Hi, it’s summer. What’s everyone’s favorite topic? SCHOOL. Right? Come on, nerd moms, let’s look to the year ahead and get excited about sending our kids off to pre-K or college or whatever it is they do with their time. Some of us are moving this summer and getting excited for the next phase of parenting life. Public school? Okay, since you brought it up, let’s go with that.
I love public school! But since I only have a three-year-old and haven’t really rowed that boat yet, let’s just say I like the idea of public school. To be fair, this might be like how I loved the idea of being a stay-at-home-mom until I realized it is boring. (Enter, my responsibilities with the park and entertaining you fine people because let’s face it, vacuuming and wiping snot all day isn’t as fun as meetings with the Alderman. Yay nanny!) But unlike the reality that has been dashed by real life diapers and dirt, public school still has high hopes. And who wants to be the best at everything? Me. So I have surveyed my people and come up with a guide to being the most awesome parent at public school. Come on, be teacher’s pet with me. After we drop the kids off we can go swill a martini at the pool*
First, we are supposed to be involved. I thought this meant helicoptering around the room and showering my offspring with accolades. “You are awesome, little Bee! You are an amazing specimen of humanity! Rah!” But no. Not only is that type of you’re-so-special parenting assholey, it’s also distracting to teachers. Being “involved” means you back the teacher. You know what the homework assignment is, you make little Spear do it himself, and if he forgets his backpack, you make him suffer the consequences of his own behavior so that next time, he gets his shit together and you don’t have your martini-swilling** interrupted by a teary phone call at lunch.
Next, be helpful. Does this mean you get to log volunteer hours by sitting next to your own child all day and whispering inside jokes? Does this mean you buy $26 clay for exactly one student who happens to have the same shade of freckles as yourself? No. You help the teacher with what they need, on their terms and when they say so. It could get unpleasant, folks. It might mean homework of cutting up 1000 paper squares for a project or weathering the paper cuts of stuffing envelopes. It might even mean running errands to Office Max or, God forbid, Target. (Don’t act like you won’t stop for a latte and keep some glue sticks for yourself. I know you.) But you have to do it. Do what the teacher says, not what makes you feel important.
And give! Give like Santa in a gated community. Come on, you’re not paying tuition. Ask the teacher for not only a supply list, but a dream list. Glue sticks and Kleenex are always nice to have, but a laptop might make the lessons go pop. Find out. Maybe you and another family can go halvsies on a printer or an iPad. Sure, it might set you back a few hundred, but have you looked at private school tuition? Go on. Whip out your MasterCard and feel like a pimp. While you’re at it, ask the specialty teachers what they need. Parents often forget about the music and art departments. My friend Adrienne teaches music to every kid in the school, yet not one parent has ever offered to help stock her classroom. In the words of Degas, art is not what you see, but what you make others see. Get that paint, papa.
Pssst. Hey. Rumor Mom. What did you think about Mrs. so-and-so’s approach to the thing where they did the thing? AWFUL, right??! How about you be an adult and mom up and face the teacher and say, “Hi, little Harvest just loves your class, I’d love to help in any way I can. While we’re talking . . . I noticed you had the kids slap each other on the behind when they got an addition problem right and then you rewarded them with keg stands. That’s not cool. What if you gave them stickers or something instead? Here, I ran to Target for you.” What I’m trying to say is if you have a problem, say it to the teacher’s face. And if you don’t gotta problem? Then keep your trap shut and don’t churn the rumor mill. You get a D for sniggering with the other moms and an F MINUS if you dare say one bad word about the teacher to your kid. Actually, no. You’re out. Just go to the principal’s office and my veteran teacher friend Erin will call your mom. Unacceptable!!
Okay, now let’s talk about fun stuff. Field trips! Class parties! Mardi Gras naked shaking your tatas! Okay, the first two. Show up, get along with the other moms, follow the rules for nut-free, pre-packaged snacks (a Ding Dong won’t kill you, I’ve seen you down a bottle of Smirnoff in one evening. Don’t play me.) It’s a party and people love those, but remember it’s the teacher’s show. Be cool and pass the duchie! No, but do keep her in the loop about the particulars of time and duration. Nobody wants to be blind sighted by a piñata full of sugar crack raining down on a class of third graders if they are supposed to be taking a standardized test two hours later.
Speaking of tests and when they happen, let’s talk about attendance. Could you please plan your child’s hives around the test schedule? God, that is so rude to just have a fever or some crap right when the teacher has scheduled something important. Okay, kidding on the hives, have them whenever you want. But do think about what’s planned in the classroom when you plan a vacation. I get that the Dells are crowded during summer and spring break because that’s when everyone else is off school too. It’s tempting to jet off in February when the lines at Disney include two honeymooners and the staff. Just check with the teacher first because missing the state test is bad kharma. Don’t make Mickey cry. Just see him in March like every other slug in America.
And finally, be kind. Your child’s teacher is a person. Teachers eat carbs and have sex just like everyone else so don’t treat them like machines who can just churn out A+ kids. Remember, you had the child for the first six years of their lives and you still have them the other 18 hours in the day. Little Acros is most likely even made of your body parts! Your child’s teacher can only do so much. Thank them, work with them and buy them a kickass gift card for the holidays because they have enough coffee mugs. Don’t you?
See ya in September!
*Drink two buck chuck in the locker room at Bally’s