I have a kid just starting middle school, so of course, my primary concern in all of life has become binders.
From the moment I got Will’s school supply list in the mail, I have been slavish to its every whim. I filled the cart with notebooks (spiral and non), packs of new pencils (colored and non – though we have a forest of them already), and a huge towering stack of binders.
In case you’re out of the school loop, these ringed wonders have apparently replaced the ancient relics we once knew as books.
They are also the black holes into which a boy’s daily shuffle of papers are sucked and never heard from again.
And let me assure you: there is a zero percent chance of all those gargantuan, pointy notebooks fitting into my 10-year-old’s backpack – at least on the days he wants to eat.
The lunchbox clearly has to go.
I’m pretty sure I’ve screwed this up somehow. (This is where my mind goes – of course). I probably didn’t get the right binders. Or the right number, the right size, the right style.
I have become obsessed with binder perfection – for them all to fit nice and neat, for the corners not to be too sharp, to get the kind the cool kids have, for the weight not to stoop his bird-like shoulders and doom him to a back-braced adolescence.
I want everything to be perfect.
(Ummm, hold on, are we still talking about binders?)
There just might be bigger issues at work under this shiny Trapper Keeper surface – like how I know (and he doesn’t yet) that middle school is hard, and I’m scared for him.
Kindergarten was supposedly the ultimate childhood transition – and it is. But it’s also the sweetest, cuddliest teddy bear of a place to send one’s beloved babies.
Middle school is a different animal – a much gnarlier one. I vividly remember it sucking. I remember looking the dorkiest I’ve ever looked. I remember sticking out and not being cool and doing things all gangly and wrong.
So if I could just get the binders right for him, maybe all of this humiliation could be avoided.
That’s how a mom thinks anyway.
We know it doesn’t work really that way. Somewhere inside we know.
But still we try to fix the things we can – by sending our children off with just the right stuff, or the cutest back-to-school ensemble, or something (anything) that says Hollister on it – knowing that all the rest of it is utterly, miserably beyond our control.
Most of it’s even beyond our knowing about (like when you have a male child whose standard answer is “not much” to the “What’d you do today” question).
So my kid will come home from middle school each day, and I will ask about his day. He won’t tell me a fat lot.
I will then dig through that towering pile of binders and search for clues. (Gotta make that investment work for me somehow…)
Because this is a whole new journey we’re embarking on – him with the ten pounds of supplies strapped to his tiny back, me with the shoulders heaped with motherly concern watching him go.
What I’m sending him off with may not be perfect, it may not fit quite right, it may not be the coolest ever.
But all the love and prayers I’ve crammed into the square inches that remain ought to count for something…maybe almost everything.
But yeah, I did keep the receipt on those binders.
Just in case.