I will admit, the school supply section is a strange place to have an existential crisis. Yet, while the word “crisis” might slightly hyperbolize my experience, that is very nearly what happened to me today while on my weekly Target run.
For some time now, patio furniture and barbeques have been pushed aside to make space for the annual black cloud that is the school supply section. Just one glance, and we are reminded that sometime over the next few weeks we will be required to add insult to injury, as we drop a Benjamin or two in the yearly farewell to summer known as back-to-school.
Each year, I enter this area of the store, armed with multiple lists of required school supplies, knowing full well that a significant percentage of the first-day stash will remain crammed into the far reaches of the black-hole that is my child’s desk, never again to see the light of day. That is, of course, until June, when magically all the lost “necessities” will be found.
I have learned to tackle this chore one child at a time, because, honestly, trying to cross-reference multiple lists at once, while ensuring that we are, indeed, purchasing the right brand of glue, and the proper size grid of graph paper is just too overwhelming.
Today, however, as I left the shampoo aisle, and continued towards toilet paper, I found myself stopping to stare at the back-to-school display. Neatly lined up were all manner of character lunchboxes, flanked by Spiderman pencils, and Star Wars notebooks. There I saw every incarnation of marker imaginable, and enough Crayola crayons to scribble on the walls of every house in town.
Rather than diving in with my sleeves rolled up, I found myself just looking, as hot tears welled up, and my lip started in with a quiver. This year, my youngest starts middle school. Next year, I will be the mother of a college student. The aisles of Ninja Turtle backpacks and Superman lunchboxes are forever dead to me – not cool enough for those who have now left grade school in the rear view.
How is it that this once odious chore has me now longing for the days when little fingers once rifled through these shelves, looking for just the right thing? How is it that I have found myself here, no longer a mother of young children, my purse devoid of snacks, toys, and juice boxes? And, who am I if not someone’s mommy.
I told you, existential crisis.
As I walked away, I carried a little bit of melancholy with me. True, I have older children, able to do fun activities, and engage in occasionally meaningful conversation. But, like every mother before me, I find myself wondering how it all happened so fast.
Much like all my predecessors, while the years have flown by, they have given me enough raw material to power several stand-up specials and armed me with enough stories to find a sisterhood with any group of mothers I ever encounter, regardless of the ages of our children.
As I thought about sharing these tales with my soul sisters, I remembered a book tucked away in my to-read pile.
Part anthology, part Gospel of Mom, “I Just Want to Pee Alone,” is a collection of essays written by some of the internet’s most “kick ass mom bloggers,” including the ladies behind “I Want to Punch You in the Throat,” “Insane in the Mom Brain,” and “The Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva,” just to name a few.
Their contributions will, I have been assured, cause me to nod my head knowingly while laughing out loud, making my family wonder, not for the first time, I’m sure, “what the heck is up with mom?”
In fact, one reviewer said of the New York Times best-selling collection, “It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that I couldn’t put down, but these ladies are hilarious, and oh so relatable. I actually couldn’t stop reading. If you’re a mom and looking for some laughs or commiserating on the not so picture perfect parts of parenting, this is your anthology.”
While I will still mourn the loss of the little years, these tales of the parental misadventures that make up the journey called motherhood, are just the lift my spirit needs – a reminder that I survived three toddlers, and while I may not have a need for that new Batman pencil box, I also no longer change diapers. All in all, a pretty fair trade.
Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected].