Back-To-School Shopping With My Grandkids Is An Experience


I got to go back-to-school shopping with my daughter Jen and her children. For me, this is one of the great joys of life. It gives me insight into how the kids make decisions, and a glimmer of fashion sense as well.

Tess, almost 7, has completely given up the flouncy, tutu-like skirts she once craved, having solidly declared them “for babies,” and Skippy, almost 9 and extremely tactile, is firmly entrenched in the sports world and the silky jersey fabric thereof… and pastels. Just try to find a team shirt in pink. I dare you.

But their happiness was unbounded, so off we went.

No, I take that back. Their happiness was quite strictly bounded by the $100 budget their mother had given each of them. If you’ve been shopping lately, you know that a $100 budget for school clothes is almost laughable, even if you don’t count underwear and shoes. But, to 7-year-olds and 9-year-olds, it’s the moon. And it was the limit of their mother’s willingness to let them buy “anything they want.” She’d fill in the gaps with things like, well, slacks.

We got to the first store the moment it opened and unleashed the kids, who ran in as if we’d just cut the ribbon to Disneyland. Tess found her department and started leafing through the rack of her size in hyper-mode. She looked like a buyer for Saks. “No, no, no, no, maybe (handed it to her mom), no, no, no…” Skippy did a basketball jump that scored him a backpack off the top hook. It was small and baby blue.

“I think that might be a girls’ backpack,” I started to say, but Jen shut me down. Their money, their choices.

When we got to the next store, there was a prominently displayed t-shirt with a photo of a baby on it. The baby was wearing a crown. The baby was a younger version of the Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls, the rap star murdered in a drive-by shooting.)

Skippy loves babies. He had to have that shirt.

Meanwhile, Tess had found a dress in her size worthy of any 15-year-old.

This is exactly the way you would expect no-holds-barred shopping with elementary school children to go. So, on the first day of school, at their extremely expensive private institution, Tess will be dressed as a hooker and Skippy will be wearing Nikes, sports shorts and his “crown baby” t-shirt… while toting a little blue backpack.

Most concerning, perhaps, is that they are fashion trendsetters at the school. What they wear one week, everyone else wears the next week.

It’s no matter. After a delightful trip to the toy store (robots on me) and an equally delightful patio lunch (“Look, grandma! That baby is just learning to walk!”), we trundled on home, each secure in the knowledge that we had just what we wanted.

For the children, it was the clothes and toys. For my daughter, it was knowing she’d finished her back-to-school shopping.

And, for me, it was just being there — yet another course in my “continuing education.”