(Almost) Everything I Needed to Know About Parenting I Learned in High School

When I was in high school, I signed up for Sociology class, and our big projects were two pretty important milestones: getting married and having kids. We paired up, planned the wedding, and went the full nine yards with white dresses, veils, and cake in a mock ceremony in the auditorium. One of the best parts about that is that the teacher who played my dad and walked me down the aisle was a young, gorgeous new teacher on which much of the female senior population had a crush.

We were asked to role play confrontation and conflict, and before the mock wedding, my pretend groom – my friend Dave – had to convince my “father” to let me get married. It was just a small glimpse into what marriage would look like, and looking back, I applaud the effort, even knowing the futility of trying to simulate what real marriage looks like. Everything from the personality of your partner to financial status to in-laws plays a part, and it’s a puzzle with ten million combinations.

The next step in the teacher’s plan was for us to have a baby. We were summarily handed a 10-pound sack of flour, told to name it (we named the baby Kayla, at my request, as a young fan of the soap opera Days of Our Lives), and the rules were issued: we couldn’t leave it in a locker. We couldn’t put it down. We couldn’t stick it in our backpack. We had to take turns caring for it.  Like a real baby.

Now that I have a real child, I know that the flour sack gave us only a fraction of what it would be like to have a baby. I can see there were a few other classes in school that prepared me for parenthood even more…

1. DRAMA. As a parent, it is imperative to know how to act. Silly voices are a bonus. I can act mad when I’m laughing inside, and I can laugh when I want to cry. I can be a horse, a pig, a dog, and Wonder Woman. Bonus points for singing songs in a frog voice.

2. DEBATE/ NEGOTIATION.

“It’s bedtime.”
“Why?”
“Because you need to rest.”
“Why?”
“Because you’re three.”
“Why?”
“Because I said so.”
“How about we read one more book and then I get into bed, OK?”
“Just get into bed.”

3. ALGEBRA. If x equals the number of hours left before I am awakened by a toddler, and y equals the number of hours of sleep I need, then y-x equals NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY.

4. CHEMISTRY. Balance this chemical equation: take one new baby (NB), one hormonal new mother (HNM) multiplied by postpartum anxiety, add one relatively sane husband (RSH) and what’s the result? I’m not completely sure yet. The mixture is simmering. NB + HNM (PPA) + RSH — > ?

5. MUSIC APPRECIATION/ BAND. Well, there was that one time, at band camp… OK, not really. But if you remember suffering through a concert of 5th-grade just-learning-how-to-form-an-embouchure kids squeaking out the original Mickey Mouse theme song as one of the performers, then you can endure any number of instruments your child will play. I know you don’t remember yourself as a musical prodigy back then. Fess up.

6. PHYS ED. This is where I learned the skills I needed to learn how to waste time in the backfield during field hockey and make up songs about our very strange teacher to the tune of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”. Hmm… That’s not very translatable to parenting. Yet.

7. HOME EC. Remember home ec? It was how-to-be-a-homemaker presented as educational enrichment. I still can’t sew to save my life, and the memory of the ugliest pink sweats you’ve ever seen keeps me from trying again. But damn if I can’t make a whole meal from appetizers to dessert from a roll of Pillsbury biscuits because of that class.

Thanks, Elkhart Memorial High School. See, I did pay attention.

About the writer

Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer, 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year, and producer of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother show in Austin, where she is the mother of a mini Texan. You can find her on Twitter (@AustinKVS), her blog, Two Cannoli, or at The Huffington Post.

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Michael Lombardi 3 years ago

I didn’t learn much of anything in high school, but I also don’t remember much. Sometimes I think I have a memory problem. I live in the now and try not to think about other times.

Kiran 3 years ago

Your post just made me realize how many skillsets I have lost since high school. No wonder why life got so freaking hard. Maybe I should go re-take my SATs?

Lady Jennie 3 years ago

That sounds like an amazing venture for your high school to have done. (It was more than one class?) Lots of work, even for the teachers, but the benefits are clear.

Elayna ~ The Positive MOM 3 years ago

I went to high school in the Dominican Republic so it definitely doesn’t translate to raising kids in the U.S. (pun intended). I loved every bit of you post and your parenting style. <3 xoxo

Tamara 3 years ago

Oh crap, I barely passed Algebra. I think I had a D. I can tell that now with my sleep patterns. And I cheated in Chemistry. Woo hoo! The most important thing I learned in high school and I mean this one seriously was in my Human Behavior class. My teacher said, “Hey..you’re almost a senior. Learn how to learn, not just memorize. And love it. It’s a gift.” And I swear since that day – I never memorized anything again. Even vocabulary quizzes. She changed me!

Amanda Martin 3 years ago

I think what I might have learned at school was all the wrong stuff, like answering back and squabbling. Too many times I forget that I’m the parent and get drawn into battle with my kids. Like when my 2yo says ‘silly mummy’ when he causes me to drop or break something and I defend myself, pointing out that he made me drop it!
Plus I got frowned at by his nursery teacher today, when I confessed he learned his latest naughty phrase from me… I said I get frustrated sometimes and tell him to shut up (I know, unforgivable) and she gave me that look and said ‘kids do get annoying when they don’t get enough attention.’ Sigh. Detention for me, then.

Anna 3 years ago

Only 8am here on the West Coast and trying not to laugh too loudly less I ruin the few minutes of privacy I have left before the 4- and 19-year-olds wake up! I took Home Ec in middle school and that consisted of sewing and cooking and balancing a checkbook. Thank goodness I did that…the 2 “brilliant” minds in the family (both doctors) can’t sew on a button to save their lives, have every restaurant on speed-dial on their phones, and MD ended up standing for “Massive Debt” that they will never eliminate. Love them but I would rather keep my humdrum, debt-free life and go slowly insane with my kids than to live their lives. I get the honor of having their little hands hold mine and tell me they love me :)

Brenda Dion 3 years ago

I’m glad you are practicing your algebra because “you never know when you’re going to need it”–that and other lies they told us in high school! Funny post. Thanks!

jasbeeray 3 years ago

I am back here. Reading it for the.second.time. Wanted to share it with my husband. He.loved it too
brilliant.

Katie Sluiter 3 years ago

This is hilarious, Kristin!! I love it because it is so true. Also? WORKING in a high school helps my parenting skills too. Fun fact: managing behavior of teenagers is not so different than managing behavior of a four year old!

Andrea 3 years ago

So funny! The marriage/kids thing sounds intense!

I learned mostly “how NOT to” do mostly everything in high school. I wish my husband would have learned how to sew a button in high school. A button, really, how did he miss this?

Keely 3 years ago

Brilliance, Kristin. See? High school was super-duper important.

Audrey 3 years ago

Haha, yeah we did the same thing. The kid thing not the marriage part, though. We even had a mock-trial because someone *ahem* took someone elses baby to CPS after they were left alone in a classroom during lunch period. *cough*

    Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) 3 years ago

    Ah, I laughed out loud at this one, Audrey!

rebecca at thisfineday 3 years ago

I never took that class in High School, but I was always super jealous of those kids that got to carry around flour sacks or eggs. So my sister and I did it at home on our own just for fun, ha ha ha.

Ariana 3 years ago

Hmmm, well, I definitely learned how to become a parent, fortunately I didn’t become one in high school though. As for #6…learning to make up silly songs about your teacher translates very well into parenthood, I can’t even imagine how I would have gotten through my sons’ childhood if I hadn’t had the ability to burst into impromptu silly songs about whatever was going on at a given moment!

Laura 3 years ago

I would add that music helps prepare parents for those super loud noise-making toys that all children somehow manage to get.

Love this! :)

Leigh Ann @ Genie in a Blog 3 years ago

Debate negotiation – how about hostage negotiation? I feel like we’re on that level some days. 😉

Ilene 3 years ago

The home ec bit and the Pillsbury biscuit rolls had me laughing out loud – because I can do that too! I can also very much relate to the Algegra (never enough sleep) and the chemistry. Yeah, that whole hormonal and postpartum thing together doesn’t work very well. Great post!

Amanda 3 years ago

I learned to sew in my home ec class & haven’t used it once for my boys. I did threaten to sew lace to the legs of some sweatpants if they wouldn’t wear the new ones because, while the old ones were their favorites, they were about 3 inches too short. I won that argument lol

    Mercy 3 years ago

    I remember a story about a mother whose son wouldn’t keep his shirt tucked in no matter how much she yelled. Her neighbor had 4 boys and they all kept their shirts tucked in all the time. She begged her neighbor for the secret and she said, “Oh, I just sew lace across the bottom of all their shirts. :) Makes me happy for t-shirts and any other non-tuck shirts.

Lindsey 3 years ago

Laughing OUT LOUD. I love this. especially negotiation. My husband had a friend in business school who had “negotiated at gunpoint with the Khmer Rouge” in his military service. When Grace was about 2 he came out of her room one evening at bedtime, looking spent, and said he’d just negotiated with the Khmer Rouge. We still use that expression. xo

MomChalant 3 years ago

We had a similar assignment in one of my freshmen year classes. We had to carry a baby doll around for 3 days, and we had to make it at least 8 pounds. I had to go buy a baby doll from the store and make sure she had an opening in her back (for a battery, meaning yes – my baby doll could freakin cry and talk) so I could stuff her with 8 pounds of rocks.

About two years later, I still had the baby doll and took the rocks out and used it as my “stash spot” for weed. Oops.

Grown and Flown 3 years ago

Health class!!! Sex, hygiene, and later when I had teens…quoting on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Cannot forget Health class.

Jennifer 3 years ago

“Bonus points for singing songs in a frog voice.” Kids are fun.

I was in Home Ec with my cousin’s boyfriend (hilarious guy). He sewed the best project of the entire class, a pair of pants. He actually wore them to school after the class was done. Good times.

Jasbeeray 3 years ago

Totally agree with 1&2. Wish I had home ec but I survived without it.

Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense 3 years ago

I love this. I learned to sew in Home Ec and I have used that skill so many times! Totally worth it! Now I wish they would keep offering Home Ec but put in a whole section on financial management. I came out of school, with a masters degree, knowing absolutely NOTHING about financial management, savings, investing etc. All I knew was how to survive on a budget of $500 / month eating nothing but ramen noodles and rice with soy sauce. I suppose that knowledge has its uses…

    Sierra 1 year ago

    I teach Home Ec! Financial skills are extremely important and I love to teach them! Today we learned how to sweep the floor…because….kids don’t know how. And It’s something that is overlooked. Yay for life skills!

Arnebya 3 years ago

We are squarely in the realm of debate with the 3 yr old. He holds up two fingers when you say he can have one of something. Cute, yet maddening. And I PROMISE you, my husband learned early on that if he did the shopping and came back with generic brand biscuits rather than Pillsbury I DON’T CARE WHAT’S ON SALE, there would be hell to pay. (I’m still working on music appreciation. I can handle the beating of various items but when they start adding lyrics…WHY IS EVERYTHING SUNG IN AN OPERATIC VOICE?)

    Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) 3 years ago

    Arnebya, there is an awesome Tex-Mex place out in San Angelo and they make the best sopapillas – they’re like doughnuts. We asked what was in them, and the water explained to us that they’re made from those very same biscuits. Magic.

      Amanda 3 years ago

      Those ‘sopapillas’ are raw biscuits cut into fourths, deep fried, then covered with cinnamon & sugar. So easy & so good!

Elaine A. 3 years ago

I KNEW there was a reason I never liked Algebra!!! 😉

And yeah that chemistry formula is one I know well…

This is great, Kristin! So funny!

Poppy 3 years ago

I think a shift with the janitorial staff may have been helpful too. Sometimes I feel like all I do is clean up messes.

(Anyone take the flour to Home Ec and make cake?)

    Michael Lombardi 3 years ago

    Poppy, how could this comment have so much win in so few sentences?

Barbara 3 years ago

Finally a REAL use for algebra!

    Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) 3 years ago

    My dad was an accountant, and once I finished trig, I said, “Dad, do I really need calculus?” and he said no. So I was happy to skip that. X and Y suit me just fine.

Janine Huldie 3 years ago

Oh so true and I have that same debate/negotiation with both my 2 1/2 year old and 4 year old every night!!

Anita@ Losing Austin 3 years ago

#6 will come in handy when your kids are old enough to start sports and you have lots of time to kill at fields!

I had some super friends in high school and learned that you can get through the hard times with help of friends. I didn’t know how much tougher the times would get, but am glad I learned to trust friends and be able to lean on them.

    Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) 3 years ago

    That is an awesome lesson, Anita. I definitely keep that in mind; I couldn’t make it through life without friends, then and now.

Lynn from For Love or Funny 3 years ago

I echo Alison’s sentiment – just showing up is sometimes the most important thing about parenting. :)

Alison 3 years ago

High school was so long ago, I can barely remember what I learned. Or didn’t. Heh.

I think the main thing I did learn? Just show up. :)

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes 3 years ago

The most important parental skill I learned in High School is zoning out while looking like you are paying attention. Comes in very handy when my daughters insist I watch Bubble Guppy’s or Dora with them (oh yes, Belgium has them too!! Yeah!!)

    Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) 3 years ago

    Belgium has the best food, too… lucky mom!

Courtney 3 years ago

Home ec – if my family could live on soft pretzels and hard tack candy, the class might still be offered today.

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