Don`t be sucked in!

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Aug 15, 2011

I am seeing it and I cringe every time I do.
The ads are on television, newspapers, bus shelters….even on the Internet.
“Hey parents, its back to school shopping time!”
What a load of crap.
Just like many people feel that Christmas is a made up holiday to celebrate consumerism and not the birth of Christ, I think that the whole “back to school” push is an effort for retailers to stimulate cash flow after what is typically a very quiet time of year for retail.
And boy, do they start early, or what? We are just about adjusted to the slowed-down routine of summer after coming off of months and months of pressure to get the kids out the door to school on time. Plus, we have just finished dealing with the constant demand for money imposed on us by our kids and their school for extra-curricular school activities (it always seems that a note is coming home with our children looking for money for one fund-raiser or another). Plus, we are in the midst of paying for summer camp programs which are a fortune! There seems to be no breathing room!
So…here we are…desperately trying to catch our financial breath, only to be reminded that our kids need new everything; school bags, lunch bags, shoes, jeans, shirts, sweatshirts, underwear….you name it. Oh, and of course, they need a back to school hair cut and the dreaded school supplies!
To make matters worse, even if we, as mature, educated adults who should know better, know that our kids really don't need half of what is being marketed, the reality is, these commercials and ads we see are actually targeting our children who watch them too. Lets face it, going back to school is much less painful when you are wearing a really cool new pair of running shoes or the trendiest new jeans. Kids are into this stuff…more so than into the excitement of going back to school to learn and be educated.
My 13 year old has already started talking about changing her look for the fall. She is 13! What “look”? She has told my wife and I that she is going for more of a vintage-retro style. The good news is, that means she wants to go to thrift stores to shop. The bad news is, she wants to go to thrift stores to shop! I am not trying to sound like a snob and that thrift stores are beneath me…but, why is a 13 year old so obsessed with her “look”? But that's a whole other blog for a whole other day.
In our humble abode, we take stock of what the kids have (both clothing and school supplies) before determining what is absolutely necessary and essential to their school existence! If we have old pencils, pens, pencil cases and three-ringed paper…why do we need more? Yes, I will agree that if they cannot do up the zipper on their jeans then chances are, we will need to invest in some new clothing. Its amazing what the combination of summer and heat do to children…they have a tendency of growing as fast as the weeds on my front lawn!
We encourage our kids to “make do” wherever possible. Do they really need new everything? Absolutely not. And while we tell our kids not to worry about what the other kids are wearing or what the other kids have that my kids don't have…I will admit that it is sometimes easier said then done to convince them to see things our way.
What young kid doesn't covet what another kid has? I guess its part of growing up. I was always envious of my old friend Jimmy because he had Adidas and all I had were North Stars. I wanted the three stripes on the side of my shoe…all I had were two stripes.
And not to date myself any more than I have to…it took three years of constant badgering but I finally got those Grebs that all the other kids had (remember Greb Kodiaks? They were ugly construction-style boots that you always wore unlaced with your jeans tucked into the boot in just a certain kind of way…they were totally cool!).
While I admit to constantly pestering my mom until she finally caved…I think times have changed and the cost of some of these “can't live without them” items are just outrageous.
As a compromise, we got our eldest daughter a pair of Dr. Martens as a graduation gift from middle school…we used the excuse of graduating as the motivating factor to buy her these somewhat ugly but highly cool footwear.
So…parents…prepare and beware. September is fast approaching and the wave of spending is about to come like a tidal wave. My thoughts are with you!!
Stephen Gosewich is still aspiring to become an enlightened male. In the meantime, he spends his weekdays as a commercial real estate professional, and all other times with his wonderfully supportive wife and two very active and inspiring daughters. He lives in Toronto and enjoys family time, pop culture, spinning up a storm and perfecting his downward dog.

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