Along with the mountain of binders, pens and notebooks you need to buy for your tweens as they return to school each year, there is still something else to check off your list: back-to-school clothes. So go ahead and round up all those unused gift cards so you can afford to buy a new wardrobe your kids absolutely must have now that it is truly fall.
What this really means is that you will be spending some time—OK, a lot of time—at the mall in the near future. It is not at all like going to the mall by yourself to buy a new pair of yoga pants; that is usually a fine, drama-free experience. It is nothing like bringing your tween to a myriad of stores to try to find clothing that is reasonably priced, covers all the body parts that need to be covered and which your kid would be willing to be seen in.
It also involves going into either brightly colored stores that will make you feel like your senses have exploded or into dimly lit, expensive stores that make anyone who grew up shopping at J.C. Penney or Sears feel really uncool.
Most importantly, it involves interacting with someone who would really prefer to keep her earbuds plugged in than engage in a conversation that you initiate. So, for every mom who could use a little help making this excursion a success, here is a mini-quiz to get you in the correct frame of mind.
1. Before leaving the house, you:
a. Tell your tween that shopping is supposed to be fun, so let’s leave the eyerolls, whatevers and silent treatments at home and make this a memorable mother-daughter bonding experience!
b. Remind your kid that you are going to the mall for clothes, not for Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s or Dippin’ Dots.
c. Make your tween pick up all the clothes that are on the floor, only to discover she already has everything she needs.
d. Say nothing.
Correct answer: d. As the parent of a tween, you already know the less said, the better. (But if you are feeling particularly brave, the correct answer is b.)
2. Upon arriving at the store, you:
a. Go in with your tween and follow her wherever she goes, even when she tries to ditch you.
b. Go in with your tween, but park yourself on the closest spot you can find to sit down, check your Facebook page and try to pretend that your kid is not eying the most expensive things in the store.
c. Wait outside the store, on one of the benches, only getting up to treat yourself to a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s.
d. Start biting your nails.
Correct answer: Trick question! None of the above. As you get closer to the store, your kid will already be pretending that she’s there on her own. No offense, Mom, but no matter how cool you think you are, you are not 11 years old, and therefore, you don’t know anything. (Note: If the day has already aged you a few years, then the correct answer here is c.)
3. When your tween says she would like to try on a few things, you:
a. Slip into the dressing room with her before she has a chance to shut the door.
b. Wait outside the dressing room, but close enough so she can hear you as you ask through the door, “Does it fit? Do you like it? Let me see it on you!”
c. Channel Kevin Arnold’s mother by saying in your loudest voice, “Make sure those pants aren’t too tight in the crotch!”
d. Resume biting your nails, silently hoping the non-sale items won’t fit and the 50-percent-off items fit perfectly.
Correct answer: None of the above. Another trick question! Your tween does not want you anywhere near the dressing room. Remember, you don’t know anything!
4. When your tween finds an item she likes, you:
a. Agree about how nice the item is, but only if you don’t want her to buy it.
b. Pretend that you don’t like the item, but only if you want her to decide she must have it.
c. Express displeasure at how shoddily the item is made, causing your teen to tell you that you ruin everything.
d. Say nothing. Just hand over your credit card.
Correct answer: d. But first tell her that you only have enough for three shirts and two pairs of pants and that she’ll have to put back the additional $80 current-fad item that all the kids wear but which you know will be out of style in three months. This will quickly lead to your child placing the rejected item back on the rack, all the while mumbling something you are glad you are unable to hear.
Now, after your shopping excursion when you are feeling victorious and your tween can only think about the fad item she couldn’t buy, you are ready to drive home, enduring 20 minutes of silence with an occasional glare thrown in at every other red light. But don’t feel too badly; it’s only a matter of time before your tween will need new shoes. By then, you will be expert enough to follow my last tip: Volunteer your husband for shopping duty.