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School supply shopping is now a full-contact sport

school supplies

Ah...the dreaded back-to-school shopping list

Ah, shopping for school supplies. Is there anything…worse? It is truly one of life’s most horrible experiences. First of all, why do they need so damn much? I mean, honestly, are they really gonna use one pencil a week for the next 36 weeks? That’s a lot of lead. Isn’t that like bad for the environment or something? To add insult to injury, one mom I know told me that she had to individually write her kid’s name on each and every pencil. I thought she was joking. I mean, please. Have we resorted to purchasing pricey designer number 2 pencils nowadays? Who gives a crap if your kid uses the wrong pencil? And the stuff really adds up fast. It was probably wrong to tell my son he could have the Mario Wii game if we netted out at under $100. His subsequent tantrum was rather embarrassing I must admit. After he composed himself he looked at our $160 stash and said, “School costs enough. I think the teachers should just buy all the school supplies themselves and give them to students.”

Of course I used that as a teachable moment to launch into a diatribe about the shattered state of education in the country (and particularly within our own state confines) and shared with him the rather disturbing fact that Nationwide, teachers earn a whopping .88 for every dollar earned by those in “comparable” positions.* This might have gone over my 9-year-old’s head.

But back to the chaos of the school supply aisle. It reminded me of Passover shopping on Devon Avenue at Hungarian when I was a little kid growing up in Chicago. (While this image may only be accessible to a few of you, it is such a perfect analogy that I had to include it.) Only instead of large Jewish women with short, complacent husbands body checking me in the macaroon aisle, here we had hordes of over-privileged children violently grabbing the last few packs of sharpened pencils, staplers and highlighters with absolutely no regard for personal space, safety or courtesy. And their parents were even worse.

One lady literally raced me to the dry-erase pen section after I foolishly pointed out its whereabouts to my dazed son who’d been up and down the aisles three or four times without spotting them. She took the very last package of pens. “Um, excuse me,” I politely announced. “My son was on his way over to get those. I believe you heard me direct him to this section, and then you ran over here before he could get here and took the last package of pens. Don’t you think you’re being a little too competitive?”

“Hey,” she smiled with self-satisfaction, “You snooze, you loose.”

I thought about smacking her upside the head.

But then I decided that her husband was probably a personal injury attorney, (no offense, Barry), and that she’d end up suing me for like 18 million dollars because I somehow managed to puncture her breast implant while attempting to kick her in the teeth. It just…wasn’t worth it.

For a brief psychotic moment I thought about taking both of my children to purchase their school supplies at the same time. But, seeing as I’m organizationally challenged and probably undiagnosed ADHD, the image of myself hopelessly trying to follow two diverse lists, while fighting off insurgent parents and checking off appropriate list items as they landed in my cart was a little too much for me. Instead, I made it a “fun” mommy and me outing for each child individually, complete with a post shopping trip to the local fro yo shop.

While the signature tart, fat free, icy treat (that I insisted in smothering with Heath Bar sprinkles) did help to somewhat lessen the post traumatic stress reaction I was experiencing, truth be told, it barely took the edge off. What I needed was a Ketel One, double Martini, not too dry, just a little dirty if I was to go home and return to the battle field with child number two.

Luckily it was too close to bedtime to play out the second half of this cutthroat educational acquisition competition. We tabled it for the night. But let me tell you, come tomorrow morning, I am gonna be a force to be reckoned with. So if you see me coming down the aisle, accordion folder in hand, please, for the love of God, get the hell out of my way.

*Incidentally, “comparable” positions according to the report by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center (EPE) includes reporters, insurance underwriters, and even museum curators to name a few. The report also noted that it is, in fact, teaching quality that matters more than anything else in a child’s education, and astutely added that a child’s likelihood of succeeding in life depends greatly on which state he or she is born into since education varies so erratically from state to state.

About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Oklahoma City with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

7 responses to “School supply shopping is now a full-contact sport

  1. This was hilarious, and. oh, so true! Thankfully, the school where 3 of my 4 kids attend now offers “school kits” which include everything you need (save for kleenex boxes and any special supplies the teacher adds after school begins). It may cost a little more, but is soooooo (so, so) worth it! Happy shopping~


  2. Haley Peterson ⋅

    On the teacher side of things…I only had my own classroom for about five months and I dropped way more than $160 in supplies for activities and incentives.


  3. rah86

    Maybe it’s because Kansas staggers its students’ start dates, but I’ve never had a problem shopping for school supplies. It probably helps that the Wal-Marts where I shop just toss enormous boxes of supplies out onto the sales floor.

    I’m a college student and I have a brother in high school that I’ve shopped with since he was nine. As a future teacher, I’m well aware of how horrible these school lists are. But between paying off student debt, raising my own family, and trying to live day to day, I know I’m not going to be able to provide for my classrooms, too. Arizona is actually considered one of the high-need states, particular around Phoenix. Kansas is not. That may have something to do with things.


  4. mack Burly ⋅

    When I was a kid on the first day of school, they handed us a note pad, a pencil and a pack of Lucky Strikes. That’s it. Of course that was reform school.


  5. Renee Duncan ⋅

    I would like to address your rant/rave called Nuts About Peanuts found in the August 2010 edition of Raising Arizona Kids. I am a nurse practitioner and the mother of a 5 year old boy with both asthma and a nut allergy. I was not upset about your indignation in the fact that many schools are becoming “nut free”, and that your kids were being deprived from having a peanut butter sandwich at school. I have never asked my son’s classroom or school to become nut free for his sake. I do carry an Epipen in my purse and provide one for the school in the event that he would need it. I make sure that there is an allergy action plan in his classroom and that Benadryl and Prednisone are available. I also keep in close contact with his teacher to make sure she is aware of his allergy in case snacks or treats are brought into the classroom. He is aware that he has an allergy to nuts but like most 5 year old’s if someone offers him something to eat that looks good he would probably eat it. I do however take offense to the way you trivialized nut allergies even suggesting that they do not even exist. I also took particular offense when you compared being “kosher” to having a nut allergy. Being kosher is a religious preference, nut allergies are a “medical emergency” and can be life threatening. You also suggested in your article that the 12-20 children that die per year from anaphylaxis reactions was an acceptable risk if it meant that your child could have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at school. I happen to believe that one death is too many. Next time you write an article on a medical issue, please consult experts in that field. I believe that knowledge is empowerment and it appears to me after reading your article that you missed the mark entirely.


    • gettrich ⋅

      I so appreciate your sharing your opinion on this matter. I always welcome divergent input. I too believe that knowledge is empowerment. That’s why I thoroughly believe it is essential for parents to empower their young ones with as much information as they can about their health and diet. I also applaud you for not insisting that your child’s school become “peanut free.”

      As for my comparison to keeping kosher, I think it is highly relevant. From the time that my children were 4 years old, they knew to ask what was in certain foods and to decline foods based on the principals of our diet, regardless of what “looked good.” I can’t tell you how many silly phone calls I’ve received from parents during play dates asking me if my son could eat oreos or wheat thins. When my kids weren’t sure, they asked the adult in charge for guidance. They know how to take care of themselves and that has given them strength and self-confidence. If my children can do this over something as insignificant as a “religious preference,” as you call it, I would surely think your son could learn to advocate for himself over what you call a life-threatening allergy.

      As for my medical expertise, I always consult medical professionals before publishing anything. I also try to use as many cold, hard facts as possible in my pieces because I often express unpopular opinions that go against the current cultural tide. This piece is clearly no exception.

      While there are children who suffer from severe peanut allergies, and I do not consider 12 to 20 deaths annually an insignificant number, the facts clearly show that the current peanut hysteria is unwarranted and not nearly as wide spread as parents maintain. While you may disagree, my point was not simply to uphold my own children’s rights to ingest pb&j sandwiches at lunchtime. The issue at heart is about how parents can better protect their children by teaching them how to advocate for themselves and take stronger charge of their own diets and overall well-being.

      Once again, I thank you for taking the time to write and share your point of view.


  6. lona ⋅

    You snooze, you loose. HAHAHAHAHAHA that’s priceless.

    You can just look and gasp! And let the woman get the pencils – she would probably knock you over for them.


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