It’s that time of year again, and the image above almost doesn’t even need words. Except, really. It does. It does need words.
You see, I had tears in my eyes when I was taking this image, while in an overly crowded school supply section at the nearby-ish department store, on the weekend before the first day of school, with a million other frazzled parents asking questions such as “What is a starter pencil?” and “It specifically says this, but they are out, do you suppose that will work?” (Pretty sure that qualified as a run-on sentence, and pretty sure I don’t care right now.)
But you see, my children are in middle and high school. They don’t really need much, and not much that is very specific. So, why was I even in that overcrowded place?
Two years ago I would see posts on Facebook of mom’s complaining about the cost, about the busy, and the demands. Complaining about the experience (not that their complaints aren’t valid, because school supply shopping is legitimately stressful), and I was so jealous.
See, for years, just to know who my childrens’ teachers were, I had to have sluething skills that were akin to the likes of Magnum, P.I. Though, often times I felt a little more like Inspector Gadget than Nancy Drew as I clumsily found my way around gate keeper school secretaries who refused to acknowledge the court ordered joint custody that I still had, or for that matter, the letter of the law that stated that as a parent, I was to be provided certain information about my children.
I ran into the same thing with medical professionals too. I literally carried copies of the law around with me, but they would find other ways to put up barriers to prevent me from having the most basic access to information about my own children, who were being kept from me.
Mind you, I didn’t go in to disrupt their care, or their classrooms. This fight wasn’t with my children, it was with my ex, who was refusing to allow me to see our children. I wasn’t going to put our kids in the middle. But at the same time, not only did the law say that I had a right to certain information, but as a caring parent, I needed some basic information in order to try to connect with my children in the “family” therapy sessions that I finally got court ordered. How many of you judge a parent based on if they know how their childrens’ teachers are? There are plenty who do judge that way, trust me. And trust me, children do too. I would get accusations that were parroted from some adult around them: “You don’t even know who my teacher is!” Well, darling, not for lack of effort.
So, this past weekend, when my daughter asked if I could take them school supply shopping, all I could think was: “budget be darned, I will get that girl her school supplies.” Yes, I pay child support to their father, a very healthy amount too. But, you see, after years of being separated, and then in the last year being reunited, my daughter is seeing that I can be depended on to provide. My daughter is not afraid to ask. My daughter is coming to me with her needs and wants. These are massive milestones for an alienated relationship.
So, I took those kids to the store, and I kept my cool and my patience, and I paid the markup for FiveStar folders instead of store brand (because thankfully, I can, and I didn’t have the patience to try to figure out how to weave through that many people and the picked over selection to get my son to select something else. There are bigger battles in life.) I pushed that cart to the planner aisle and stood there while my daughter debated the merits of lines in a monthly calendar or not. I pushed that cart into the deodorant aisle and listened while my son explained why he goes through stick after stick after stick of deodorant (and than was grateful that he is at least using it!). I got myself a totally unnecessary but lovely sparkly pen. And my kids told me about where they were going and what classes they were taking and how many folders they needed. And we planned what supplies we should keep AT MY HOUSE, for when they are there on visitations and might need something for homework.
There was a time, when I thought I would never see the inside of the school supply section of the store with regards to my children. I am eternally grateful that I was wrong.
So you see, I have tears in my eyes while I stand behind that cart. Not because I am overwhelmed. Not because I just added up the cost and realized I will be secretly eating oatmeal twice a day for three weeks to make up for the expense out of the grocery budget (guess it’s not a secret now!). Not because my “kids are growing up too fast.”
But because this year, this year, I got to be part of the experience with them.
This year, they trust me to be part of that experience.
I stand behind this cart with tears of love and gratitude in my eyes at experiencing something that at one point I never thought I would.