In the midst of a snarl of shopping carts, unwashed tweens, and harried mothers in Walmart’s back-to-school aisle, I felt like I’d just tossed myself into shark-infested waters holding a bucket of chum. Seriously, I wondered if I would escape unscathed. Women can be downright mean when it comes to the welfare and success of their young.
|by laffy4k via Flicker|
I think I located the underlying source of the school supply meanness, at least. I overheard a mother griping to her teenaged daughter about the school supply list. The girl needed a folder. Said folder had to be a solid color, not a pattern nor a graphic design; it needed not one, but two pockets; and brads, prongs or other metal hardware were strictly VERBOTEN. The mother was frustrated. The daughter could have cared less.
Why was that momma so adamant about getting the “right” folder for her daughter? A folder which will probably end up stuffed in the bottom of a locker, or lost under the bed at home?
Because we all have horror stories about showing up at school with the wrong kind of lunch box (mine was vinyl in an era of metal – it met its death under the bed one summer, still full of the last lunch I hauled to school and didn’t eat). We remember the pain of wearing knock-off sneakers instead of the brand-of-the-week. We know what it is to arrive at school with the 8-pack of chubby crayons instead of the 64-pack with the built-in pencil sharpener. (That was my first real experience with envy.)
|by orchid8 via Flickr|
And so, every fall, in a valiant attempt to shield our offspring from the dangers that await them at school, we shove carts out of the way, physically block access to the dwindling pencil section, and snarl at anyone who glances at the neon-pink calculator dear daughter MUST have lest she become an inadvertent victim of social suicide.
I think the teachers are in on it. School supply lists have become so specific, you almost have to call for further instructions. But we don’t. Because to do so would mark our little one as having “those” kind of parents. So we grit our teeth, take out our frustrations on the other hapless parents in the school supply section, and hope we don’t make some fatal error in the purchase of this year’s paper, pencils, and notebooks that will land our kiddos in therapy years down the road.