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Kay Wyma Goes Back to School Shopping

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Photograph by Elizabeth Lavin

Sometimes I forget my kids have grown. And when they grow, they need new clothes. Granted a few of mine want clothes much of the time. But need is different. And we’ve hit the need zone for my girls.

So on Saturday, we ventured to the mall. Until we drove up to NorthPark and were completely deterred by a crazy full parking lot. None of us had the energy to brave a behemoth crowd. So we did what any good shopping gals would do … we changed course and headed to another shopping center. This time on the other side of 75, The Shops at Park Lane. A shady parking garage was calling our name as was Dick’s Sporting Goods. And I think I could hear Nordstrom Rack in the distance. So we answered.

Just to come clean. I don’t like shopping. Really don’t like shopping. I’m nothing like my mom and sister. They could shop all day.

When I was young, we would travel to Dallas from Wichita Falls to do what my girls and I were doing on Saturday: back-to-school shopping. We would always stop by NorthPark Center. Our mall in the Falls was great, but nothing like NorthPark. We loved to walk around, to see stores selling more than black-lit sundries [see also: Spencer’s] and iron on t-shirts, to be mesmerized by the huge fountain by Dillards. We would beg for pennies to toss into the water, then lose ourselves in the spouts shooting water different ways. We loved pretending like we were Olympians, balance-walking around the fountain. And groaned when our folks forced us to move on.

 

Besides enjoying the mammoth fountain, we browsed stores, fed the ducks, raced up and slide down the huge planters outside of Neiman Marcus (my kids do the same thing today). Then would give into gravitational pull and go into Neimans. Because, how can one go to NorthPark without stopping at Neimans. We always did a drop-by, or more like a stay-by at my mom’s favorite. Stay, as in for hours. Trying on every item on every rack. At least it felt that way. I never tried on clothes unless forced. My younger brother and I would entertain ourselves in the three-way mirrors as we sat on the floor, waiting and waiting and waiting. Exciting times. I know.

All that to say, shopping and I are more like acquaintances than friends. I feel sorry for one of my daughters. She loves it. My other one is like me. Done almost the minute it begins.

So, on Saturday, we parked in the wonderfully shaded garage and headed into Dick’s Sporting Goods. Snopes hit a home-run with everything she needed on sale. Granted she had to try on everything. Barton, loud-sighing within minutes of entering the dressing room, made it clear that she was done. She had come for a pair of within-school-regulation denim shorts and that was it. Understanding her pain, I grabbed Snopes’ goods, headed for the register, and sent the girls to the next store in search of Barton’s shorts.

The store next door to Dicks is Saks Off Fifth. Such a great store. Terrific deals on upscale stuff – when/if one needs upscale stuff. But not the place to find a pair of denim shorts for a budding teenager. Just sayin’.

I went into Saks to grab the girls. While looking for them, I might have accidentally found something for me. Then I saw Barton and the only pair of shorts that fit her. The price tag didn’t fit, though. Even on sale, three-figures glared at us. But they were a neat brand. One she knew. One her friends know.

The girls understand that we don’t go that route. So without so much as a peep, the shorts were left on the table where they were found. I sent the girls to Nordstrom Rack while I checked out with my super-fun find.

“Did you find everything you need?” the sales-girl asked while ringing up my dress.

“Actually, I didn’t mean to find this. My girls came in looking for denim shorts. They got nothing. But I sure scored.” I laugh reply.

“Did they see the section over there?” she asked, pointing where we had been.

“Yes,” I reply. “You have a cute pair that fit her. But – well, they were just too much money.” Why am I telling her this? I’m glad none of my kids are next to me. I’m sure this would fall in the you’re-SO-embarrassing category.

The girl nodded. I had to continue.

“I mean, it’s hard to spend that much money on myself. Let alone denim shorts for a kid. For so many reasons, but mostly on principal.”

“I know what you mean,” she said.

“Yeah,” now I’m thinking out loud, a sometimes dangerous activity, especially with strangers. “If I get her $100 shorts (or fill in the blank – tennis shoes, telephone, etc.) when she’s a teen, she will get used to $100 dollar shorts – even expect them. So what will happen when she’s on her own. Starting at the bottom. Hoping her paycheck will cover utilities. I’d hate for her to think she was a less than who she is because she can’t afford the clothes she wore when she was a kid. And I also don’t want her thinking that a brand defines her.”

“So true.” The sales-girl added, “It’s not about how rich you are, it’s about training your kids.”

Get out! I couldn’t believe she said that. I love Check-Out Girl!

She closed the loop of why buying those shorts felt so wrong. It was loaded with lessons. Not only setting proper expectations for clothes, but for so many other things. If they have never mowed a lawn, they will expect yard guys to come to their house on a regular basis. What if they can’t afford yard guys? Same with a house-keeper. Same with a car. What if they can’t afford a car? Do they know how to take the bus? Do they understand everything that goes into owning a car (not the sticker alone, but insurance, repairs, gas…)

We’ve been frequenting the laundromat of late. It began with washer-drier issues. It lingers due to the amazing efficiency the Spin Cycle offers. Seriously. Everything done in under two hours. Everything. But while we’ve been there, I’ve shared with the kids that washer-drier problems are first-world issues. Some day they might not have luxuries that are considered staples in our country. They need to keep their expectations in check and learn that there is a vast difference between need and want. And then be pleasantly surprised and grateful if something along the lines of those shorts arrive as a gift or as their own purchase from hard-earned money. Because even a splurge is okay. A big difference from an expectation.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s more to learn from this one. Who knew Saks Off Fifth had so much to offer?

 

Kay Wyma is the author of  Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. She shares the hilarity and the tears that  come with raising adolescents & teens on her blog The Moat … because who wants to walk that road alone.