I went to WalMart after work yesterday because I needed to pick up my photos. I order them online, by the way. And I’m not easily distracted, but just as a disclaimer, let me say here that I do NOT use WalMart for anything other than photos I need in a hurry. My apologies to WM for saying bad things about them, but their color is usually not correct. I didn’t realize that until I accidently ordered the same photo from WalMart and Shutterfly. Shutterfly’s color is far superior, and I’ve had some other issues with WM that I don’t encounter with Shutterfly. So, word to the wise- if you want better photos, use Shutterfly.com. or some service other than WalMart.
Okay, back to my story. I went to WM to pick up my photos. As I walked through there seemed to be more noise and activity than usual, not just at the registers, but throughout the store. It was a little annoying, but I’ve been annoyed the last three or four times I’ve gone to WM. I got my photos and decided to get a package of paint brushes for school and pick up some salad ingredients for dinner. (Yes, I chastised myself for not doing all my weekly shopping and getting it over with, but I have to go to town today anyway to get my mini-blinds. Besides, Gary had to work late and I knew I was too tired to unload everything by myself. )
As I made my way through the store I had to move out of the way for a couple of people in a hurry. I saw a woman I haven’t talked to in months, but we just exchanged hellos and a couple of comments before she had to rush away. Then as I got my items, at least two people apologized for being in my way, which they weren’t. One told her child “Move! Can’t you see that woman needs to get by?” One older woman dropped her tomatoes twice because she was trying to rush to get them so I could get mine. She kept apologizing as I told her that I wasn’t in a hurry and she could pick the ones she wanted. By the time I finished I just felt aggravated by the whole shopping experience.
At checkout there was a woman with three children. The youngest one was crying, the oldest one was taking a toy away from the one who was crying, and the middle one was trying to tattle on her brother. The poor mother looked exhausted and was throwing school supplies and groceries on the counter as quickly as she could while simultaneously refereeing. As I watched her, the reason for my aggravation suddenly became clear. The leisurely pace of summer is over. The frenzy of the school year has begun. No more strolling the aisles of WM looking at new items. No more stopping to chat with friends. No more quiet Tuesday mornings. I’m now relegated to shopping with the frantic “after work” crowd or the even more frenzied Saturday group.
Why is everyone in such a hurry and in such a bad mood? School. While school brings some relief for parents in the form of daily care, it also burdens many of them with extra costs and responsibilities. The financial cost of school supplies and clothes has skyrocketed, partly because of school budget cuts. I watched a news report on a school that required $42 worth of supplies for a first grader! Try multiplying that by two or three children! School is also the beginning of homework, meetings, extra-curricular activities, and sports. Many parents in our district work long hours or multiple jobs in order to survive. The added burden of helping with homework each night and/or getting kids to ball practice is too much for some of them. They want their children to do well in school and they want them to have the opportunities to dance and sing and play basketball or whatever, but they are exhausted most of the time.
Much of this translates into a frenzy and frustration level that is evident in stores and on roads. No one has time to wait in line. No one wants to be late for the next appointment. Everyone has to hurry, hurry, hurry.
I’m not sure there is a solution to the situation. I wish I could tell the parents of my kindergarten students that it will “get better” as their children get older and they won’t have to supervise as much of their child’s life. However, I know the opposite is actually true. There will just be more homework, more activities, more meetings, and more practice claiming their time and energy. By fourth or fifth grade they will feel like they have taken on the role of their child’s chauffer. The best I can tell them is to take their vitamins, get as much sleep as possible, and try to stay calm.
As for me, I will just have to put up with the frenzy until next summer.