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When School Shopping Goes Bad

(This post originally appeared on OC Family on August 29, 2013)

I recently went back-to-school shopping with my kids, who will both be in Jr. High this year. Hold me.

How can my kids be that old? How am I going to handle two with the raging tween/teen hormones? When did this happen? How did this happen? (wait, don’t answer that)

Don’t get me wrong, I actually love the ages they are right now. They are funny, and interesting, and opinionated and smart, and finally laugh at my jokes – well, not all of them but at least a few. Also, I can leave them home for short periods of time. I don’t have to drag two kids around with me everywhere I go this summer. Freedom!

Except when I take them back-to-school shopping. For that, they need to come along to offer their opinions – and boy, they have no shortage of those.

I remember fondly the days of grade school.

Those days they would sit together in that over-sized shopping cart – the one that sort of feels like you are pushing a Zamboni around the store – while I loaded the cart with all the items I picked out for them (organic cotton shirts – fine, recycled paper – great, organic shampoo and hand sanitizer – no problem) and our shopping trip went more like this,

“Put that down.”

“Stop touching your sister.”

“No you can’t unbuckle and run around the store…Wait, come back here!”

And while those days were challenging for many reasons, I appreciate that when shopping, I was free to choose and purchase any items that I wanted. They pretty much went with the flow.

Now, it’s all changed. Back-to-school shopping has become an endless series of negotiations.

My daughter Emma asks, “Mom, can I have this notebook?” I answer, “How about this one, it’s made from recycled paper?” She responds, “Yes, but this one is turquoise.”

Over in the makeup aisle, Emma says “Mom can I have this Revlon lipstick?” I respond (not even looking at it) “No.”

She finds another brand I’ve never heard of, “How about this one?” She hands it over and I read the label, “The first ingredient is petroleum. Put it back.”

Not one to give up easily, Emma finds a third and says “What about this EOS lip gloss? You said it was okay last time.” Giving in, I say “Okay, that one.”

This endless series of negotiations lasted through pencils (they want the mechanical ones with the plastic outsides instead of regular biodegradable wood ones), pens (the giant pack of colored ones we don’t really need), binders (do those have PVC in them or not? I can’t tell).

I was at the point of exhaustion when this exchange happened:

Emma: “You know, Ellis (my son) is going to need deodorant for his PE locker. We need to get an extra one for him.”

Ellis: “Mom, can I please, please have some regular deodorant? I promise I’ll still wear the natural one at home, but I don’t want the other boys to make fun of me at school.”

So right there, in the middle of Target, I had an I-really-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing mom moment.

Balancing on the one hand, wanting to protect my kids from chemicals and do the best I can to raise them in a healthy environment. On the other hand, concern about my son, off to a new school where very few of his friends are going – off to the world of Jr. High, and changing for P.E. and tall boys who look closer to men than to anything resembling my son.

Ultimately I said “Yes, let’s pick out some regular deodorant to put in your locker.” I cringed and he smiled.

At the end of our shopping trip, Emma said “Mom, we’ll load everything on the check-out counter. Don’t worry. We got this.” And Ellis smiled. And I got suspicious.

As I glanced over, I saw that they had conspired to hide a big bottle of Dr. Pepper under our items when I wasn’t looking. I picked it up and handed it right back to them. They knew it wasn’t going to happen. But they got a good laugh out of it and so did I.

So I admit, sometimes I’m not a very good “green mom”. I let them get the turquoise binder, and the regular deodorant, and the giant container of colored pens that they really don’t need. But I do know that I am a good mom – and Jr. High will require some balance and compromise on both sides. Peer pressure will be powerful, but I hope that I’ve said things enough times in enough different ways, that they will remember my words later, in the key moments when they need to make good decisions.

Well, that and I made them put back the Dr. Pepper.

Remembering September 11th

I had planned to share a post about recycling today, but on the anniversary of September 11th, it’s hard to focus on writing about much else.

The funny thing is that today was just a normal day filled with the regular activities of school and work – nothing out of the ordinary. And unlike last year (when I watched non-stop TV and cried almost the entire day), I didn’t really do much to commemorate the anniversary.

The thing that is remarkable to me is that this day was completely unremarkable. Back on this day in 2001, I didn’t think that would ever be the case. After the events of that day, I wasn’t sure if life would ever get back to any sense of normal again.

I remember watching TV while nursing my three-month old son. I looked down at his innocent face and thought “My God. What kind of world did I bring you into?” And I just started to sob, and sob, and sob. I felt so sad, so hopeless, so scared. I felt like life as I knew it would never be the same.

But then, something remarkable happened. In the days and weeks following that terrible day, we became united. We pulled together in a way that I have never seen before. We picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and started to rebuild…together.

All that working together – it actually worked. We did go back to work. We went back to school. We went back to life.

And my little baby is now an eleven-year-old boy with a normal, happy life. He feels safe and secure at home, at school, and traveling around this country. He has visited New York City and The Memorial Museum. Although he will never truly understand what that day meant to those who lived through it, he understands the kind of destruction that hate and intolerance can cause.

Which gives me hope for his generation, hope for his future, hope for the country.

President Obama said today during September 11th Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial “The true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division. It will be a safer world; a stronger nation; and a people more united than ever before.”

I truly hope that is the case. Although at times it does not feel like that, in the long run, I do believe that it will be. For me, September 11th is a day when we should focus on the UNITED part of the United States of America and look to see how we can strengthen that in our own lives and communities.

We will not ever (nor should we) agree – on things like religion, politics, or even which fast food restaurant we will frequent. But in spite of the disagreements, I hope that we still respect, still listen, still love.

We can focus on our common goals – healthy children; stable jobs; clean air and water; and a democracy that really does work by and for the people. I want all of these things for me, for you, but most of all for these two. They deserve it, and so do we.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.