I sit by the phone, willing it to ring. That’s a lie. It’s a cell phone. I carry the phone from room to room, checking that it is charged over and over and over and justonemoretime and wondering why it hasn’t rung yet.
Having an on-call job is exactly like dating.
The phone ultimately doesn’t ring (see above: “exactly like dating”), so I decide to make the most of my day and volunteer in Tall’s second-grade class as a “helper parent.”
Our local elementary school is quite innovative and creative, and the administration there has coined this special advanced terminology (“helper parent”) to describe a student’s mom or dad who visits the classroom for a few hours and assists the teacher as needed.
Being a “helper parent” is precisely like being a parent at home, except without the helpful part.
I am mentally prepared to find out about second-grade math and second-grade spelling and second-grade science projects. What I am not mentally prepared to find out about is:
My complete lack of parenting skills.
Now, if you have followed my blog for more than 60 seconds, you already know that my membership in the Quality Mom Club has been revoked, never to be reinstated. Was it the time I sent Tall to school without brushing his teeth (“Here! Gobble up these breath mints, the school bus is coming down our street!”)? Or the time I threw all Short’s painted macaroni “art” in the trash because it looked like vomit? Or the time(s) I served my children raw broccoli for dinner while I ate ice-cream? Who knows precisely what the turning point was, but it is clear that Hallmark did not have me in mind when they coined those annoying Mother’s Day cards touting “World’s Best Mom.”
At any rate, the teacher teaches. The students listen attentively. I pick up a few new weather words (anemometer, troposphere, cumulonimbus, rain). And then it happens.
The kids get too rowdy and loud.
I freeze. If this behavior was happening at my house, Pokémon cards would be ripped up. TV privileges would be revoked. Promises of chocolate waffles on Sunday would be reneged.
Star Teacher does none of these things. She merely does some mysterious little clap pattern, and the children copy her. Then she calls out, like a military drill sergeant (albeit one with a voice like Mariah Cary's) “Voice check!” and they all stop talking. Next, her arm shoots in the air and she is holding up some sort of symbol with her fingers, a cross between a peace sign and a hang-ten. Again, the kids mimic her. Silence descends upon the room.
How does this happen? How did I never learn these tricks in eight years of being a mom? And how soon can Star Teacher move in and can I afford to match her teaching pay to have her be our family’s new permanent nanny?
I excuse myself and walk out to the hall. I open my cell phone and press a number on speed-dial.
“Hello, Boss?” I hear myself say, “I might need to pick up a few extra hours at the high-end kitchen store over Christmas. Like maybe a thousand.”