A PSA by yours truly

It's that time of year again! BACK TO SCHOOL! Just the mere mention of it makes me start to panic.

Some of us prepare all year long, slowly accumulating school supplies, backpacks, we even buy last seasons winter clothing in a size up, in anticipation of impending fall weather. (For the record- I am not this mom.)

Some of us wait until the last minute and hurriedly gather up whatever left over notebooks and folders are available- "Sorry for the Little Mermaid folders, middle-schooler. That's all they had left". (For the record - I am this mom.)

Some of us dread this time of year. It is a HUGE expense for some families. It is an expense that isn't in the budget but needs to be because no one wants to be the parent that sends their kids to school with only half the stuff on the school supply list, ripped shoes, and old worn out clothes.

Unfortunately, some of us are that parent.

Once upon a time, not that long ago I was that parent. A single mom of three boys. Every August I'd panic because school supplies, backpacks, shoes, clothes, and haircuts were not something that was ever accounted for in my budget. I usually had to skip the electricity bill or my car payment or both, to make sure the boys were ready for their first day. And before you roll your eyes at me, let it be known that they weren't (and still aren't) in name brand anything (besides shoes - because if there's one thing I've learned as a parent it's that it's worth it to buy the $50 Nikes instead of the $20 Wal-Mart gym shoes, TRUST ME). My boys were wearing Target and Wal-Mart and sporting Fantastic Sam's hair cuts. Every year it seemed like the school supply list got longer and longer and the list of "suggested items" got spendier and spendier.

I would hear other families complaining about "community school supplies". You know, where your kids markers and crayons go into a pot and are all just divided among the tables/desks. "Why should I have to buy markers for another kid to use?" "Oh so all this stuff I just bought will be used by everyone?!"  Yeah. That. Maybe to some it doesn't seem fair. Maybe to some it feels like you're picking up someone else's slack. But I, for one would like to thank them for letting my kids use their kids stuff. Sometimes I only bought the boys each nine glue sticks instead of the required twenty. Sometimes they only got the skinny markers instead of skinny and fat ones. I never bought copy paper, I never bought the Ziploc bags - my goodness I could barely afford to buy them for my HOME let alone the school, I never bought Clorox wipes or Kleenex. I was that parent and not by choice.

There were plenty of years, more than I can count, where my mom or the boys other grandma helped with the big ticket items - backpacks x 3 and shoes x 3. This meant the WORLD to me. It often meant they each got a couple extra t-shirts. Other years people either anonymously or knowingly would drop off gift cards to Target. Countless friends, along with my brothers and their families- they all helped. I am smart enough to realize that this is part of my privilege. I have friends and more importantly, family that was and still is willing to help me so my children never go without.

Many families are not as lucky as I was. These families need your help and support. Donate supplies if you can. Buy extra if you can. And please DO NOT complain about your kid having to share their markers or glue sticks. My goodness, these are children you're talking about! It is by no fault of their own that they're poor. I promise.

If you know of a single parent household or even a two parent household that is struggling, offer help. Many are too proud to accept, in which case just drop off a gift card to any place they can buy clothes or supplies. Offer to take their kids shopping and let the child pick their own stuff. This is something my boys never got to do. I bought what we could afford. Period. They never got to choose. They didn't know any different and are no worse for wear, but it was something I know they always wanted to do. Take the kids to get their haircuts or better yet - buy them shoes. A really good pair of quality shoes because many poor families can't afford them.

We need to be kind and teach kindness, now more than ever. And what a better way to do it?

Don't be an asshole. Share your crayons.


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