Hump Day: Uncool school supplies — every kid’s August nightmare

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Ah, August! The middle age of summer. Still vibrant, sunny and warm, yet making plans for the inevitable coming of fall. The harvest. The cool nights. The return to school.

We’re already being bombarded with back-to-school ads on television and in the newspaper. It’s never too early to start buying all that looseleaf and those geometry sets! I still get a chuckle out of seeing those geometry sets in the office supplies store. I’ve never seen a use for those outside of the classroom yet.

If you think it may be too early for back-to-school, I saw a woman at my favourite office supplies retailer shopping for supplies with her daughter last week. The list was out. The vocal debates were being held over binder and pencil colours.

And the biggest debate of them all? Which celebrity or cartoon character backpack is the one that won’t get you beat up on the playground and will also put you in the cool-kids crowd!

I’m so out of touch that if I had a school-aged child they’d pretty much need round-the-clock security protection. What 13-year-old boy doesn’t just ache for a Care Bears backpack? What 10-year-old girl on the verge of womanhood doesn’t dream at night of owning her own Partridge Family lunch box featuring a full-colour photo of David Cassidy? She’d probably spend her entire day fawning over it and not be able to concentrate in class.

Yup, if I had kids in school, I’d be one step away from having them make early reservations for me at the Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow Nursing Home and Crematorium. Their motto: “Nap at your own risk.” That’s the punishment for buying not-so-cool school supplies.

I would be so confused buying school supplies these days. Although the old standards still apply – such as geometry sets – I’d be terrified to buy something that was deemed uncool. “Josh, I know you’re 16 and six feet tall, but the Justin Bieber scribblers were 50 per cent off. Can’t you just live with them?” Might as well just call the hospital now to make sure they know how to surgically remove a sneaker from a nose.

When I was a kid, we had those large Adidas gym bags that doubled for a book bag. Unfortunately, they weren’t made for that and the handles kept breaking. Mind you, that was in the 1970s and those old vintage ones don’t necessarily reflect the quality of the bags of today.

The cool sneakers were North Stars . . . the extra-wide ones. Of course, I think I may have just tried to make them cool because they were the only things that would fit my two-mile-wide feet. Dainty dress shoes with V-shaped toes didn’t last long on my clown-like feet. A toe would bust out the side in a few weeks and I’d look like one of the poor extras in an Oliver Twist movie.

I don’t remember that many celebrity-branded school supplies when I was a kid. Oh, I’m sure there were some, but I don’t remember having any. We had to have covers for our text books and more times than not they were made out of paper grocery bags. They weren’t fancy, but they were practical.

These days, if you’re a pre-teen girl and don’t have Justin Bieber on everything, you might as well pack up and move to Tibet. I don’t remember anyone being that popular way back when. Sure, we had the Charlie Brown lunch boxes . . . and the Brady Bunch, Partridge Family and the like. I think the celebrity-branded stuff is more prominent these days, though – especially among backpacks.

That’s where all the back-to-school stress seems to lie. Those backpacks can make or break you socially at school. Show up on the first day of school with the wrong celebrity or cartoon character on your backpack and you could find yourself eating lunch alone for the rest of the year. Good reason to get an imaginary friend, I guess. You’ll know you’re really in trouble if even your imaginary friend dumps you, though.

It must be rough having kids these days, though. One day, they’re playing with Barbies and G.I. Joes, so you buy them everything for school based on their likes . . . and then puberty rears its ugly head and they wake up two days before school starts hating everything you bought them.

How many of you have bought SpongeBob SquarePants-branded school supplies only to find out that your kids hit puberty five minutes before the bus picked them up for school and they no longer like ‘little kids’ stuff?

I wouldn’t have much patience for all that foolishness. “You have a perfectly good My Little Pony backpack. So when should I pick you up from football practice after school, son?”

It’s good that most schools are pretty regimented on what supplies to buy. Otherwise, parents would be driven nuts. Tastes change so quickly that last year’s cool lunch box is this year’s reason for getting beat up during recess. Last year’s cool sneakers are this year’s reason for having no friends.

It can’t be easy being a parent these days and trying to keep your kids happy by buying the ‘in’ things for school. Perhaps the time has come for some tough love. Maybe parents should just put their foot down and say enough is enough! Yup, just send them to school naked with a new pencil and package of looseleaf.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.