Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Surprise! It's Back to School

It’s that most wonderful time of the year: Back to School. When your children put on their brand new school clothes and grab their shiny new backpacks and gleefully and joyfully get forced out the door with a crowbar on their first day of classes. You can tell from the beautiful grimaces on their faces in the First Day of School pictures how excited they are about yet another year of learning.

Back to school time, while thrilling for me (I get to be a writer again!) is also a mixed bag. At our house, September rivals December as the most hectic month of the year—and we have three birthdays in December. It’s a little jarring to go from staying up late every night over the summer watching stupid movies on TV, to going to bed at nine and waking up at six fifteen. Not to mention how hard it is on the kids. And back to school month is always stuffed with important events parents must attend at school—like open houses and fundraisers and that initial parent teacher conference. And the best part is, they’re always a surprise! The dates and times are, shhh, a big secret until the very last minute.

Do you remember back in college when you’d make all your plans for the weekend on Friday afternoon? Well, maybe if you were deciding to have a party at your place you might plan it out as far ahead as Thursday. I think this is something our educators took away from their years of higher education, this idea of springing mandatory get-togethers on unsuspecting parents, giving them as little notice as possible. And then they wonder why attendance at these meet-and-greets is not so high. Do they not know ahead of time when these events will occur? Could they put them on the website calendar? Or do they just decide the Thursday before the Open House it must happen the following Monday?

I have three kids at two schools. And a job. That requires me to travel. I’m only gone about 50 consecutive hours a week, but during that time my life and the workings of my household are fragily strung together via voicemail and Post-it notes. And on a weeknight when I’m home, to suddenly and unexpectedly be required to spend a two hour chunk of my time at an open house I found out about the day before can send those post-its swirling into the air like…uh …well, like a big mess of swirling Post-it notes.

And if you think this makes me grumpy, you should hear me rant about the other pop-up requirements that happen sporadically throughout the school year.

“They’ve added another track meet this Wednesday night.”

“Junior needs to bring a plain white T-shirt to class on Friday.” (This one was easy.)

“Junior needs to bring one cup of sugar and two teaspoons of Northeastern Bulgarian Saffron to class tomorrow for our special multi-cultural Social Studies cooking day.”

Bulgarian Saffron? Tomorrow?

I can’t be the only parent that gets frustrated by this lack of notice. I know the schools are trying their best, but it just seems a little disrespectful to me, as though they believe none of us have jobs or other children or anything else we need to be doing besides running out to Spices R Us in the middle of the night. Everyone’s lives seem so scheduled these days—way more so than when I was growing up. Have you tried to schedule a playdate lately? Sometimes we're working six weeks out. Talking with another mom on the phone I often feel like an Administrative Assistant to Mr. Big trying to schedule a meeting with the Administrative Assistant for Mr. Important.

Between work and after school activities and other essentials—you know, like buying groceries and, eventually, eating them—I don’t understand how parents are expected to accommodate all these last minute requests. A little respect, in the form of a little more notice would be so greatly appreciated.

I certainly mean no disrespect as I pour two teaspoons of Turmeric into an envelope and say to my son, “Well, this is Southeastern Bulgarian Saffron, so it may taste a little different to the discriminating palate. I hope it’s okay. Just be sure to tell your teacher. I wouldn’t want to surprise anyone.”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:13 PM

    I can not beieve you did that. I have had kids do that to me. Luckily for me, our school gives schedules at registration time. Great post.