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School Supply Shopping: It Ain’t Just Trapper Keepers Anymore

My kids go back to school this week.  Never mind that it’s the first week of August and we’ve already arrived at Back to School.  My emotions are somewhere between “Please School Take My Kids” and “Dammit, We Didn’t Do All the Things on the Summer Fun List I NEED MORE TIME TO BE THIS AWESOME.”

This year I’ve gone from no elementary school kids to two elementary school kids and one in PreK.  What does that mean?  This is my maiden voyage on the school supplies thing.  This year I have three kids in three different schools and as I’m looking up school supply lists I’m thinking, “What is this madness?!?”

Moms of school-aged children, you know what I’m talking about.

Has anyone else made the mistake of thinking school supply shopping would be fun?  I remember fondly my own love of school supplies and picking out a fresh Trapper Keeper and hearing the satisfying rip of the brand new Velcro.  Pencils, pens, crayons, and maaayyybe they’d specify what size pack.  Maybe.  1980s-style school supply shopping was a quick run to one store and deciding whether you wanted the kitten Trapper Keeper or the rainbow one.

Last week I looked up my children’s supply lists online and realized the deep level of my naivety.

These lists?  It’s like the world has been taken over by Dwight Schrute.

My freestyling, express yourself, hippie soul died a little when I saw that the school supplies are dictated down to the color and brand.  But…but…I was gonna let them decorate their folders and buy cutie patootie notebooks.

On Friday, Georgia had its tax-free day, and I thought I was being all responsible and nailing this school thing showing up at Target right when it opened.  Rookie mistake.  As I grabbed a cart, the employee at the entrance warned, “There’s already a crowd back there.  Better hurry.”  Were the other moms camped out like we were buying concert tickets rather than washable glue sticks?  I had actually planned on bringing my kids with me until a teacher friend warned me to leave them home because it would be a madhouse and I would need to focus.  Madhouse?  Focus?  For looseleaf paper?

I hustled to the back of the store to discover empty shelves and nary a 16-pack of Crayola crayons.  Apparently all moms in the know shopped early.  Panic began to creep up my throat.  I was in over my head.

I sighed and looked at my lists.

Dixon Ticonderoga #2 Sharpened Pencils.  Because if my first grader has the wrong brand pencils, he won’t get into Yale.  I started to pick up a pack of pencils then realized they were the wrong color.  The authoritative sheet of paper clearly stated they need yellow pencils.  Yellow, you moron, yellow!  Duh.

Mead Wide-Rule Black Marble Composition Book 100-ct.  The store had wide-rule blue marble, or college-rule black marble.  Deciding the line-spacing must be more important than color, I bought the blue.  I can already feel the shame of having the wrong colored composition book.  This kind of thing can screw up a kid for a long time.  I picture her teacher standing over her like a Dalek from Doctor Who shrieking, “Explain!  Explain!”

Zippered Heavy Canvas Grommeted Pencil Pouch, with Clear, See-Through Front and Exterior Mesh Pocket.  That entire display was bare.  I flipped up Amazon on my phone and ordered it online.  Sticking it to The Man.  Nothing can defeat my iPhone.

Avery Index Divider 8-Tab Poly Insertable w/Single Pocket Asst. Colors.  Target was a total loss on this one.  My iPhone lover and I searched Amazon together and found dividers without pockets and dividers with double-pockets, but no single-pocket dividers.  I decided to err on the side of extra pockets.  When did an extra pocket ever hurt someone?  My kid is heading to school fully-pocketed and ready for business.

After several hours of obsessive compulsive supply shopping, I drove home to pick up my kids for shoe shopping.  Their shoes were so ripped up and smelly that after finding new sneakers and nailing a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale, I told the sales guy to just burn the old ones.

I was feeling pretty good after the shoe shopping, dropped my son off at home, and took my daughter out for clothes shopping.  We grabbed a few sale items and overheard another mom saying something about a 60% off sale at Justice.

I’d never been in that store, but I like justice.  That’s an excellent value.  A big yay for justice.  Surely the store must be marvelous.  So I went in.  With my tween daughter.  Hold me Jesus.

As the neon colors, loud bubblegummy pop music, and glitter hit my eyes, I realized I’d made a very, very bad miscalculation.  I would not make it out of this store alive.  Ana went straight for the skirts and boots that looked oddly familiar.  Where had I seen them before?

Oh yeah.  On Vivian and Kit in Pretty Woman, before Edward’s money and Rodeo Drive.

I could just see my nine-year-old smoking in the bathroom while her friend says, “Take care of you.”

I don’t know much about elementary school, but I didn’t want to start out as the mom with the girl wearing a belt as a skirt.  After standing in line with about thirty other glassy-eyed parents doing the thousand-yard stare toward the daylight at the front of the store, we made it out of there with one pair of leggings and some kitty cat press-on nails.  I explained to her that she needed to wear a skirt or tunic over the leggings, that these legging were not pants, and she just looked at me and said, “Really?” like this was news.

We got home and I sifted through the conquests of tax-free day.  I couldn’t even look at the school supplies.  What a disappointment.  Half of them were arriving via Amazon and the ones lying forlornly on my dining room table just looked like losers.  I could tell they wouldn’t pass muster and I’d be sent to the principal’s office.

Incidentally, the only time I was ever sent to the principal’s office was in junior high when I wore a black blazer and he decided the pockets were big enough to hold drugs.  Because all straight-A nerds on Student Council stuff their pockets with weed before heading to Pre-Algebra.

Today my Amazon shipment arrived and I tore open the box in anticipation.  The grommeted pencil pouch has a mesh window, not a mesh pocket.  We’re so screwed.


Trapper Keeper photo from, Dalek gif from, Dwight gif from, Pretty Woman screenshot from