Are you one of those people who get upset when you see Christmas sales go up in mid-October?
Me, too. But I'm far more upset by the back-to-school sales that crop up as soon as the previous school year ends.
I don't celebrate summer, but I know my kids do. Part of enjoying summer is not thinking about school, but the back-to-school sales push our minds back to thoughts of notebooks, pencils (mechanical), backpacks and lunchboxes.
Can we please have a moment? Even one month of mindless behavior would be appreciated. My kids would enjoy it, too.
When I was a kid, summer break was a three-month experience. June and July were complete breaks from school thought. August was the beginning of the buildup. I never much liked August, because it was so close to September, which I also failed to appreciate.
But summer is far shorter for our kids. School runs into the first week or two of June, and school begins at the end of August, and kids have to squeeze their summer fun into about 10 short weeks. Subtract the summer vacation your parents make you go on, and summer is down to eight or nine weeks.
Then you subtract the two weeks prior to the start of school, when parents are busy making sure you have all the supplies you need for the school year, and all the clothes you are going to need, and all the forms filled out, and summer is suddenly a six-week event.
I'm glad I'm not a kid in the 21st century.
Wait! I don't mean that! It's great to be a kid in the 21st century, and it's great that the back-to-school sales start so early. Because it is VERY important that the kids of today get exactly what they need for the upcoming school year.
So go now! Wherever you buy your school supplies, go there now. Because they will sell out of exactly what your kids need quickly, and then you will be driving around like a maniac trying to find the perfect notebook, with the properly spaced lines, or the exact box of markers.
This back-to-school shopping thing has both improved and gotten worse over the years. The improvements come from the schools, who tell parents exactly what the kids need for the upcoming year, and tell us in some cases just as they are leaving from the previous school year. That's great; no guesswork.
But the lists are often VERY specific, which again is great, unless you can't find the VERY specific item you need. And heaven help you if you try to slip in a substitute item, because your kids will know.
Which brings us to back-to-school shopping. It should be one of the things social groups point to when they tell couples to think before having children.
There are two kinds of back-to-school shopping: school supplies and clothing. I'd avoid both of them if possible.
If you have to go, and you have to take multiple children at the same time, good luck to you.
Despite specific instructions from the school, there are still choices to be made in school supplies, color being a big one. And if you don't have a full array of choices, because you waited until, say, the first of July to do your shopping, then you will have one of those embarrassing "public place" battles between you and your children.
And heaven forbid you try to find a way to save money! Your kids will know that is what you are up to. Perhaps you are lucky to have the kind of kids who understand a saved dollar here and there could lead to a better holiday gift later, but those kids are rare, and school supplies are a BIG deal.
Then you have to go get clothes. When the kids are young, they wear what you tell them to wear, and you enjoy the process of making the decision. As kids get older, they don't want to go shopping with you, but they want you to get them exactly what they want, and will HATE anything you pick out on your own.
That right there is the definition of a no-win situation.
All of this is necessary parenting stuff; it's unavoidable, and something you may laugh about someday. But the point of this article is that it is a process that should not occupy your every thought and moment of the summer.
Otherwise, the kids should just stay in school all year long. Save us all a lot of heartache.
Wait a minute! I may have hit on something here. If they never get out of school, there's no "back to school."
I'm a genius. I should write this down. Where's my No. 2 pencil?
• Kent McDill is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Janice, have four children, Haley, Dan, Lindsey and Kyle.