The other day, the girls and I encountered the first of the back-to-school supply displays. Sassy said she wondered when she’d get her list. I said “Middle school is different, you won’t get a list. We’ll send you with the basics and if your teachers ask for anything specific, just let us know.”
I was so wrong.
On Sunday, we got one of those fabulous automated calls of which I’m so incredibly fond. Sassy’s middle school principal had a seven-point audio presentation for us, and one of those seven points was the supply list. The supply list. I fuckin hate the supply list.
2. Unexpected Socialism. After spending an hour in the school supply aisles, letting our kids pick out Hello Kitty pencils, orange scissors, and notebooks with ponies on them, they took them to school where they were amassed and then dispersed. My kids didn’t get to use the items they picked out. While this doesn’t bother me on principle, I would have preferred to know, see number one.
3. The sheer insanity of the demands, from the amount to the brand name. Here are some examples of things we’ve been told to buy: Six comp books, 2 packets of college-ruled loose leaf paper, 2 packets of Expo dry erase markers, 2 dry erasers, 3 packages 10-count Ticonderoga pencils, 3 highlighters, one package 2-count Bounty paper towels, 16oz bottle of hand sanitizer, Lysol disinfectant wipes, one box 50-count Ziploc freezer bags, 5 plastic pocket folders with 3-hole centers — red, blue, green, yellow, orange. One teacher’s list included a ream of paper. PER CHILD. Those are all PER CHILD.
The lists grow longer and longer each year. The headlines should not read “School Supply List” so much as they should read “Teacher’s Wet Dream.” Don’t misunderstand me, as a former teacher I’m aware that classrooms are more effectively managed when everything is as organized as it can be, and color-coding helps. The average teacher spends more than $500 a year on classroom supplies from her own pocket and I don’t think they get paid enough in the first damn place, but maybe SOMEONE is a little out-of-touch with the economic demands of families?
Our kids can’t even take all the stuff on the bus. I had to drive the kids to school and walk Sissy’s items in. Bubba could barely carry his. Literally, pre-K Moo could not carry her backpack and three bags of supplies. With only the actual paper and crayons and stuff in her backpack, she walked with a stoop as though she was trekking up a mountainside.
I’m not about to send my kids to school without pencils and paper and folders.
I’m a snotty person with snotty kids, so I’m one of the moms who sends in Kleenex all year.
I have great affection for Bounty paper towels. I am seriously dependent. But asking for sixty rolls of them…
And what the fuck are you going to do with 1500 gallon Ziploc bags?!?!?
Over the last decade, I’ve grown suspicious of the school supply list. I like to go to Meet-the-Teacher night with the list on my clipboard and my red pen and ask the teachers directly, “Now, this list is obviously contrived, what does Sissy actually need?” or “Where the hell am I supposed to buy a Kindermat?” Oh yes, I actually say those things.
And do you know how embarrassed teachers get?
“Oh we don’t need all that, that’s just what the township requests,” or “She doesn’t need a Kindermat, we just rest at our desks. Saves time and cuts down on lice.”
I’ve said to the children, “I have surely bought you five rulers by now. Go find one.”
I purchased two recorders for four kids. No, I’m sorry, not everyone will have a recorder in one’s childhood keepsake boxes, oh how sad.
I’ve also hoarded the unused school supplies that come home at the end of the year. “You need six comp books? Well, I happen to have eight of them from when they said Bubba and Sissy needed six but they really didn’t.”
One year, the scissors were kept in the classroom. Forever.
Sassy has had highlighters on her list for the last 4 years. She tells me she has never used a highlighter. Moo says, “I do! I use the highlighters to color!” Oh but Moo, you’re supposed to use the 24 Crayola crayons to color, or is it the 12 Crayola colored pencils, or maybe the 10 Crayola Washable markers? Exactly how much coloring goes on in the fifth grade?!?
I am getting old, but I’m not really old yet. I know this because of many things, not the least of which is that I remember the seventh grade quite well, and in the seventh grade, I went to school with notebooks and pens, the likes of which I used mostly to compose notes to pass to friends.
I can tell you a lot about seventh grade. Who my teachers were (Mrs. Olvey told me I would never be an electrician) where I sat (I was a front-row kinda kid) where my best friends sat (they were back-row kinda kids) and where my locker was. I remember that ice cream sandwiches in the lunchroom were 35 cents, my hair was in style without touching it, that I found dried cumin, boy body odor, and sharpened pencils smell very much the same. And in seventh grade English, the red-headed boy in front of me asked me for paper every damn day, because apparently his mother had gone to school with slate and chalk.
We did not have a school supply list.
A lot has changed in the last thirty years, but I’m pretty sure my kid can still make it through the seventh grade without 40 ounces of hand sanitizer, how bout you?