An open letter and full disclaimer to my kids’ teachers:
First, I love you already. It’s been an endless summer. Imagine hearing “I’m bored” as Full House episodes play an endless loop of noise, while stuck inside because it’s 115 degrees out, continually picking up soggy wet swimsuits and towels. Only five days into summer, I realized you are grossly underpaid, but I digress. Since this isn’t my first rodeo, I’ll cut to the chase and be brutally honest. It could be the heat, but I’m going to lay it all out there.
Here are seven down-and-dirty tips for dealing with my precious army:
1. Dietary Concerns and Food Allergies
There are no dietary concerns or food allergies. You will find that my children are unaffected by sugar intake or red dye. Give them whatever you’d like, it won’t make a difference, they will squirm in their chairs and use every excuse to sharpen that pencil, get a drink, or pee. My children love a sharp pencil and for some reason become dehydrated the moment they are seated for an extended period of time.
2. School-to-Home Organization
I’m good until about January. At the beginning of the year, I’m fresh, energized, and organized.
Nutritious breakfast: check.
Handmade photo board covered in glitter and beads in the shape of an apple: check.
We got this! The first months of school we will be moving and grooving to whatever you assign. You want a cardboard turkey covered in tiny pieces of dried corn? I’m your mom. I’ll even dry my own corn. I’m organized. I’m efficient. I’m a mom-machine. But as the weeks roll by, I will feel myself starting to slip. By Christmas break, I’m tired and my mom skills fall well below average. Or in teacher talk, I’m pulling a “C-” or a “D.”
I’m lucky to get a Pop-Tart in them as we rush out the door, and I’m doing projects last minute with supplies I scrounge from the junk drawer. So, what I’m asking is for you to consider preloading your intense projects, costume-designing, poetry memorization, and basically anything that requires glitter or creativity for the beginning of the year.
For the first few months, you will find me packing the perfectly portioned bento box with whole grains, protein, fruit, and dairy. Imagine my satisfaction in packing the food pyramid into a compartmentalized lunchbox. I’ve even placed the occasional little note encouraging my precious offspring to have a great day. After Christmas break, I’ve resorted to PB&J on white bread and fruit snacks with no water bottle included because I’m sure they are well-hydrated during your class.
“No, this is a healthy lunch.”
“Mrs. Swick said that fruit snacks aren’t fruit.”
“Yes, they are. Just look at the picture of real fruit on the front of the package.”
“Mrs. Swick said you have to read the food labels and watch out for red dye and sugar.”
Me: Staring blankly and then grabbing a PediaSure from our youngest son’s medical supplies and tossing it into his paperbag lunch.
I try so hard. I really do. I sign the reading logs and listen to the emergent readers take 10 seconds to sound out “bbbbaaaaalllllllllllllllll.” And I try not to skip pages because I don’t want them to miss the gripping plot in The Foot Book. I cajole, encourage, threaten, gnash my teeth, and basically turn into a crazy person to get this done and signed. They put it in their backpack — and then I find out it was never turned in. I pull open the Batman backpack zipper and am greeted by 251 papers because I haven’t unpacked it since January.
“Let’s get started on our “home play.”
“It’s the exciting new way to do homework!”
“You’re messing with us, Mom.”
“No really. It’s great and scientifically proven. Just ask Dad — he’s like a scientist.”
And then there’s that moment when we pull out the sheet of a thousand basic math facts:
“My pencil needs sharpened.”
“I gotta pee, again.”
5. Grooming and Hygiene
My crew will be pressed and perfect those first weeks. Check out the coordinated outfit — and it all matches! Yes, I’m full of energy and enthusiasm, I’m laying out clothes the night before, and baths occur frequently. I’m going to apologize now, because after about four months in, they’ll be picking clothes off the laundry pile and bathing will occur after a failed sniff test. By spring break, I’ll be duct-taping shoes and hoping the holes in their pants stay small, because summer is just around the corner and we are holding strong.
6. Spring Picture Day or Pajama Day
I’m just taking a “bye” on this. I won’t remember even though 17 reminders came home in the backpack (the one I stopped unpacking two months ago). Let’s face it, if I unpack the 40 pieces of schoolwork in front of them, I’ll be keeping every one because they will be standing over me asking if I’m going to keep it. So currently, I have five drawers with papers jammed to the top, and they have cataloged each piece in their minds — every last one. They can’t remember their spelling words for the test, but god forbid I toss that apple-shaped dot-to-dot from the second week of school. So my kid will be the one wearing pajamas and duct-taped shoes on picture day, and no, I don’t want retakes. I won’t get the reminder anyway.
7. Classroom Mom
I am not a first- or second-choice candidate for room mom. I rely heavily on hot glue whenever it comes to crafting and also in managing children. There’s a distinct possibility I might be the reason only store-bought, individually wrapped food is allowed in the classroom. I am probably the only parent who did a happy dance when the letter came home stating that food must now be purchased from the store, not homemade. I could never bake cupcakes in an ice cream cone or design vegetables into edible creatures. Any baking I pulled off was done the night before because I didn’t check their backpack. Now I just send in some Zingers laced with red dye and sugar.
You may not have lucked out with me as the “Classroom Mom of the Year” or my child as your model student. I’m just not that mom, and that’s not my child. But we are the family who will have your back and never expect perfection. And if you let my child be a kid, I’ll love you!
I’m the mom who hopes you decide to dump a bag of building materials on the floor for the afternoon and ask the 25 students to design a town. I’m the mom who hopes you might take a moment and run outside and kick a ball with the class, or go on a nature walk. I’m the mom who will never be upset that you missed the daily math lesson because you were at the sad part of Where the Red Fern Grows, when Little Ann can’t live without Old Dan, and you just kept reading with tears threatening to run down your face.
I’m the mom who knows my child will learn far more from you during the moments you put away the worksheets and the books. They will probably never remember you teaching them a math concept or a spelling word, but they’ll remember the time their teacher talked about being bullied in junior high, or the day their teacher was sad because Little Ann died of a broken heart. My kids will be learning from your actions and not from your words.
And when spring rolls around and testing is done and you’re tired, I won’t notice when the weekly newsletters are a thing of the past, classroom movies occur frequently, and you have that gleam in your eye that says summer is right around the corner.
I will give you a smile and say, “Thank you, Teacher. You were perfect for my child this year.”