I know that many of you have children who started back to school this week; I’ve been reading about shopping trips, menu planning, and carpool arrangements on numerous spaces. We, on the other hand, are 2-1/2 weeks into the new school year & I must say, I am looking forward to the light at the end of this long tunnel. I’ve been running on the back-to-school wheel for 18 years, & now I only have one more to go, when Sam starts his *gulp* senior year next August.
Our school district has a serious identity crisis, or maybe a case of multiple personalities, so every couple of years brings a new adventure for the students & parents. First there was the standard uniform policy, which half of the elementary school adopted (made dressing easy, but shopping for the right size was a bear); then there was the move to year round schools- Sam’s was one of them with a multi-track schedule (which incidentally I loved); then there were three charter schools & a new K-8 magnet school for science & technology (I managed to get a inner-district transfer for Sam this one) that were all using personal laptops in the classrooms (ouch!); now with dropping enrollments, many of the year rounds are switching back to traditional schedule & the district decided last year to adjust the start/end dates to two weeks earlier. When you throw into the mix three new schools in the past 4 years, a new town five miles away without a high school, & six private schools, you will understand that buying supplies is no easy task.
As I said earlier, I’m no greenhorn when it comes to back-to-school craziness; I know the basics that the kids need, which I stock up during the spring & summer, & dressing a teenaged boy is pretty simple- jeans, shorts, t-shirts, polos, socks & tennis shoes. This year we got off easier, since Sam doesn’t have to take gym anymore & he can wear flip-flops or slip-on deck shoes all day, I don’t have to get anymore tennis shoes for a while & I can hold off on jeans until it gets cooler. I sprung for a new scientific calculator & a messenger backpack the week before school started (purchased in another town who didn’t start until this week) & sent him off confident he was fully supplied.
I should have known better.
Now, Sam has 5 classes (English, US History, Geometry, Chemistry, & Computer Animation) & is a TA for last year’s math teacher, so I figured two binders would be plenty.
Three of his teachers want 1-inch (minimum) dedicated binders (which means he will be carrying four around all year, in addition to books); one wants them to use only blue ink pens (of course, I bought 3 packages of black) & five colors of highlighters; another wants a bound notebook in addition to the binder & everyone to carry a stapler (she doesn’t want to share her’s, I guess); & evidently, the calculator isn’t sophisticated enough for someone. So, despite all my efforts, I had to brave the hoards & buy school supplies the first week, since there were grades/extra credit points on the line.
I weighed my options carefully: Wal*Mart was out- no way was I going to attempt those narrow aisles & discount prices; Staples was usually quieter, but the cost higher; that left Tar*get, the drug store (good prices, but random selections), or another trip out of town before Friday morning. I sucked it up, put on my body armor, grabbed Sam to run interference, & headed to Tar*get.
It was like a scene from an old movie, where hundreds of women storm the department store & do battle over the sale table; there were fifty parents, with shopping carts, stuffed into four aisles; children of various ages charged in & out of the rows, alternately grabbing things, screeching &/or whining to their parents to get this one, & throwing things either 1) at the cart, 2) at the approximate shelf it came from, or 3) at their siblings, friends, or random people standing nearby. I tell you, my fingers itched to snatch one of the little darlings baldheaded, particularly since my scathing looks & audible comments were rolling right off their Teflon hides; Sam, knowing how much I abhor unruly children, kept sneaking glances in my direction to see if I was about to blow like Mt St Helen (I did not- rumblings & steam only). We abandoned the cart & tag-teamed the necessary aisles- either Sam slipped in & out with his lithe, wiry frame, or I just bulldozed my way through- & then treated ourselves to Starbucks & a bag of Oreos (double-stuffed will placate the most vexed soul).
Sam has set out a pretty ambitious schedule for himself this year; in addition to school, karate, & tennis, he has joined Key Club (a service organization), FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America- strange choice for an aspiring engineer- must be a bunch of cuties!) & has co-founded a new club, called XMA (eXtreme Martial Arts) with his friend Matt- they plan on teaching mixed styles & forming a demo team to do various events around the area. On top of that, he is going to be starting driver’s ed in September & is still looking for a part-time job. I’m a little leery of all the activity, concerned that his studies will suffer, but I’m glad to see him engaged with others & involved in wholesome fun- so unlike his sister at this age. Besides, I found that last spring, when he started on the tennis team & was practicing everyday, that his grades actually improved from the previous quarter. Also, he seems to like all his classes & teachers this year, & I don’t foresee too many struggles, except for the normal ones with English. And best news of all, we learned a few weeks ago that Sam passed both portions of the mandatory high school exit exam on his first try; the grades in language arts weren’t stellar- only 5 points over the minimum- but good enough to eliminate that particular pressure for the rest of high school. Yes, it looks like an interesting year ahead for all of us; as long as balance is maintained, I think it will be a good & memorable one.