Five exhausting years later, I don’t really care.
Let me amend that: I do care, I just don’t care quite as much as his teachers think I should.
My sons’ teachers do a fine job. We are fortunate to live in one of the top public school districts in the country, with off-the-chart teaching scores in every subject. I have volunteered in their classrooms, so I know the absurdly high quality of education my sons are receiving. Which is exactly why I don’t spend 25 minutes reading the “Weekly Wrap-Up” sheet that comes home with Short, the one that says they are learning about ecosystems and the history of China and color theory.
I get hourly emails from the Spanish teacher, letting me know which vocabulary words we should be practicing at home as well as the conjugation of irregular verbs. Daily, the Director of Extracurricular Activities feels compelled to send home a multi-page list of things I should be doing with my child, such as complicated science experiments involving empty soda bottles, vinegar, and dry ice, or building historically accurate paper mâché models of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or researching the origins of the Latin American political systems. The Room Mom sends a note home that she needs me to bake four dozen nut-free, gluten-free cupcakes for the school bake sale fundraiser. The art teacher wants us to craft detailed origami doves over Spring break, and make our own Play-Doh in 15 different colors, and she sends home a helpful recipe for just this purpose. Tall’s teacher reminds us to review complex math strategies every morning at breakfast.
Frankly, I’m tired.
|The school's goal for mom|
I wake up at a normal hour and get my kids ready for school. This involves multiple wardrobe disputes and editing. Jeans are deemed “too itchy” and the color red (which only yesterday was appealing) is now considered “what girls where” (to emphasize the point, Short calls attention to the fact that I, a girl, happen to be wearing a red t-shirt). Corduroy is “too hot” and cotton is “too plain.” Green is “yucky” and “only people on TV wear orange.” Oh, how I long for uniforms.
After the wardrobe dilemma is resolved (this only takes 20 minutes, an improvement from the previous day) I make breakfast. The boys are still too little to get it for themselves for the simple reason that they are not tall enough to reach the bowls or get the cereal out of the cupboard (note to self: redesign kitchen so that everything is accessible to someone under 48 inches in height). After breakfast, we have to have an argument about the merits of brushing teeth. The children inform me that they don’t mind if their teeth “rot out of their head,” since they are all baby teeth anyway. We compromise by brushing teeth with just water. Hey, I rationalize to myself, it's better than nothing.
Next, we spend 10 minutes locating shoes that match each other, backpacks, and coats that are not completely covered in mud. Usually about this time, I remember that I have to pack Short’s lunch because he refuses to eat the school lunch (unless, of course, it’s pizza day). We have to leave for the bus in two minutes, so I am dashing around the kitchen, chopping up apples and carrots, and chanting to myself “Don’t forget his juice box, don’t forget his juice box, don’t forget his juice box.”
I forget his juice box, and we almost miss the bus.
As you can imagine, this does not leave much time for math “strategies,” unless the strategy is: Can our little family get out the door in only one hour like normal people? (No.) Could we possibly get out the door in two hours? (Still no.)
And where, pray tell, is The Husband in this equation? He is strategically absent, pretending to “get ready work” by engaging in such time-wasters as “taking a shower,” “enjoying a cup of coffee,” and “reading the newspaper.” He is not chopping carrots.
After school is no better. The kids get out of school at 3:35 PM, and their bus deposits them at our stop around 4 PM. They play outside, we eat a snack, and then (the horror!) they might want to play with their Legos and cars for a while. If the Spanish teacher found out that we called cars cars and not coches like he advocates, he would be livid. If the Room Mom found out that we were not baking allergy-free cupcakes for the bake sale, she would immediately drive over here and search my pantry for the ingredients and pre-heat my oven herself. If the Director of Extracurricular Activities knew that we tossed our old plastic bottles in the recycle bin and did not save them for her recommended science experiments, she would call Child Protective Services.
Sometimes, because I am a very bad mommy and want to get dinner made, I will let the boys watch cartoons on TV, or play Club Penguin or Lego Games on the computer. This (obviously) was not approved by the Director of Extracurricular Activities.
My sons also play sports. A few times a week, Tall must go to his basketball practice or games, which gobbles up more of his afternoon time. It’s a wonder he ever learned to read, what with all this time we waste on frivolous things like fun and exercise.
Tall is in second-grade, which means he has homework. He sits at the dining room table for three hours working out the quadratic formula and derivatives and anti-derivatives. As a “hands-off” parent, I do not offer assistance with this, mostly because I have no idea what a quadratic formula is.
Then he settles in with a short novel, like War and Peace.
Later in the evening, we eat dinner, take baths, put on pajamas, and read stories. This would shock their teachers to know, because it is not leaving much free time for building exact replicas of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The kids go to sleep and I finally take a moment to rifle through their bulging backpacks, looking for stray permission slips or overdue library books. I retrieve their latest artwork and hang it on our kitchen bulletin board. I glance at the bushel of papers the school sends home, and I wonder which Stepford mommies actually do all the things the school tells them to. Do I know any of those mommies? Do they ever sleep?
Don't the kids do enough at school already? Can't the schools do what they need to do in their allotted eight hours without trying to control my limited time, too? Why am I feeling this intense pressure to do more-more-more when my kids are already doing so much?
I suppose I could be studying up on what the school wants me to do while my sons are in school all day, or I could be making the damn cupcakes, but I work part-time, and if I am not working, I must wash eleventy-seven loads of laundry, go to the grocery store, run errands, or attempt to clean the house. This doesn’t always happen either. Sometimes I collapse on the couch and give in to the decadent pleasure of eating frozen Girl Scout cookies while watching back-to-back episodes of House Hunters.
I always feel guilty afterwards. But not guilty enough to make my own Play-Doh.
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