Friday, August 17, 2012

The Communal Crayon - Life Lessons from School Supplies

My oldest started school last week.

It's hard to say who was more excited about school starting - her or me. One of the reasons I've been anticipating my kids starting school is for the excuse to go Back To School Shopping.

Seriously. I'm addicted to office supplies. I love them. Pens, pencils, rulers, notebooks, paper clips, index cards, all of those wonderful things in the stationary aisle at Wal-Mart are a total draw for me. I've mentioned this before when I talked about my total obsession with sticky notes.

So when my oldest was headed to kindergarten I was clapping with glee in anticipation of getting my hands on her school supply list.

Until I actually got it.

Maybe it's because of this weird thing I have with new office products, but I always loved the trip to buy school supplies. My mom probably didn't because I distinctly remember one year having to go to four different stores before we found the five subject spiral notebook with pockets on the dividers that my brother was supposed to have for school.

We would gather all of our things, meticulously crossing off colored pencils, notebooks, crayons, pencil box, and clipboard. I remember the clipboard. (It was to keep our loose leaf paper contained, in case you were wondering.)

Once we got home, we would pull out the paint pen and label everything. My mom turned the clipboard into a work of art with my name in the middle of a big vine of flowers. It was awesome. I think I still have it in a box in the attic.

All of those beautiful new school supplies with my name on them. Every year I vowed to treat them well and keep them looking new. It would last for a while, and when the notebook was squished on the corners or the paint chipped off the clipboard or the pencils started to look a bit run down and chewed on, well, I had no one to blame but myself.

My daughter doesn't have that option.

This year I sent a bag full of crayons and gluesticks to the school for her whole class to use in the classroom. Every supply on the list is communal property in her classroom.

I confess to struggling with this.

The rant to my own mother went on for a while. "What if some other kid in there breaks crayons? Is my daughter going to have to use his mistreated crayons?"

Notice how it's obviously not going to be my kid mistreating the crayons despite the state of our own crayon box at home.

I was greatly concerned that nothing I sent to school was going to be hers. And now I wonder why.

There are some valid reasons such as wanting to teach her to take care of her things and learn that responsibility, and not wanting to have to buy four boxes of crayons when she herself might only need two through the whole year if they were simply hers.

But she has things to take care of at home, so there's another way to learn that lesson. And having to utilize a communal bucket of crayons will teach her to share and work with others, so that's a good thing, right? Plus I don't have to buy a school supply box and argue over the color of paint to use on her name.

So I have to wonder at this drive to have things be just hers. As I look around my life, I see other areas of possessive behavior.

I won't share my sticky notes with my kids. I make them use the free ones from a college job fair that were shoved in the back of the drawer.

My problems and issues are just that - mine, and my wrath may fall down on you if you try to take them away from me. They might make me miserable, but they're still mine.

And what I'm coming to realize is that it's not always a good thing to have your name painted across every aspect of your life. I'm not saying everyone should go live in a commune where everything from the toilet paper to the minivan is up for free use, but my grip could be a little looser.

In the end, it's not really mine anyway. It's all on loan from God and He should be able to use it however He wants to.

So I'm starting to realize that I don't have to control everything. That it's okay for someone else to run with certain things, to have a little bit of control. Maybe by sharing the responsibilities and the struggles, I'll find myself working better within the team, whether the team is my family, my church, or life in general.

And if someone else gets to use the new box of crayons before I do? Well, I'm going to have to learn to be okay with that, too. Sometimes someone else gets the reward.

How are school supplies done at your kid's school? Do you struggle with wanting your name painted over every aspect of your life?

All photos from WikiMedia Commons. 

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