(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.