Surviving Back-to-School Shopping

It’s that time of year when those of us with children are starting to get some of the back-to-school essentials for our kids. Sometimes joyful, but often stressful, it is good to have some guidelines while shopping — especially if this year is monumental for your kiddo, like entering middle school or high school for the first time. And if this is your oldest child, you need to be prepared.


1. Know your school’s dress code.
It’s Georgia. And it’s hot. But most schools will not allow students to wear shorts that are shorter than an index card-length from the knee. For most girls, this will immediately eliminate most of the shorts in their wardrobe, which probably resemble undergarments rather than actual shorts. This is the first of several situations in which you will have an easier time with your son than your daughter as far as dress code goes. So with the “cool shorts” being all but banned from school, your daughter will most likely gravitate toward wearing jeans. Which leads us to:

skinnyjeans2. Jeans.
For girls, they are skinny. The skinnier, the better. Believe me, I have looked at my daughter many a time wondering how she is even breathing in her skinny jeans. But I have also set foot in her school, and I have seen that, for the most part, every girl has a version of the painted-on jeans.

3. Your son may want to wear shorts to school every day of the year.
Even in January. I fought this one pretty hard for a few years, but by the time my son hit middle school, I heard that boys were actually making it their goal to wear shorts to school the entire year. So I gave up. I mean, if he wanted to go to school in January in 35 degrees and freeze, then so be it. I figured he would learn the hard way. (Note: he hasn’t. But the good news is that they move out of the “shorts every day” phase by high school!)

shortsinsnow.image4. Your son who wears gym clothes every day to school WILL grow out of it.
There was a time I thought I would never see my son in anything but navy blue or black gym shorts and team jerseys. Then, all of the sudden, it became cool to wear khaki shorts with a nice t-shirt. Flash forward to the present day, and he is all about these overpriced (although cool) t-shirts. Also important to know: cargos are only cool for the middle school-and-under crowd. Apparently these shorts/pants do not make the transition to high school — so plan accordingly.

5. If you see something while back-to-school shopping and really want your kid to get it, do not let him or her know this information.
The minute your child realizes you think a certain shirt/backpack/lunchbox is cool is the minute he or she decides they will have no part of it. Best-case scenario, they let you know that up front and you walk away from the situation. Worst-case scenario, they let you talk them into getting it, and it sits in their closet never to be worn, stashed next to that other thing you talked them into last year that they never wore. And on that note…

6. Resist the urge to call anything for your son “cute.”
Even if it is cute. It’s now dead to him, and never to be worn again.

7. The Dreaded Three.
We would be remiss if we did not address the absolute hell that is shopping in Abercrombie & Fitch, Abercrombie Kids or Hollister (aka: The Dreaded Three). This could really be a whole blog in and of itself, but we don’t want that CEO who doesn’t like homeless people wearing his brand coming after us. Anyway, I know it’s a free country, and by no means are we forced to shop in these stores. But with kids who have gone or are going through their teen years, and living in suburban America, it really is inescapable.
Here are a few pointers for navigating The Dreaded Three (AF, A, and H & Co.):

  • You will not be able to hear. Any vital information you need to discuss with your child pertaining to your purchase should be done while you are still in the food court. Upon entry of the store, your kid may never hear your voice again because of the volume at which they keep their music blaring.AFstore
  • Your range of vision may be impaired. It is dark in there. I have debated wearing one of those coal miner headlamps, but figured I would spare my children the embarrassment. I assume they keep it dark so that you cannot fully read the price tags, so as to avoid dealing with your shock except for once at the cash register.
  • The smell. They infuse their own scent of perfume through the air ducts of the store. I am able to tolerate this the best of all of the antics, but I know people who are highly sensitive to smell. And I could see how this could make someone nauseated.
  • The size and appearance of the clothing, primarily for the girls, can sometimes leave very little to the imagination. And I am not a super conservative parent when it comes to clothing my girls, but there are holes in the jeans all the way up to the private parts. Thankfully, the school has a dress code rule for no holes in jeans, so I don’t have to be the bad guy in this scenario.
  • ThAFbage shopping bag. Don’t get me wrong — there is a shirtless male model on these shopping bags who has obviously never missed a workout or tasted a burger, and I can appreciate that. But the target age for these stores is under 16, so it seems a bit extreme. Although I do know some moms (and grandmothers) who like the bags quite a bit.

I’m not saying to not shop at these stores — quite the opposite, really. I have the benefit of having an older, fully grown child, and I know that “having” to have something from Abercrombie (or whatever the popular store is for your child) is fleeting, and next year it may very well be a different store. So just bite the bullet like the rest of us and go in there and suffer through it.

Whether your little one is just starting kindergarten this year, or venturing to middle school or high school, back-to-school shopping is an adventure. For the Scoopers kids, we have gone from simply walking into Justice and buying one of everything, to having to aimlessly roam the malls, in and out of stores, looking for that one unique shirt that no one else will have.

So if you are still shopping with little ones, appreciate the simplicity. Because before you know it, it’s gone, and you are sitting in The Dreaded Three feeling old, overweight and wishing you could see far enough ahead of you to scream at someone. Not that they would hear you over that music.