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This Is Why We Shouldn’t Complain About Buying School Supplies in Front of Our Kids

Ah, back to school season. The dreaded school supply list hasn’t even arrived for most of us, and yet parents everywhere are already annoyed at how long it is. How specific it is. How expensive it is. Teachers on the other hand, are annoyed that they have to ask for so much — and that chances are, their own paychecks will be used to fill in the gaps of what’s still needed.

But Rachel Martin of the blog Finding Joy has a bit advice for any parents who are currently griping over their supplies list: “If we want them excited about school doesn’t it start with us?”

In her July 28 Facebook post, Martin says she recently completed her own back to school shopping. But rather than seeing joy or anticipation on anyone’s face while standing in the school supplies aisle, the atmosphere was just full of complaining. “Complaining about the notebooks or pencil count or the number of crayons,” she writes.

Ugh. Honestly, I read this and immediately thought: Guilty as charged. I usually find myself grumpy and frustrated every year after this $200+ shopping trip, during which I can never find the non-odor dry erase markers no matter how hard I try. However, I was also a teacher in my former life, so I also know just how important those supplies are.

But do you know what else is important? That our kids want to learn.

As a fellow mom, Rachel admits that she has spent “a bunch” of money on school supplies too, and has totally complained about it at times. So she can definitely commiserate with the rest of us.

“Yes, the lists can be long,” she writes. “And yes, we parents may have to shell out a sizable chunk of change. I get that it costs money, I get that. I get that the lists are crazy long and with that one green plastic no prong folder that sells out on week one. I get that money can be tight.”

But — and here’s the big but — it’s important to remember that “our words matter.”

“Our kids are listening,” Rachel writes in her post. “They pick up on our words and our attitudes. Doesn’t it start with us deciding to not complain about supplies but instead build excitement over what will fill those notebooks? Or what those crayons will color? Or calculators compute?”

She’s right. I remember the excitement of picking out a new Lisa Frank notebook, or maybe even a Trapper-Keeper if I was lucky. Sure, my parents had to buy far less for us back in the day than parents do now. That’s just the reality of 21st-century American education. But that’s not our kids’ fault — or their teachers’. And I want my kids to enjoy that back-to-school anticipation that was such a big part of my childhood, but the attitude starts with me.

Furthermore, having seen what “education” looks like in other parts of the world, Rachel provides a healthy dose of reality and perspective.

“When I was in Haiti there was no education,” she writes. “Parents worked many jobs so their children could get a chance to attend school. Education matters. No matter what way — public, virtual, private, homeschool — education changes our children’s lives.”

Wow. When you look at it that way, filling a cart at Target with sharpies and highlighters and glue sticks doesn’t seem so bad, now does it?

“So be excited about those supplies,” Martin says to parents. “Those vivid Crayons markers will tell stories and the hand sanitizer will keep them healthy and the grid paper will provide order and the erasers will correct.”

But most of all, she wants other parents out there to remember this: “Love of learning starts with you.”

After all, don’t we all want our kids to love school? And appreciate all that their teachers have to offer? Maybe we need to do more than throw a bunch of glue sticks at them with a grumble and instead impart unto our kids just how lucky they are to receive an education to begin with. And how beautiful their creations are going to be with those glue sticks. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, say thank you to their hard-working teachers.

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