Back to school! Second grade started Wednesday and I dragged Shayla clothes shopping and to get a haircut, rituals that feel as important as they are trivial. Why do we buy new clothes just before school starts? Our economy depends on us buying this stuff, but it’s deeper and more primal for me.

I can only vaguely remember back to school shopping when I was a kid (and Easter shopping, another time when a new outfit was not optional). My main preoccupation was with what I would not wear—tied to my primary goal for just about all my schooling: avoiding humiliation and teasing. No purple or pink. Nothing with logos. Better bland than making the wrong move. So I should understand firsthand why Shayla’s responses to everything I suggested she try on was “no, no, no, no, no.” Sometimes, sensing my annoyance, she’d say “sorry to be saying no so much Daddy! But, no, no, no.” The only strong yesses were to cute animals wearing mustaches… it’s a theme this year, cats with mustaches, groundhogs with mustaches, platypuses, don’t ask.

Backing up a minute, the history minded might ask, how could I possibly have had any fashion rules as a kid and ended up in these outfits:




…and all I can really say is that we live in the times we live in. Also I’d kill, today, to have a pair of plaid pants like the ones I wore on that rocket.

But back to my stubborn child. While I realize it’s her job to find her own way by rejecting every great idea I have, when I found her literally the perfect cocktail dress, how could she say no? I mean, check this out:


Wouldn’t I have killed to have a parent with great taste trying to get me into something really fab? And of course the answer is no. (See above, they did.)

While she good naturedly posed for a photo before refusing to buy the dress, she was clear. There was absolutely no way she was getting it. I begged, until I realized she should reply “If you want this dress so much Daddy, buy it for yourself.” Why should I pick her outfit? It won’t save me from the humiliations of being 6, and 8, and 12; I’ve been there and done that. And it won’t save her either. Besides, it’s possible the thing is just too womanly for a 7-year-old. She doesn’t have any cocktail parties on her fall schedule. Her picks were girly, tomboy, 100% her.

Which brings us to the Office Depot. How hard could it be to pick out an accordion folder for 2nd grade? OK, this morning another mom told me there were tears in the office supply store trying to do this same errand the night before, but Shayla caught me off guard after school (“please! we’ve GOT to get this, some kids brought theirs today!”), and there we were. Did I have the note with the part number of the suggested accordion? No. But here’s another parent from our class! She’s got the number, and there’s no match. Oh, and one that might be close is sold out. Plus Jaden was home sick today and he’s projectile coughing on the classmate’s mom as she’s trying to help us (moms almost always feel sorry for dads out with their kids). Each folder isn’t quite right, the ones I suggest are not making Shayla happy, and everyone’s patience is fraying. “Just ask them!” Shayla keeps hissing, insisting that the Office Depot staff will know Teacher Anita’s preferred folder. I’m not proud of much of my shopping heavy-handedness this week. But I joyfully report that I only almost, but did not, say to my 7 year old: “sweetie, the people working at Office depot barely know their asses from a hole in the ground, they will not solve this folder dilemma.” Instead I picked up my sneezing, snotty 4-year-old, grabbed the hand of my distressed 7-year-old, and walked out of the store.

“I don’t think we can get this today” I said.