My Fantasy Back-to-School Shopping List

By Melissa Stefanec

On my kids’ first day of school, they will walk into their new classrooms in their favorite outfits and with a little apprehension in their bellies. 

The first day of school is a day of excitement, potential and new beginnings. It is also an opportunity for my kids to demonstrate their pack mule abilities.

You see, the first day of school means a mass transportation of goods. A simple backpack doesn’t cut it. My kids usually roll into the first day of school with backpacks that triple their widths and extra bags in tow. Besides building character and brains, the first week of school is about building back muscles and biceps.

To what do we owe this demonstration of physical power? The humble school supply list. These lists are often expansive. Yet, they leave so much out. They focus on what kids need in the classroom, not the stuff they need to make it through the school year.

So, for the sake of levity, I’ve compiled an uncut back-to-school list. This straight-shooting list includes items parents need but of which never make it onto the teacher’s list. Feel free to take this list back-to-school shopping. You’ll be the savviest parent in the locker-decoration aisle. 

Five replacement zippers for a backpack: I think the backpack marketers should take a cue from the dress shirt marketers. Never mind spare buttons; I want to buy bags with spare zippers or spare Velcro strapped to the side. That way, when my kids try to shove two backpacks-worth of stuff into their bags, I have reinforcements.

• Tie-dye patches for every corner of a backpack: Speaking of reinforcements, I’m hoping that patches stay trendy. When my kids wear or tear a hole in the backpacks in early November, I don’t want to buy another backpack. I want to hot-glue some tie-dye patches on and call it a day.

• A pencil box whose zippers or clasps don’t break: I’m not sure these exist, so I may have to get creative. I will buy some trendy duct tape and small screws for when I need to be pencil case pit crew.

• 12 pairs of matching gloves: In my heart of hearts, I know this is too few, but I look to the new school year with optimism. In the past, I would get all sorts of different gloves and mittens. Not this year. This year, I’m going standard-issue style. 

• Pocket-size vacuum: One of my least favorite things about backpacks is that grunge that collects in their bottoms. It’s a hodge-podge of Dum-Dum sticks, hair, pencil leads, tiny pieces of paper, popcorn and I-don’t-want-to-know. I want to get a mini vacuum and make my kids clean out their bags with it every weekend. Why not also check out this wireless vacuum cleaner here! Appliance Hunter is my go to for vacuum cleaner recommendations.

• Flashy folders that are reinforced with bamboo: I remember the thrill of picking out new folders for school. I mean, folders do say a lot about a person. Will my kids choose to be conformists or nonconformists? Subtle or loud? Folders are important. However, no matter how expensive they are, they fall apart. If manufacturers can use bamboo in my toilet paper, surely they can engineer a super folder.

• Three pairs of snow pants: I love that my kids go outside at school during the winter, but that means they need so many pairs of snow pants. Additionally, I must purchase these in October. If I wait any later than that, my kids will have to play in the snow in sweatpants covered in trash bags.

• Water bottle with child’s name carved into the side: I’m almost certain there is a room in my children’s school that is filled to the ceiling with unclaimed water bottles, gloves and hats. Water bottles laugh in the face of permanent markers. The only way my kids might finish the school year with the same water bottle they started with is if I chisel their info into the side of the bottle.

• 4,000 sheets of multipurpose paper: My kids love scrap paper! They get special satisfaction from writing one math problem or doodle directly in the middle of the sheet, thereby making the rest of the paper unusable. In a perfect world, we would only need 2,000, because we could flip the sheets over. However, spilled food and drink on my tables ensure the other side of the paper is unusable.

• Masks that change color when dirty/moistened: I don’t know if these exist. If they do, the company that created them can take all of my money. I’m tired of smelling and rubbing my kids’ facemasks to determine if they are used.

Several outfits your middle-school self would have been shoved into a locker for wearing: These are essential to make sure my kids send the right messages to their peers. If my son doesn’t wear socks that go up his knees with his sandals, how will he get picked first for kickball? Everything old is new again. Today’s cool school clothes look like what I had to buy at Goodwill in seventh grade.

So, there you have it. The back-to-school lists that other parents won’t tell you about.

If you combine this list with your child’s teacher’s list, you might be semi-prepared for the school year.