Life With Boys: Back To School
I'm outnumbered by the men in my house 5 to1. They seem unable to use the laundry basket but if the computer isn't working one of them MacGyver's it back to life. They'll shop for food any day of the week but back to school shopping is deemed to be a form of punishment.
It's that time of year again.
Summer is rolling to a close and the kids are headed back to school. Raucous cries of glee can be heard all over the country as parents joyfully prepare to send their little darlings back to the classroom.
As with other transitional moments in life, there are various items which need to be tended to before the hand-over is complete. The crush of getting it all done can be a hair-raising and stress-inducing experience. Every year the to-do-list seems to get longer and longer. New clothes. School supplies. Planners. Backpacks. Various and sundry items to decorate the lockers.
Oh wait. Never mind. I have four boys.
The back-to-school prep, like most aspects of life with all boys, seems to be far less complicated than it is for my friends with daughters. Not only that but my sons are much more low-maintenance than my sister and I were as adolescents. Having been raised in a female dominated household, there have been many aspects of raising all boys that have surprised me.
The pure unadulterated disinterest in back-to-school shopping is right at the top of that list. Actually, they loathe most shopping excursions.
Except for the grocery store.
Boys love their groceries.
When I was a kid, going back-to-school shopping for new clothes was one of our favorite days of the year. My sister and I would get to pick out a special outfit for the first day, new shoes included.
We'd lay it out the night before and make sure we had every detail prepared. Right down to a specific barrette or a certain pair of neon colored socks. (It was the '70's/'80's. Don't judge.) An inordinate amount of thought went into selecting exactly the right ensemble.
When my sons were little, going shopping with them for anything was one of the more masochistic activities I participated in as a mother. I assumed that once they got a bit older, middle school or high school, they would be more concerned about picking out what they put on their bodies.
Sure. They're happy to get a couple new pairs of jeans, some graphic tees, and a new pair of kicks but our shopping sprees are done in under an hour. Seriously. We are in and out of Kohl's in under 30 minutes and most of that time is spent standing in line. In fact, last year they ditched me so they could go to Nathan's and get hot dogs. (Again. Food.) There's no drama about which brand to buy. Not once have any of them said, "I can't get that because so-and-so has it."
They view clothes shopping as a form of torture.
On the first day of school, the teachers give out a list of what the kids will need. We go buy it. That's it. Color? Who cares? There's no hunting for fancy pens or special folders. It's functional and sometimes, not even that. By the end of the school year, they're usually down to two notebooks that look like they've been dragged through the dirt and a couple of folders that are hanging on by a few craggy fibers. Pens and pencils? I buy no less than four packages of each at the start of the school year. However, I can promise you that at any given time, at least half of my boys never have a writing implement when they need one.
September is the perfect time to get reorganized and hit the reset button after a relaxing summer, right? Many people like a digital calendar but I really love a great paper planner. As I write this, I'm awaiting the arrival of my first Erin Condren planner and I am more excited than I should be about it. I went so far as to order special stickers and tape and markers so that I can decorate it. I can't wait to put it all together. I see the same kind of excitement in the faces of young girls when they're in the planner section at Staples. They take their time and peruse the shelves, looking at each and every option. Picking up and opening them, checking out all compartments, etc.
There is some major thought and effort put into it. I've exchanged that look with a sister from another mister that says…Yassssss. Meanwhile, my boys have migrated to the snack section of the store and are arguing over which chips to get.
Planners? Yeah. Right.
My older two sons graduated from a private all boys high school. When they were freshman, I held onto the never ending hope that I might get them to be more organized. I asked the guidance department about planners. I was told that they used to give them out to the students but they stopped a couple years ago because the boys never used them.
Clearly, there's a pattern here.
Okay. When did this even become a thing? I had a locker in high school and I think at one point I had a picture of C. Thomas Howell plastered in there but that was about it. Some of my nieces even have a day that is set aside by the school so the kids can come in and decorate their lockers. No. I'm not kidding. Apparently, this is a thing. If I had daughters, perhaps I'd have been aware of it sooner. A couple of my sons, who shall remain nameless, don't even remember that they have a locker half the time. If they do, it's only so they can say, "Homework? Oh yeah, I left it in my locker."
As I prepare to send my two younger boys back to high school, I do it with little fanfare. It's not better or worse than life with girls, it's just different. My older two never used planners and it's probably safe to say, they didn't use the exact supplies the teachers had requested. They both graduated and are now in college. Obviously, the lack of planner use didn't foil their high school careers.
They figured it out on their own. They didn't make choices I would've made. There were, and still are, times when I simply do not understand how the male brains work or why they make the decisions that they do. They may take the circuitous route but at the end of the day, they are finding their way on their terms.