By GreatSchools Staff
She spots you curbside at the school pickup area, and you duck behind a tree. Eyes gleaming like a predator going in for the kill, she clutches her clipboard, her pumps hitting the pavement with a terrifying patter. Her updo is impeccable, her power suit immaculate. You glance down at your oatmeal-stained sweatpants.
Is there no mercy? It’s not enough that you ignored her emails, phone calls, Google spreadsheet invitation, and countless IMs. Now she’s calling your name like a long-lost BFF. Your mind races. What have you forgotten — the $5 for the teacher gift? Brownies for the bake sale? The hose! You were supposed to supply one for the car wash, right?
Suddenly, the horrifying truth dawns on you: You might escape this year’s scary volunteer mom, but there’s always another one. And she will find you, and in the end you won't be able to say no to her. Because in addition to everything else, she’s got something you don’t: moral high ground.
After all of those days with a capital D — for veterans, presidents, indigenous peoples, etc. — that nobody but students and government workers remotely enjoys, parents get to “observe” other childcare-disaster holidays: teacher workdays and parent-teacher conference week.
But now there are (cue chilling music) furlough days! How foolhardy you’ve been to think you could hold down a job. The family doesn’t really need a car — or home. Clothes? You can buy more once your current wardrobe has fallen off your body in threads. In the meantime, you and your child have lots of quality time to get closer to each other, one furlough day at a time.
The dreaded notice comes home as regularly as the monthly school newsletter: "There has been a case of lice in your child’s classroom." For certain parents — say, those with hair-coveting girls — the letter provokes a Munchian scream. Phone calls to fellow parents — once friends, now suspects — verge on interrogations: "Why was Violet out yesterday? Was she sick?" "Is it true that Isabella got a buzz cut?"
Who can be trusted? Nobody. Not even you, as you notice your daughter clawing at her scalp like a rabid dog. Remember how you were ostracized the last time word got out about the colony of blood-sipping fly babies on her head that spread to her entire karate class? No one must know the truth!
We have two spine-chilling words for you: Salisbury steak. Maybe you thought you’d never have to think about that gravied mass of edible profanity again. But then you read the school lunch menu. Yes, it’s still out there, and it's headed toward your child’s mouth — or, more likely, the trash can.
Forget about Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution or Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard. Forget that the First Lady has been digging up weeds in the White House organic vegetable garden to bring fresh carrots to children in need. Despite these calls for change, the school cafeteria can still be a harrowing place.
Need proof? Check out Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project, a blog chronicling a teacher's gross ‘n’ greasy adventures eating school lunches every day for a year. Hot dog with fries day 129, pizza day 57, and — brace yourself — Salisbury steak with (frozen) pineapple chunks day 10.
Photo credit: "Mrs. Q"/Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project
Of course, most parent-teacher conferences are praised-filled, creative mind melds, where two caring adults come together to discuss a child’s learning. But not always....
You enter the classroom, brimming with anticipation at what the teacher might say about your preternaturally gifted child.
“I must tell you,” the teacher begins, “that in my 25 years of teaching, I’ve never met a more disruptive, disrespectful child. She shows no academic promise and demonstrates zero social skills.”
Are you in the wrong class? No, you’ve entered the dark vortex of the negative parent-teacher meeting. Do you defend your child? Storm the principal’s office? You plead for kindness instead.
“Don’t you have anything good to say?”
“Yes,” the teacher replies. “I’m delighted she has no siblings!”
The day before the science fair, at 4 p.m. on Sunday, your child gasps in utter terror. “I just remembered! The science fair is tomorrow!” He bursts into tears, wailing like a grieving widower.
“Where’s your project, honey?”
He pulls something horrifying out of his backpack. It looks like 100 hairballs pasted together. No, he insists, that’s his volcano. But he still needs to buy a 22”-by-28” poster board, type up the experiment in 18-point Helvetica, and figure out how to make the lava erupt every five minutes. Then you find out that 60% of his science grade is riding on it.
You're up until 3 a.m. building the mini-Mount Vesuvius. The next day you and the other sleep-deprived parents arrive at school, proudly carrying your “children’s” science projects. Each of you bears the same grimace of determination: Never again, you think in unison, never again.
Photo credit: How-things-work-science-projects.com
“Mom, what’s the difference before a median and a mode?”
Um, you think, that's when one line goes one way and another goes another, right?
“Mom, what’s the coefficient of a variable?”
“Yes,” you answer.
“Mom, do you know quadratic equations?”
“Gosh, I love nothing more than quadratic equations! But if I helped you, you wouldn’t learn anything.”
“If a train is traveling south at 80 miles per hour for 90 miles, then slows down for two hours to 75 mph, then turns left, right, and left again, how long did it take the train to get to Sweden?”
Yes, you signed up for sleepless nights. For teaching her how to use utensils, look both ways, and play nice with others. But you’re drawing the line at migraine-inducing math homework!