Over the course of the next few weeks, mothers everywhere will stand in the back-to-school aisles at local discount stores as their children throw item after item into their cart, slowly creating a mountain of school supplies.
“It’s just money,” I say to myself as one of my children asks, “Mom, can I have the much more expensive mechanical pencils instead of the boooooring yet reasonably priced #2 pencils?”
As I check off items one-by-one from the lengthy school-provided list, I mutter out loud, “It’s just money,” as my daughter asks, “Mom, can I have the sparkle two-pocket folders instead of the plain old black ones?”
“How about this leather notebook instead of the plastic one?” my son asks. As he holds up the three-ring binder and moves his hand along the side of it like a model on the television show The Price Is Right, its hefty price tag taunts me.
“Can I have this pencil box decorated with real diamonds instead of fake gemstones?” my daughter pleads.
“While we’re here Mom, I need some new tennis shoes,” my son adds.
“What about the glitter pens? my daughter inquires. “Everyone has them!”
“I’m probably going to need some new jeans to go with my tennis shoes,” my son says.
“What? He gets new jeans AND new tennis shoes?” my daughter exclaims. “It’s not fair!” she adds as she stomps off to look at backpacks.
My son, having not realized yet that timing is everything in life asks, “Can I have a cell phone this year?”
My daughter walks back over with a backpack in each hand. “Which one do you like better?” she asks.
“Whichever one is cheapest,” I reply.
She sighs with great dramatic flair, rolls her eyes, and flips her hair back. I suddenly realize as I stare at her very grown-up mannerisms that I have unintentionally helped two innocent little children grow into lanky, know-it-all teenagers by feeding and watering them three times a day for years.
“IT’S JUST MONEY!” I yell much louder this time. Other mothers standing in the same aisle turn to look at me with sympathy in their eyes. One comes over and gives me a little squeeze around my shoulders. “Don’t worry,” she comforts me, “It’ll all be over soon.”
“Thank you,” I whisper as she walks back to her cart where her children are arguing over which one has the better highlighters.
Mothers everywhere are willing to endure the struggles in the back-to-school aisle every fall for a reason. In just a few short weeks, we will have the house to ourselves again for seven hours every day. Our kitchen counters will remain crumb-free, the television remote available, and there will be no arguments to mediate.
Of course, I won’t be here to enjoy it. I’ll be working so I can pay for all those school supplies.