Ahhhh, that new school smell. It’s the smell of fresh starts, new beginnings and a few precious hours a day without someone needing something from us.
Don’t get me wrong. I love summer and having my three kids home with me. But in some ways I feel like I’ve been on a 3-month bender and now I’ve sobered up. My house looks like Miley Cyrus and Lindsey Lohan invited John Belushi over to party. My head feels foggy and I feel a little disoriented. I’m ready to shake off the fog and get back to a routine, back to being productive.
Hahahahaha. That’s funny isn’t it? The idea that school starts and we have all this time to do…whatever it is we all need to/want to/have to do. We fool ourselves every summer into thinking that life will feel normal again once school starts.
It’s funny/not funny because we forget that school can be a demanding and manipulative time suck with constant calls for school involvement on the part of the parents.
School’s going to start emailing you, robo-calling you, sending letters home with your kids. They will ask you for things—request your presence. They will teach your kids how to lay a guilt trip on you that would make a Catholic-school-nun blush. They will be relentless. School’s going to start looking like that college boyfriend that needed a restraining order.
I think it’s time to have a little talk with school. I think we can resolve this peacefully. We just need to clear a few things up and come to some kind of understanding. There are a few things that can be tweaked to make all of our lives a little bit easier.
The School Supply Lists
The list. How can I say this nicely? The school supply list has become an uptight, entitled snob, who suffers from OCD. Damn. I don’t think I did that right. Okay. Let’s try this again. The list is an asshole.
It gets a little worse each year. From specific colors of folders to name brand pencils and erasers. Did you know that there are brand name erasers? Yeah, me neither. Hey school, if you’re that anal retentive about erasers, you may want to get some help for that. *gives elementary school the side eye*
I get it. Budgets being cut and all. Schools need more funds. I’m totally down with that. I’ll write a check. But the fundraisers? Some of them really crawl under my skin.
Our school outsources fundraising to a corporation. Under the guise of “character development” and “health and fitness” this company sends teams of annoyingly perky “athletes” to your school to conduct pep rallies and “classes.” Part of the character education apparently involves pressuring kids with the lure of classroom ice cream parties and bribing them with cheap plastic toys. Meanwhile, the parents are supposed to let the kids hit up Grandma’s pension fund so that almost half of her donation can feed the pockets of this corporation. Nuh-uh. Not happening. When I tell my kids that no, we aren’t soliciting our loved ones, they look at me in horror. You would think I had just told them that Santa killed the Easter Bunny and ate his liver with a nice Chianti.
I’ll write a check. But it won’t be to the jackhole who tried to turn my kid into a multi-level marketer.
My Attendance Is Not Required
Why is it necessary to request my presence at least once a month for some “event”? I’m with my kids all the time. They don’t need me to come to school to cheerlead for them every time they do something not extraordinary. In fact, they’d be a lot better off if they didn’t see mommy popping up at school, waving and beaming from the crowd. They aren’t Beyonce and JayZ at the Grammy’s. They are kids. In school. It’s pretty ordinary. So let’s chill on the obligatory parent fan club, okay?
My mom never had to come up to school during the day. There was no helicopter parenting. We managed to eat lunch, even on our birthdays, without our parents showing up. We can celebrate birthdays at home and the kids can tell us about their day at the dinner table. I don’t have to actually see and witness every thing they do. There’s a reason we took a blunt nosed scissor to the umbilical chord.
The Never-Ending Requests
There’s so much stuff. There are always little items to send in for events and parties and theme weeks. The calendar the teachers send home reads more like an errand list. What to wear, what to bring in. Is all this stuff really necessary for learning? I’m all for making a lesson fun. I just don’t think you need stuff in order to do that. And let’s chill on all the celebrations. Hey, school, maybe if we didn’t have a party every month you could bring back music class?
All of this is kind of a pain in the ass for all the parents. But do you want to know why it really gets me worked up?
All of this smacks of privilege.
This is beyond a first world problem. This is a problem of privilege.
These things aren’t an issue at schools in poor neighborhoods. Teachers at Title I schools aren’t holding parties and asking parents for stuff. They have to worry about tired kids falling asleep during class because their belly is empty or their home life is too stressful for a good night’s sleep. Requests for 100 pretzels for the 100th day? Sounds a little ridiculous doesn’t it?
And what about the kids that go to school in an affluent neighborhood, but are on free or reduced lunch? How do you think they feel watching their classmates get applauded for raising money and rewarded because they have people in their lives who can donate? They have to sit through the sales pitches and the promises of rewards knowing that they can’t contribute. It makes me sick.
What about the parents who are busting their ass at work and can’t make it to the mid-day craft event in their kid’s classroom? Why should they have to try to juggle work and parenting in the middle of the school day?
Let’s just stop with all the extras.
Stop for the teachers who just want to teach.
Stop for the parents who have too much already on their plates.
Stop for the kids who are always left feeling different because their parent can’t come to the event or their family can’t afford to buy extra items.
Stop for the kids who are privileged. We aren’t doing them any favors by showing up and cheering them on for every little thing or by teaching them that a trip to the store is essential to learning. We aren’t helping any of the kids when the entitled continue to be coddled and applauded while the kids who have less continue to feel less than.
Let’s cut out all the bs and focus on the important things.
Let’s put the fund-raising on the districts and the whole community, not the kids.
Let’s show the kids that they can be independent and thrive with their peers and their teachers. Show them that they don’t need mommy or daddy to make school a warm and nurturing environment.
I’ll send my kids to school ready to learn. You teach them. Simple as that.