Friday, July 27, 2018

The Secret to Joyful School Supply Shopping

My sweet college friend Rachel invited our family to Six Flags-Chicago.

Within seconds, the boys accepted the invitation for a theme park day with friends.

The roller coasters were crowd-pleasers.  

The log rides drenched all the boys (and moms).  With the heat, no one complained.

A few days later, we switched gears and headed out to the country.

Sweet friend Erin just added cows to her farm.

The boys helped with the farm feedings (a novelty for our crew).

I'm swooning over this picture.

After a week of middle school band camp, this one is the next Kenny G!

Yesterday, I pushed two carts around the Target school supply section.  The aisles brimmed with frazzled moms and eager kids.  I clutched a wad of papers, school supply lists jammed with requested items.  Three sons flanked my cart.  I had high hopes my crew would act as assistant shoppers.  Instead, three sons worked together to provide additional obstacles and added hurdles.  One son tossed puffy paint into the cart; another son hurled glitter glue on top of the puffy paint.  Among the thousands of items needed, each son seemed to gravitate towards unnecessary trinkets and doodads.

I frantically scanned the aisles for a pack of 24 Crayola classic, thin-tipped markers.  Each item invoked a deep internal debate and a slew of ethical issues.  Did the teacher really mean Crayola?  At 50 cents cheaper, the Target brand crayons appeared to suffice.   Would the teacher know if Collin brought 18 crayons versus 24?  Surely, the smaller number of crayons would not hinder his educational future.   

At first searching for school supplies resembled an adult scavenger hunt.  But an hour into the process, school supply shopping felt a bit more like one of those survival shows or a Ninja warrior course.  I witnessed several moms ditch supply shopping once exhaustion hit.  I double downed in my resolution to press forward.  If I can tackle marathons, selecting the right Sharpie packs and 3-ring binders would not be my undoing.  

By mid-list, however, I was spent and shuffling through the aisles in a daze.  Sweat beads rolled down my back.  The boys were unraveling.  By the dry erase markers, I spotted an acquaintance Claire with her posse of kids.  Claire looked like she just walked out of a parenting magazine spread.  She seemed to float along the aisle, obliviously to the fact she was carting four of her eight kids through the school supply section.  

"Did you bring the school supply lists?" Claire asked when she spotted me.  "I forgot to bring mine."

If the forgotten list bothered Claire, she was a master actress.  She tossed off her words as if delivering a well-placed joke or witty remark.

With kids in different grades, I couldn't offer Claire a school supply list.

"No worries," Claire voiced.  "We'll figure it out."

She added, "I forgot to feed the kids lunch too.  I guess we'll head over to the snack bar."

I watched Claire mosey through the aisles while willy-nilly chucking crayon boxes and pen packs into her cart.  Her children appeared to be enjoying the outing.  A gaiety radiated from her crew.  What I noted about Claire is that she didn't major in the minor.  Claire, it appeared, knew choosing the proper school supplies paled in comparison to cultivating a right relationship with her kids.

I thought about Claire while I finished shopping for my list.  Charging through the list and selecting just the right items was zapping the joy from this mom and her sons.  Perhaps we could slow down and even savor the insanity of the shopping.  In the long run, whether or not we selecting just the right crayons would mean less the setting the right tone.

With that thought, I grabbed the Target-brand scissors from the shelf and smiled at my boys.  

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