You might be wondering what aspect of “Back to School” time I’m referring to when I talk about the blues. Is it the perspective of the kids — summer’s gone and so is my freedom? Or perhaps it’s parents — there goes relaxation and here we go with all the activities to which kids need to be chauffeured. Summer’s gone and so is my freedom.
What I’m actually thinking about is the shopping that needs to be done. My children are adults now, but I still recall having to buy new school clothes and supplies. Heck, I recall when I was a child, there were new clothes every year when school began. It was a rite of passage.
Yet things were different in my day. I didn’t grow up in a well-to-do family. Sometimes, especially when I was younger and didn’t have much “say” in what I wore, my mother would sew my clothes. My grandfather worked in a cloth mill and brought my mother many remnants that would have been tossed out. Free material and my mother’s skill kept me relatively fashionable.
There isn’t as much of that happening today. Most kids shop, with or without parents, for all of their clothing. They get to wear clothing that may be their size but is styled in adult fashions. We wonder why they grow up too fast. Brands become important — peer pressure and the media certainly help there. Cost vs value for your money seems to be ignored as credit card balances rise.
School supplies (pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, crayons, etc, etc) are chosen far differently than when I was in school. In fact, when I was in school, you didn’t have to buy much. The school supplied most of your needs. The first day of school, you were given pencils, crayons, a ruler and perhaps some other items. The only things you needed to buy were what you might need at home to do your homework.
Today, we see parents and children with carts loaded with school supplies because schools no longer have the funds to supply those items. Today it is parents who must find the cash (or raise their credit card balances again) to give their children the basic items they need for school. Of course, it is no longer just the basics. We now have designer back packs, a seemingly infinite choice of pencils and pens (and everything else) and a lot of “cutesy” items which only serve the purpose of making kids “cool.”
Most parents dive into this “back to school” preparation with abandon — either the abandon of joy because they are as addicted to the process as their children or the abandon of resignation because they have to get it done and over with.
There are some parents who cannot do this for their children. I think of them every year now, when the “back to school” ads start appearing on TV and in print. I am the one who watches for the “super deals” and heads to the stores for school supplies. No not for my grandchildren; I don’t have any grandchildren. I head to the stores to shop for the children of parents who dread the cost of “back to school” supplies.
They dread it because they have no money. Now come on, you didn’t think I was going to just write a bit of drivel about going back to school in the “good old days,” did you?
I think especially about the parents on Pine Ridge Reservation. Most are unemployed and subsist on tribal aid, government aid and the kindness of others (like you). They have trouble paying for the basics in life — a roof over their family’s heads, food to put on the table, heat in winter, electricity. Some have auto expenses, some have no auto because they can’t afford it.
But they want their children to get an education. So they need to send school supplies to school with the children. Where does the money to purchase school supplies come from? I’ve been there and I know people there and your guess is still as good as mine.
For a lucky few, there is the OKINI list or a sponsor through ONE Spirit. For a few others, there are other groups that will send some supplies out to one of the schools on the reservation.
I have sent things to individuals and through school supply drives (such as the one Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation has every year). I watch the sales so I can get as much as possible for my money. Otherwise, I won’t be able to afford to ship the supplies to the rez. Thanks to whomever it was at the US Postal Service that came up with the idea for flat-rate boxes. School supplies tend to be heavy!
So as you watch the “back to school” frenzy, think about the parents who are experiencing the true “back to school” blues. Maybe you’ll be inclined to help them this year . . . maybe longer. I know the economy stinks right now but it is still stinks more for some than for others!