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The Full Suburban: Nothing like a deadline and a disinterested kid to make school shopping a breeze

George Ditto gets ready to enjoy a Cinnabon during back-to-school shopping with his mom.  (Julia Ditto)
George Ditto gets ready to enjoy a Cinnabon during back-to-school shopping with his mom. (Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

Last Tuesday at 12:17 p.m. – coming in just under the wire a mere two days before school started – I finished up back-to-school shopping with my kids.

Like many parents, back-to-school shopping is something I do with each of my kids every year. I take them out one at a time, replenishing the jeans, T-shirt and sock supplies they have grown out of or destroyed over the past school year.

Also, getting a treat afterward is mandatory. This year, four out of six kids chose to get a giant Cinnabon cinnamon roll; one opted for frozen yogurt; and the youngest – always the rogue, Hyrum – requested a milkshake from Arby’s. There was a time in my life when I would abstain from eating the treat along with my child, opting instead to sip ice water while we chatted and he or she chowed down. But I’ve since realized that life is too short not to eat the Cinnabon, calories and pants sizes be darned.

My oldest child, Lucy, got a more-extreme-than-usual shopping experience in early August, when we went to every store ever conceived by the mind of man in an effort to have her fully outfitted for college by the middle of the month.

My three youngest sons were next on the docket. They are always pretty easy, since all they need/want are a couple pairs of comfortable pants, shoes that don’t have holes in them, and a few T-shirts – preferably featuring the NASA logo or an image of the solar system.

Shopping with 15-year-old Jane was an actual delight, as she is just starting to home in on her very own style, and – in my unbiased opinion – she is darling. I remember being her age and walking into the Gap for the very first time, and feeling like, among all the v-neck sweater vests and pleated skirts, I had found my style. It was like a revelation.

Last of the Ditto kids to go shopping this year was 17-year-old George. You can imagine how excited he was: a senior in high school, a studly stud on the football team – being required to wander around the mall with his mom.

What’s more, George hates shopping in general. Unless he’s hunting for a new snowboard, a basketball, or football gear, he wants no part in the American consumer experience.

When he was just 4 years old and about to start preschool, I took him out on his first back-to-school-shopping outing. At one point, we were chatting over maple bars and I asked him, “George, what’s your favorite thing to do in the whole world?” His reply: “Everything.”

“And what’s your least favorite thing to do?” I asked.

“Um, going to boring stores that don’t have any toys,” he replied. In other words: school shopping.

With a track record like that, it didn’t take long for George’s eyes to glaze over when we were out shopping last Tuesday from 10:29 a.m. to the aforementioned 12:17 p.m. This amount of time would be considered short to many of the shopping warriors out there. But for George, it was eons too long.

“Is there anything else you need?” I would ask as we finished up at each store, clutching the one or two items we’d managed to find that he liked. He would glance around disinterestedly, like Clint Eastwood at a Tupperware party, before taking a deep breath, exhaling loudly, and saying, “Nope.” And to the next store we would go.

We hit three stores AND ate a Cinnabon in less than two hours, so you can get a feel for just how little we were lingering through our shopping experience.

But we made it through. School has started, new tennis shoes are already showing signs of wear, and the space-themed shirts of my little boys have been worn in rapid succession. And luckily for George, I’m as sick of boring stores that don’t have any toys as he is.

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