Oh, poor Emily
Late Thursday night I took a trip to Target for school supplies for Max. I probably should have done that before the fourth day of school, but part of me didn’t quite believe Max was actually going back to school, so why spend money on notebooks? I found myself in the very picked-over aisle of skeleton supplies not finding much when I encountered “Younger Mom.” She was parked in the middle of the aisle staring at a list of required supplies looking very confused. She turned to me and asked me if the 3-ring binder she was holding was a “Book Sox.”
“Is this a Book Sox?”
“No, a Book Sox is a book cover, but I don’t think they have any here.”
“Oh, my God. My first grader doesn’t have anything she needs because I didn’t see this list until tonight. I sent her to school with a backpack and few supplies, but she came home crying because she didn’t have a BIN.”
“What’s a BIN?”
“All the students were supposed to bring a clear bin full of all these supplies on the first day and Emily didn’t have her bin and now I can’t find any of these things and I don’t even know what they are. I have the measurements for the bin but they only have ones with blue covers.”
“Ok, Let’s see the list. Maybe there are things on it you can get later. I can’t imagine she needs all of them on the first day. I have high schoolers so I know they will probably not need everything right away.”
“No, no, she said she needs it all and she is so worried and I don’t even know what a T-I-C-O-N-D-E-R-O-G-A pencil is!”
” I can help you find them, they should be in the next aisle.”
” I got these other pencils but I know they are wrong.”
“I think they will be fine, they are yellow pencils. No one will care.”
“I am so worried. Poor Emily won’t have any of the right things. It is my fault. I didn’t know about the list. I also need clear contact paper.”
“Ok, I know contact paper is in housewares. Did you check there?”
“They are out and so is Walmart and Home Depot. Her book NEEDS to be covered with clear contact paper by tomorrow. I don’t know what to do.”
At that point, I had nothing much to offer other than a kind word and the sympathetic look of a wise, older, soft around the middle woman, but Emily’s mom was in real agony. She was so worried about her daughter and it was only the first week of first grade. The list was insane. The bin had to be a certain brand, a certain size, and with a certain color lid. The smock had to be a specific style and length. This was not a list one could flll in a night. She was doomed.
I know she left feeling terrible about her mothering and feeling like she shortchanged her daughter. I can understand because I once thought that if Sophie’s towels, shower caddy and shampoo bottle didn’t match when she went to overnight camp, the world was going to come to an end. I made myself crazy trying to have the perfect looking facade. I still want all the teachers to think that we are the world’s most perfect family, but somewhere along the line I stopped caring about most things. There was no way Emily’s mom was willing to abandon the idea that without the contact paper, Emily was going to fail out of school and never go to college, but it’s because she isn’t ready to give up. I gave up.
I gave up of thinking that the right school supplies mean perfect learning. I gave up thinking that never looking at the phone while doing homework is the only way to better grades. I gave up thinking that perfect looking outfits mean you will be included and popular. I gave up thinking I know anything about what will get you into the right college. I gave up thinking that if you miss school, you will suffer terribly.
Disclosure: Both my kids already missed some school and it’s only the first week. Go Me.
I gave up making sense of anything, but most of all, I am starting to give up thinking that there is anything else we can do to move Max from where he is right now. Yesterday, I went to the high school to drop off some things in the office, and through the door I spotted him in his wheelchair changing classes. It was the time of day when he uses the chair so that he can get to the far wing of the school without missing too much. After spending ALL THE YEARS worrying about him having to use a wheelchair at school, at that exact moment, I was just happy he was ok, that he wasn’t alone in the hallway, and that he was back in school.
Nothing else really matters – especially not the color of the bin.