It’s that time of year—getting ready for back to school. When I looked at the calendar and saw that there are only two weeks left until school, I think I actually “eeked” a little. There was no way we were ready for school…clothes, shoes, supplies and other incidentals.

I loudly proclaimed, “We need to get ready for back to school,” and then I marched into Monkey Boy’s room.

“What are you doing in my room, Momma?” he called out from my computer where he was happily battling another 9-year-old on Roblox.

“Pause your game, and come in here,” I called back.

He did, not hastily, but he did and then ran into his room. I handed him a pair of pants and said, “Try these on. I want to see if they still fit.”

“O, come on, Mom. It’s hot, and I hate long pants,” he said with some moaning and twisting and an obligatory a foot stomp. 

I just waved the pants in front of Monkey Boy, practicing a little patience as the Bible says. And I can be patient and outlast him because I’m the mom and much more determined. I think that’s what the Bible says, too. He eventually took them—with a big sigh—and tried them on one leg.

“See, they fit,” he said.

“Both legs…and pull them up.”

They didn’t fit.

And so the battling began as Monkey Boy and I went through all of Monkey Boy’s clothes. For a kid who has lived in the same three pair of shorts and five T-shirts and Crocs for the past two months, he was very vocal about this cruel and unusual treatment as he modeled every Tee, hoodie, pair of pants, and socks that he owned. I tried to keep the mistreatment to a minimum, and when the fashion show was over, I didn’t make him go shopping for new clothes.

I remember Back-to-School shopping being a big deal when I was a kid. We shopped for a whole new wardrobe—or so it seemed—along with new book bags and folders and notebooks and pens and pencils. I loved the crack of the new binders as I opened them for the first time, perfect and graffiti clean for the last time. I loved the feel of the yellow Pee-Chee folders, new and rigid.

The night before school started was an extravaganza of organizing and choosing the perfect outfit for that first day. After all, you only get one first impression, and the first day set the tone for the entire year. Everyone, and I mean everyone, would remember you and judge you based on that first-day outfit, how you carried your backpack, and which lunch box you brought. Turns out that’s not really true, but it seemed that momentous in the eyes of a kid. There are only a few outfits I remember from my own childhood wardrobe, let alone those of my classmates.

Perhaps I’m a tad bit more miserly than my parents but I buy the bare minimum and supplement throughout the year as needed. Perhaps my parents did the same thing and I just never noticed.

As for Monkey Boy’s fall wardrobe, he got five new pairs of pants—one for every day of the school week—and five new T-shirts. I got him one new hoodie and a package of socks. I spent $30. I still need to get him a new pair of shoes, which will likely double the amount I spend on him. It helps that the Girl passed on to him one hoody and five barely worn Tees that she has picked up over the years—the Girl lives in T-shirts.


As for the Girl, this summer we cleaned her room from top to bottom and washed all her clothes—all her clothes. During this process, we went through all her clothes as well—a simple act service that caused her to mimic her brother and cry afoul. I tried not to take it personally–as I lovingly folded or hung her clothes and asked her to make three neatly folded piles of garments: keep, toss, and giveaway.

Remember when I said the Girl lives in T-shirts, we discovered lots and lots of T-shirts—I lost count around 40—during our summer inventory. I sorted them into stacks: all black, black and white, long-sleeved, band tees, church tees, souvenir tees, colorful tees that don’t belong in any other pile. I proudly pointed out the different piles of tees and was about to make a suggestion as to how to put them away neatly in her deep dresser drawers when she grabbed a couple of stacks at a time and intermixed them. I gasped, and she said, “They’re all just T-shirts, Mom.”


But we also found lots of long-lost, or conveniently-misplaced, items. For example, I discovered a pair of light blue distressed jeans that I can’t even remember how long ago we bought them—two or three years—but I do remember that the Girl did not want to wear them. She was going through her Only-Black-Jeans-Please phase. When I found them crumpled in the back of her deep sock drawer, I pulled them out and said, “Here’s a pair of jeans.” I fully expected her to say, “I don’t like those jeans. I will never wear them.”

Instead, she said, “Ooh. I will totally wear those.” She grabbed them and tried them on. They fit perfect. “I love these.” And then she wore them later that day when she went to a friend’s house.

Bam! A brand new pair of faded, distressed, knee-ripped jeans. Who knew that two or three years ago when I bought those that I was making an investment in her future wardrobe?

The more we looked, the more we found. As it turns out, the Girl had so many barely worn items that it’s been easy to shop for her. We bought two pairs of jeans—one faded black and one black and grey tie-dye wash—and a pair of black retro corduroys, which she fell in love with right away. And then she got three shirts—a mock turtleneck, a light blue denim button-up, and one T-shirt that says Team Old Guy, which I think she bought in honor of B. Because he’s an old guy.

The Girl also picked out a pair of chunky black lace-up shoes. We need to get her a pair of sneakers—she wants Converse Chucks.

pens and pencil and highlighters AND

As for the other back-to-school items, I still have new folders and other school supplies from last year and the year before. We’ve got six or seven insulated lunch boxes—three of which we found in the Girl’s closet. Kids both got new backpacks at Christmas, although Monkey Boy said just the other day that he hates his backpack and wants a new one. I looked at him and shook my head. When I left the room, the Girl told him that they would do some decorating on it before the first day of school, things like pins, patches, paint. That’s the sort of stuff a parent really wants to hear, not the, “Get out of my room” or “She punched me” or “Quit being so selfish” conversations that so often fill the air.

So now all we need to do is wait two more weeks and the new normal begins.