Today I pack H Boy’s bag for preschool. Yes, he’s that old. I’m not really into weepy-mom mode, lamenting how time has flown (though it has). Instead I found myself hung up on the fact that I didn’t buy him the “official” school bag with his name on it for $8.

At the time we initially registered him, I opted out of The Bag because we were already over-justifying what we spend on pre-education education. So the cute blue backpack my mom gave him as a church bag worked perfectly. Also, he loves that bag. He’ll often ask if he can pack his backpack and take it with him when we venture places, like the park or the grocery. (Related: He also has a hard, small blue suitcase that says “Going to Grandma’s” that used to be his father’s. He’ll equally ask to pack that bag and take along. We’re bag packers in this family.)

Then last week at our open house/ Ice Cream Social, the teachers had laid out the Bags that everyone else had ordered. There were approximately as many bags as kids in the room. Minus one. Okay, maybe two, but there are some returning students.

I’m already that mom. And I’m entering that world.

The world where I’m being told what to buy my kids and that what I have isn’t ever good enough. The world where kids begin to judge how they fit in by what they own, where they go and who accompanies them.

Also, it’s the world where I as the parent begin to feel that I’m always one step behind enough. That if I just bought him the bag like everyone else, then he’ll have what he needs.

Welcome to the world of feeling┬áinadequate┬áif we don’t have – or even perhaps don’t want – the very best of everything.

If I’m to be honest – and I do try – I’m not naturally a parent that steps back and says, “is this good enough for my kid(s)?” I wonder if my kids – and myself – don’t need the best of everything.

I recently read a blog of a mom whose greatest summertime stress was which of the local schools she would send her children. Some were better than others for certain reasons, but mainly she wanted it to be good enough for her exceptionally smart kindergartener. I was taken aback by the luxury of choice that we enjoy here; it’s not enough that we get a free education in this country, but now we’ve become consumers of educational systems and providers.

Says the girl sending her 3-year-old to a private preschool because of its Emilio approach with an emphasis on art and nature.

We’re already sending him to a school over-and-above the norm. Do we really need to buy him a bag, too? And my heart and mind cry, “NO” while my ego says, “it’s only $8”.

But preschool is just the orientation. It’s the Intro to School Life 101. And much like the rest of my life, I’m not walking in without considering the greater implications of how we react and interact with what our world is offering us. Do we want to raise our kids thinking that they need everything that others have in order to be happy or successful?

A bag that looks like everyone else’s won’t make him smarter. It won’t build character. It won’t challenge him to do what is right in a difficult situation. A bag won’t remind him to choose truth over winning or ask him to do the hard things of learning.

Yet here I am, lamenting the challenge already. Secretly wondering if I mean it when these words drift out of my mouth. Defensive and concerned. The first day has barely begun and I’m ready to hand over my $8 and join in the rest of the world telling myself that it must work for them. Following the herd is a tried and true method, right?

 

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