School Blues

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 10.32.47 AMI’m about to doing something that terrifies me. I’m going to bad mouth my school district. (Just to get the courage to say that I had to fortify myself with not one, but two Rice Krispy treats.)

I know this is something you are never, ever supposed to do. Once your move into an area with one of the top performing schools in the country you’re supposed to drink the Kool Aid.

Well, I’m going tell you that right now that Kool Aid is a little off like when you mix the classic cherry flavored Kool Aid with something called Arctic Green Apple and you think, “Wow, something’s not right there.”

Now, before you start sending me hate emails (And just so you know I’m still recovering from all the Rolling Stone backlash. So please no more threats to my person or property.) give me a couple of sentences to explain myself. I’m not talking about the people doing the heavy lifting – the teachers. What I’m perplexed about is the let’s call them higher-ups in the district and I’m not alone in this feeling.

Last week at a mom back-to-school confab featuring a cross-section of awesome women I took a deep breath and shared, “I think something is wrong with the district?” I’m not going to lie. I was a little scared what would happen after I dropped that bomb. But, surprise, surprise, a lot of moms agreed with me. We started swapping stories of the recent idiocy we had experienced and that’s when I decided to throw caution and my email account to the wind and write this blog.

Because I adore my friends I will only share a tidbit of what I have experienced. The first foray this school year that left me feeling a little WTH? was earlier this month.

My daughter’s schedule had a problem and I needed to talk to someone about the issue. (And yes, I sent an email thus not violating the school’s golden rule of preferred communication. And yes this was not an issue she could “self advocate.”) Let’s just say I would have had an easier time getting a Time Warner or a Comcast representative on the phone and when I did get a human to talk to me I was not so gently shoved off to another number (at one point I was told to call the district’s IT department – huh?) and multiple people redirected me to the school’s website!

Really you’re going to tell a mom of a high school sophomore to check the website? Like this is my first rodeo or something? Are you kidding me? Why didn’t you just say, “We don’t care and our goal is to get off the phone with you as quickly as possible?”

Oh and about that website. It was hostile. Lot’s of all caps and yellow highlighted passages that let you know whoever wrote it and approved it thinks parents are a great big pain and time suck. (Note to all high performing school districts – one of the reasons your schools “perform” so well is because of the parents who care deeply about public education.)

It’s not like I don’t know and appreciate how busy the administration is but come on a high school with less than 1,500 students is not a multinational company. You can communicate with a parent. And I wasn’t doing the “I think I’m important and I want help right now” thing. All I wanted was someone to get back to me in a timely fashion.

Well, I’m not ashamed to admit to you that I finally hit the wall and went full cray. Full cray, mind you, at an In-N-Out Burger parking lot in Los Angeles. The reason being is because in California you can’t drive and talk on your phone. So, when my full cray episode exploded I turned into the closest parking lot I could find which just happened to be an In-N-Out.

Now, going full cray at your kid’s school is a delicate operation. You can’t be the parent that is always grousing. No one will take your concerns seriously if you’re a chronic complainer and if you have multiple kids in school you have to pace yourself. Right now, I’m in the cray sweet spot. I have one child left in school and that meant it was on like Donkey Kong.

I got out of my car, thus allowing me room for full arm gesticulation, because you can’t go cray without dramatic and robust upper body movements, and called the school. Finally, someone talked to me. Finally, my problem got worked out. Bonus, a group of folks eating lunch outside the In-N-Out applauded after I got off the phone. I did exactly what you would have done. I took a bow and then got a double double with cheese.

*cover_1.3-2Attention Snarky Friends, I have a new book out and for a limited time only it’s just 99 cents for a heaping helping of Snark! You are now gazing at the second book in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

Dear Haters

folderofshame(I write a weekly column for the Kansas City Star newspaper and this is the column I wrote this week in response to the “you suck” emails I have received.)

People hate me. Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a word so let’s change that to some people have a fervent dislike of what I write. And you know what? That’s okay. I believe if you dish it out you have to be able to take it. And let’s be real here, sometimes I don’t just dish it out. It’s more like I use a bulldozer.

Subtlety has never been my strong suit and I don’t see that as a character flaw. I’m the youngest of four children. Trust me, subtlety would have gotten me nowhere in my boisterous family. To be subtle pretty much would have equaled being ignored. And have you ever known a baby in the family that likes getting zero attention? I didn’t think so.

In fact, this may seem perverse, but I welcome (on most days) emails from readers telling me how much I suck. It means, hopefully, I’ve made people think and I don’t believe that’s ever a bad thing. That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that every Wednesday when my column comes out I approach my email with a little bit of apprehension.

Some weeks my inbox stays friendly other times it’s chock-full of cascading comments about what an idiot I am. I know I’m in trouble when the email is over one paragraph.

In my experience if someone wants to write you a “hey, I loved your column” they’re not going to type more than a couple of sentences. That’s why the dual paragraph is a sign of doom and damnation. Apparently, not liking something or someone makes people very prolific. The puzzling thing is I’m always surprised by what’s going to tick people off. Usually it’s something I wrote that I thought was fairly innocuous.

In the one year I’ve been writing this column the angriest emails I received were about school community service hours (click here for that column). Okay, to be fair I did mention that I thought some parents might be overstating, just a tad, how many “hours” their children volunteered.

For example, how does picking up the neighbor’s newspaper and placing it on a doorstep equal “volunteering”? Isn’t that just basic manners?

My crucial mistake in writing that column was asking people to please NOT send me emails sharing how wonderful their children are and how many community service hours they had logged.

Oh my, what was I thinking? Because that’s exactly what I got.

Email after email (some in all caps) from angry parents lambasting me for daring to suggest that the whole keeping a log of being a decent human being is somehow wrong.

Worse, oh so much worse, was that half of these parents then proceeded to list their children’s volunteer accomplishments. At least three of the emails had attachments. Parents had scanned their kid’s community service logs!

I’d like to take this moment and give a shout out to the Prairie Star Elementary School student who was getting community service for walking the family dog. I was surprised I didn’t see licking cookie dough off the KitchenAid mixer beater listed as a “volunteer” line item.

Yeah, that’s right I read every last one of them. And congratulations you helped me make my point.

The community service log outrage proves my theory that if I really want to get folks fired up all I need to write about is anything pertaining to school and/or parenting. The one exception is when I wrote about paying for things with change. Okay, just wow on the number of people who hate quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. I stand by my statement that it is still legal tender.

As for my school/parenting columns they usually trigger emails from mothers who began their correspondence extolling the virtues of not only their children, but also their parenting prowess. The emails then proceed to point out either my failure at all the of above or a series of tips on how I can improve myself usually in the form of suggesting I get more involved in my children’s lives. (Because yes, you can gauge a person’s long-term parental involvement based on an 800-world column.)

More than a few have hinted that I’m a “bad mother” and some emailers have actually stated, “they feel sorry for my children.”

As for the feeling sorry for my children statements. All I can say is yes, sometimes I also feel sorry for my children. Like right now, I feel sorry for my daughter because she’s about to get the mother of all groundings for “living like an animal.” (Translation her room is a nightmare.)

In terms of me being a bad mother. Yeah, for sure, some days I’m bad at mothering. But, a bad mother, not so much. And what is it about the bad mother name calling? Why is that the go to for attempting to get women to feel bad about themselves? It’s the junior high equivalent of telling a girl she’s fat and just as lame.

So don’t worry about hurting my feelings. Go ahead and keep sending those emails. I can take it. I look at it this way – it all just gives me something else to write about.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂