Tomorrow I will be the mother of a high school graduate. (Excuse me while I wipe away the tears.)This means that I have done a complete maternal tour of duty of the K thru 12 experience. Like any mother who has reached this milestone I have emotional and physical school project scars from poster boards, glue guns, and dioramas. I still experience lingering episodes of homework related rage and two words can trigger an episode of PTSD – field trip. I’m sure I’m not the only mom who has cried herself to sleep on more than one occasion because she knew in the morning she was chaperoning an all day field trip that required three hours of travel time on a school bus.
Because I’m a giver, I feel it is only right that I share some of the wisdom I have gleaned from this parenting journey. As always, feel free to take notes.
Tip 1: Volunteer Early and Often
Get your foot in the classroom door early. Sure, you don’t want to be THAT mom who lives at the school but you want to make sure you’re getting a peek into the inner workings of the classroom. Yes, you want to help the teacher and your kid thinks it’s awesome to have his mom at school. Who care’s about that, (okay, you should sort of care about that) the real reason you want to be in that classroom is to do your own little FBI profile on each kid. Because here’s the deal, the girl who is mean in second grade is usually still mean in 11th grade. Argue this point with me all you want but I stand by this statement.
Tip 2: Force Yourself to Go on a Field Trip
Get a sitter for you little one that’s still at home, take the day off work, just make it happen because spending seven hours on the road with your kid’s class is like putting everyone’s personality under a microscope. You find what cliques kid’s separate into, who has severe motions sickness (don’t discount the value of this knowledge), whose parents pack them crappy lunches (trust me every lunch tells a story) and if your kid’s teacher is a screamer. You really don’t know a teacher until you see him or her in a free range environment.
Tip 3: Don’t Bounce a $10 check to the PTO
Long story but it’s goes something like this; I changed banks and accidentally used the “discontinued” check book. This resulted in an embarrassing phone call about my bounced check and the “service” fee the PTO was charging me (which was much more than the $10 check). For years, I felt like I was being financially tracked and monitored by the PTO. Seriously, I don’t think I was imagining all the side eye I was getting.
Tip 4: Attend Field Day
This is your opportunity to bear witnesses to all the parents who think they’re cool. Pay close attention to when the aggressive, sporty dads show up to turn a simple field day activity into the X Games elementary school edition. Also be on high alert for the moms who take 15 hours of “muscle confusion” classes a week displaying their charms. This is when you need to get out your phone and pull up your list maker app. Any dad who is yelling at first graders to hit the bean bag target harder and to really kill it at the Frisbee toss should go on your “Do Not Want this Dad Ever as a Coach” list. As for those hot moms they go another list and I’ll let you figure out what to call it.
Tip #5: Beware of the School Drop Off & Pick Up Jerks
If there is a parent who still hasn’t mastered the school pick up and drop off lane by the end of the school year the most prudent decision you can make is to severely limited your exposure to them for the duration of your parenting journey. Why? Because they are either idiots of the highest order or they are huge a holes. I’m talking the worst kind of a holes. The ones that think they are so special and so important that even rules made to protect children don’t apply to them. Cutting in line with their SUV, jumping the curb, going the wrong way – they don’t care because it is always and always will be all about them.
Tip 6: It’s a Marathon So Pace Yourself
Pick and choose your battles carefully. The squeaky wheel may get the grease but after a while the principal and school staff will stop hearing the squeak. If you have more than one kid you have to be extremely particular about your complaining quota. You really can’t go full crazy until your last child is in their last year at a school. And yes, in case you’re wondering, to date, I have had two full crazy episodes. Not that I’m bragging or anything.
Now, there are times when I think that I may not be following my own advice. I just found out the counselor that shepherded my son through four years of high school and would be doing the same for my daughter, a soon to be incoming freshman, is not just leaving the school but she’s transferring to another district. You don’t think she’s running away from me do you?