Conquering The Hell That Is Back-To-School Shopping In 18 Easy Steps

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 

The time has finally arrived: I can hardly contain my excitement for back-to-school shopping. If you are like me, you will wait until the final moments before your children’s first day of school to complete this mind-numbing task. If this is the case, let me make your life easier and give you a simple, 18-step guide to back-to-school shopping with your offspring. It will be fun!

1. Download grade-appropriate supply list from school website.

2. Shudder and sigh loudly.

3. Grab appropriate number of children and set out toward local superstore in sensible shoes. A water bottle filled with chardonnay tucked discreetly in purse is recommended.

4. Head toward back-to-school section. If you have trouble locating it, look for an area with bright-colored signage and broken promises.

5. Pull out supply list and pen, determined to attack this in the most organized and systematic way possible.

6. First, stop at glue sticks. It appears we need 12, but they’re only sold in a pack of 10. Try passing a pack of 10 off as a pack of 12 in front of Child #1, who can count. Discuss possibility of teacher noticing your child only contributed 10 to the class glue stick collection. Get reprimanded by child who can both count and now, suddenly and inexplicably, follows rules.

7. Abandon mission when Child #2 has to go potty, even though you asked him if he had to go at the entrance to the store—which was right beside the restroom—not 10 minutes ago and he swore on his life that he didn’t, even though you reminded him when you got to the store that he had polished off an entire carton of apple juice, which just made him more adamant that he did not, in fact, have to go potty.

8. After successful trip to the potty, you locate washable school glue for Child #2. Realize it’s not Elmer’s, and the list clearly says “IT MUST BE ELMER’S.” IT’S IN ALL CAPS SO IT MUST BE IMPORTANT. Realize this child cannot read and throw knockoff glue in cart. Washable my ass.

9. Next on the list says “SHARP 5-inch pointed Fiskars scissors.” Isn’t it a given that if something is pointed it will also be sharp? And why is “sharp” written in ALL CAPS? STOP YELLING AT ME SCHOOL SUPPLY LIST. I’M DOING THE BEST I CAN HERE.

10. Child #1 announces that she needs to go potty. Take aggressive swig of “water” and head back to restrooms.

11. Head back (again) toward back-to-school section in search of three packs of Crayola crayons, 24 count (standard size). This makes no sense. Why would you not buy one pack of 64 crayons instead? Why? Because Child #2 needs 72 crayons, not 64 crayons. I can only assume those extra 8 crayons will really enhance his kindergarten experience.

12. Become increasingly suspicious that the school system is in cahoots with both retailers and manufacturers of all school supplies in a plot to suck all parents dry of what little sanity they have left.

13. Attempt to steer Child #1 toward standard 5×8 plastic pencil box. Prepare for eye-rolling as she pleads with you that she must have a zebra print, voice-activated pencil box that comes equipped with GPS and shits out Skittles every time she raises her hand in class. Firmly stand your ground through ensuing tears and shrieking.

14. Manage to locate package of watercolor paint and dry erase markers with relative ease. Feel superior to the other parents in the back-to-school section.

15. Realize there are only two items left on the list. Take celebratory swig from water bottle.

16. Head smugly over to eraser section, where you are able to locate a latex-free Pink Pearl eraser. Giggle at the word “latex.” Realize there are no pink erasers left, only the blue version and one shaped like SpongeBob SquarePants. This does not qualify as an acceptable eraser for an 11-year-old girl.

17. Bargain with Child #1: one zebra-print supply box if she takes the SpongeBob eraser. Recognize the balance of power has shifted. Accept it and move on.

18. You finally find the pencils. The list says to only purchase unsharpened pencils. Spy box of sharpened pencils, open box, and break the sharpened leads off all 24 while both children watch in disbelief. Calmly place now unsharpened pencils back in box, throw them in cart, and head toward checkout.

Congratulations, you did it! You managed to get 90 percent of what was on your list all while avoiding the dreaded backpack section and a major meltdown. Sure, you were there for two hours and forgot to bring home ingredients for dinner, but hey, Chinese takeout for everyone. This is cause for celebration.

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