…

I have actually never understood the allure of the whole doorbuster thing when places like Old Navy and Children’s Place have sale racks (even online) 2 weeks after the clothing comes out at like 4 and 5 dollars. And an excellent return policy.

My MIL was a teacher, she NEVER school shopped, though I don’t have the room to do this I wish I did.. She had extra supplies in the basement… at back to school, she took the kids shopping there for most of what they needed. If there was something odd on the list, she’d get it. Then she’d bulk up during the year when it wasn’t busy. (and without kids)

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