This past Monday my sixth-grader set up his locker with a staggering array of supplies. He took it all in stride. I, on the other hand, felt overwhelmed. Here I was, watching my first baby, with a first zit on his cheek, take another step toward adulthood. My arm was red with pinching myself so I wouldn’t turn into a weeping, walking embarrassment. Meanwhile, he matter-of-factly organized his materials, the floating shelves, and the complicated calculator, locking everything up with a combination he’d already memorized.
Glancing away, I saw something that just about made my jaw drop. A few lockers down, another sixth-grader had packed her locker with not only the required school supplies, but wallpaper, a large mirror, carpet and a working chandelier. They have so much.
Just one hour earlier, we’d helped our third grader place all of his supplies in his classroom. The trunk was heavy. I took turns helping him carry it until we neared the school building and he saw one of his friends. “Mom, quick, give it to me,” he said. “I don’t want the other kids to think I’m not strong.” So he hefted it the rest of the way, his little boy muscles straining under his short sleeves.
Back in the day
When I was in grade school, my school supplies consisted of a fistful of sharpened pencils, a sheaf of wide-ruled notebook paper, an empty three-ring binder, and a metal Star Wars lunchbox packed with a sandwich, an apple and a Thermos. I didn’t have a cellphone or a locker. I had a backpack, a pack of 64 crayons and penny-loafers. I was always so excited to start another school year and see all of my friends.
As this August waned, excited was not quite the word to describe the mood of our two children, ages 11 and 8. A grimace here, covered ears there, for every “back to school.”
With school now underway, the anxiety is less. Less trying to explain to dog walkers and joggers while driving behind my child as he practices the quarter-mile walk from bus stop to new after-care site. Not a stalker; just a mom; but if you ever see anyone else following him, please call 911. Less worry about how schedules will sort out. Less of a protest as we continue early bedtimes for early starts.
Now we’re wrestling with another modern-day less or more question: whether to buy our tween a basic cellphone.
What back-to-school memories do you have? What school supplies did you need as a grade school student? Did you carry a lunchbox or eat a school lunch? Did you look forward to going back to school?
Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather.
This post was first published on the Women of the ELCA blog in September 2015.