You Win, Your Kid is Amazing, Now Can You Go Talk to Someone Else

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Okay, who am I kidding? I know the parenting competition season is year round, but at least in the summer you’re less up and close personal with the participants and trust me I need that break. It’s merciless out there. You’ve got everything from the high school parent who specializes in class rank news updates to the elementary school mom that has an excel spreadsheet of her little cherub’s academic and extracurricular schedule and a corresponding pie chart of his world domination areas of expertise.

To celebrate the, sort of, end of the parenting competition season I’ve compiled a list of awards that acknowledge the very best in this year’s Parental Preening Hall of Fame.

All hail the One Upper Interruptus. This parent is like a heat seeking missile. You could be across a parking lot and if someone asks you about your kid and you share just the briefest tidbit of accomplishment, like they made it to school on time, the One Upper Interruptus will pick it up on their radar and fly in for a direct hit that doesn’t waste time with any social niceties, but instead goes in for the kill. As in, “Well, my little mini me has not only perfect attendance, but also is curing cancer while playing three select sports and taking eight AP tests.”

My only response is to dig through my purse for eye drops so I can lubricate my corneas from all the eye rolling that ensued.

If your kid has ever put on a shirt with a number on it you’re well acquainted with the Spork – sp(orts) + (f)ork. The Spork is a sports parent so over the top that they need to a) stick a fork in it (i.e. shut their pie hole) and/or b) give you a spork so you can repeatedly stab yourself in an effort to alleviate your misery from listening to them.

I feel like it would be a public service if every Spork got 60 seconds of group adulation at the beginning of the year and in exchange for all the parents repeating in unison, “I get it, we all get it, your child is God’s gift to nine-year-old soccer, volleyball, swim, baseball etc. we would then be blissfully left alone from talking to the Spork the rest of the sport’s season.

If there’s a reading log or a volunteer hour form to fill out beware of the Truth-aphobic. This parent just can’t help from going a little rogue on the whole hours accomplished detail. Maybe their remedial in their math skills and simple addition has always been a problem. Or perhaps, they don’t grasp that most fundamental concept of one-hour equals 60 minutes. Whatever the issue, all I know, based on two decades of parenting, is that the person that’s fibbing on the elementary school summer reading log is also going to be massaging the numbers on that high school NHS volunteer sheet.

Dear Lord, hear my prayer and save me from the Listicle parent. This mom or dad lives to share their child’s “stats.” Be it everything from batting averages, touchdowns, goals to dance awards and ugh, academic rankings the Listicle has up-to-the-minute information on where their kid stands in the universe. I’m not exaggerating when I say a part of my soul died the day my daughter’s high school made it possible for parents to check their kid’s daily high school class rank on line.

I know we’re a standardized test driven society and who am I to call out venerable education institutions that use those tests to create moneymaking programs. The Duker parent (as in Duke Talent Search, not that there’s anything wrong with that and never mind that almost every kid I know has, at one time or another, during their late elementary and early middle school career gotten a letter from Duke about their “Talent Identification Program”) believes everything they get in the mail.

Here’s the deal. Not every four-color, glossy, college brochure and booklet your kid receives via the US Postal Service signifies that he or she is a shoo-in for acceptance. In its most fundamental form all it means is that your child is on mailing list and that the colleges sending out all that crap are responsible for 25% of the world’s deforestation.

Now, to all the parents that made it into the HOF all I have to say is congratulations and will you please, please, stick a spork in it.

 

Summer Bragging Rights

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 10.44.05 AMOne of the downsides of raising kids today is that parents have turned everything and I do mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g into a competition. For example, what do you call a second grade student who enjoys kicking a soccer ball and is half way through his summer reading log challenge? In 21st century parenting parlance that child is “gifted scholar/athlete.”

Still not catching on? Okay, let’s try another one. What do you call an 8th grader who babysit her siblings for free one night while her parents went to a movie and has twice volunteered at a food bank? Well, if you’re a mom with a delusional disorder that teenager is a “humanitarian.” All right, all right I’m exaggerating. She actually said with a straight face and to my knowledge she had not been drinking that her child has “humanitarian leanings.”

Once my son graduated high school I thought I had seen the worst of it. I mean really what is there to compete over anymore? Yeah, in a couple of years it will be all about who got into what grad school and in another ten years after that I have no doubt I’ll get accosted in the produce section at grocery store because some mom wants to gush about her daughter the neurosurgeon or her son the tech startup billionaire. (Dear Lord, hear my prayers. Please, please can I be that mom.)

But really none of that is a big deal because it’s not the day-to-day trench warfare that is parenting a school age child where everything from student of the month to getting the Sunflower citizenship award is plotted and strategized more meticulously than Eisenhower planned the amphibious D-Day invasion.

All this is why I was surprised and oh so very disappointed when I was introduced to the latest parenting brag for those of us with college age kids. The summer internship and/or job.

Unbeknownst to me now your kid just can’t come back home for the summer and have your basic, no frill, minimum wage job at a fast food joint to make some much-needed cash. Oh no, that is so, dare I say, common. For your child to be on the fast track to awesome he or she must be doing some sort of interning, job shadowing, profiling or apprenticeship.

What this really means is that you, the parent, will be shelling out thousands of dollars in transportation, lodging and food this summer for your child to go to New York, D.C. San Francisco (etc) so they can “work” for free. Now, while I have no doubt “valuable” contacts are made (as in you sure paid a lot for that connection) I must share that I think this all wrong.

The bragging rights shouldn’t go to the parents with the kid doing a “summer exploratory of Capitol Hill with the assistant to the junior legislative aid of a Congressional Representative.”

Nope, the “all hail my amazing child” belongs to the parent with the kid that has a super crappy summer job.

I believe there is nothing more beneficial to a college student’s education and future success than a summer job that sucks. Every human needs to, at some point in his or her life, work in entry-level positions in the food industry, retail, or do some hard labor.

In 1983 when my husband was a student at the University of Texas he spent one entire summer painting curbs at gas stations. The average heat index was 110. To this day he still talks about that job. He says it taught him to cherish the gift that is a college education and air conditioning.

That same summer I was working in fancy pants (literally) ladies clothing store. It had air conditioning, I’ll give it that, but the boredom was soul crushing. Not only did I spend hours hanging up clothes, steaming clothes and folding clothes I also had to wait on some seriously snooty women who were slobs.

There was this one woman who frequented the store at least twice a week and as she constantly stroked her, what Texas folks would call, Barbara Bush pearls she would demand a level of service that would make HRH Queen Elizabeth blush.

This woman would try on almost every item in the store and then throw all the clothes on the floor. You could even see her standing on the clothes she had tried on from the bottom on the dressing room door. Who stands on clothes and more importantly who stands on clothes that they don’t even own? Someone needed to call this lady out. I thought there’s a story for the local paper – former Junior League president who can’t figure out how a hanger works.

(To make a long story longer she came to mother’s funeral three months ago and when I saw her all I could think of was “Ugh, there’s Mrs. Pig Pen.” P.S. She was still wearing pearls.)

What I learned from that job is that I wasn’t cut out for any kind of career that deals with the public unless it’s me tattling on them. So, I became passionate about becoming a news reporter. (It’s the grown up and socially acceptable version of tattling.)

My son currently has a summer job working at a big box store. Everyday he comes home with a new story. The saddest one to date is when he had to mop “like pretty much all day.” His father and I just smile and tell him it’s character building. He doesn’t get what we’re talking about, but he will and he’ll be a better person, employee or perhaps future CEO for it.

*Attencover_1.3-2tion 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! 🙂

 

I Get It, We All Get It, You Have Perfect Children

52f573eecbcd40b644ceba5e025b75dcCan we all just get over our kids? Yeah, we love them. They are the moon, sun and stars. The air we breathe. And yes, I know parents should be obsessed with their children. I do believe that’s part of the child-rearing creed. What I want to point out is that while it’s super that your addicted to your brethren please don’t expect me to be. In fact, there may not be anything more boring than a mom or dad whose sole topic of conversation is about their amazing kids. For the love of all that is holy just give a rest. We get it your kids are the best and the brightest or at least in your brain they are.

I’m curious to why parents feel the need to continuously sing the praises of their offspring? Why does anyone imagine that other people want to hear, pretty much all the time, about your wonderful children? I love my kids and guess what? I, as their mother, sometimes don’t even find them that thrilling. So, I would never assume that other people would be enthralled by their “achievements.”

Things came to head this week when a couple of moms figured out that you could find your high school child’s current class rank by going online and signing into your school’s parent account. I currently don’t know the class rank of my own daughter, but I do know about 15 other kids rankings because they’re parents won’t shut up about it.

I want to tell these moms and dads to calm themselves because their kids are only high school freshman and if I’ve learned anything it’s that high school is a marathon not a sprint. Get back to me in your child’s senior year and then I’ll act impressed. If you’re lucky I’ll add in a high-five.

What a lot of moms and dads need to do is come out of the parenting closet. Oh, it takes guts, that’s for sure. Not many of us have the courage to share the unedited, non-scripted version of our child. A couple of months ago I was volunteering at a high school and a group of theatre moms were talking about their children. I was hanging back, being new to the theatre mom arena, and just listening in.

My initial take away was that theatre moms might be the most hard-core, ruthless parents I’ve ever come across. And that’s saying a lot because I’ve been everything from a soccer/volleyball/baseball/dance mom to a competitive Lego club parent (you’ve haven’t lived till you’ve witnessed two parents chucking limited edition Lego Architecture bricks at each other. Note to everyone – don’t get in the way of a dad attempting to get his kid qualified for the Lego World Robot Olympiad). The mothers were engaging in rapid-firing one-upping and as I was keeping score it seemed like the musical theatre moms were getting in the most verbal punches. Not that the one-act play parents weren’t giving it all they had, but bless their hearts they couldn’t keep with the wannabe Broadway bunch.

Then, out of nowhere, a mom mentions that she just “hopes her son graduates high school.” As soon as she said that everyone froze, like we all weren’t sure of what we had just heard. I was ecstatic. I do believe for a moment I fell in love. I wanted to get down on one knee, propose and run away with this courageous woman. Instead, I looked at her and said, “You are my hero.” And I meant it. She had boldly went where almost no mom with a kid born in the 21st century has gone before – to the alternative universe where parents are honest.

I naively thought this would open up the discussion to being more than a contest about whose kid was most likely to get a Tony award by 2022, but I was wrong. The other moms’ just shook off the blast of candor like a dog inadvertently misted by a lawn sprinkler and continued on with their kids’ greatest hits.

I don’t mind a parent being proud of their kid. What I’m confused about is why that’s all we can be. Why have we as parents congealed and hardened into one, big, unyielding igneous rock of, “my spawn is more awesome than yours?”

We’re cheating yourselves and our kids. Honesty is good for friendships and families. Parents need to be able to vent and ask for advice from other souls in the child rearing trenches. As it stands now we’re all afraid to show any weakness so we either say nothing or disguise our children’s realities like an airbrushed selfie – too perfect to be true.

*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! 🙂

 

Back-to-School Night: The Teen Years

 

a1e412a1ac370de5ec9c05c9c068bd20There are three primary reasons I go to the high school back-to-school night. The main one is for visual evidence of what the school personnel looks like. So, when a child starts describing their teacher as the devil I can interject that I saw neither horns, cloven hoofs nor a tail when I sat in their classroom for ten minutes.

Another reason is to get an overview of what their day is like. I want to be able to look at my watch and know at 11 o’clock my daughter is in Spanish in the classroom with a view of a courtyard that needs a mega weed and feed application. I’m sure somewhere, in all those abundant and varied school fees I paid for my child to have the privilege of attending a public school, there was a line item for landscape beautification. At the very least the Booster Club should make a trip to Lowe’s.

The other, I’ll call it, lesser reason, I go is to people watch. My first order of business is to enjoy the beauty that is the administrative staff. I know, I have mentioned before, that the principal at the high school my children attend is gorgeous and the assistant principal is just as easy on the eyes. Were they GQ models before pursing a career in education? I’m thinking probably.

You should have seen the line of moms circling these two as they held court in the underclassman locker area. I, not wanting to be that obvious, (because you know talking about it in a blog is totally covert) stood back and took it all in from across the hall.

After that I proceeded to my daughter’s first class and was given a reality check that the more things change the more they stay the same. I went to sit down and was told by two women that the seat I was lowering myself into was being “saved for a friend.” Seriously, grown women are still “saving seats”? Say hello to me time traveling back 30 years and getting told to move from the cool kids lunch table. I, having taken a pledge, administered by my daughter, to “not embarrass her at back to school night” kept my mouth shut and found another seat but I did give them an audible sigh and what I thought was an impressive eye roll.

As the evening progressed I was amused by the parents that still haven’t learned back to school night is all about sitting down, shutting up, gazing at the wonder that is the teacher’s PowerPoint and then continuing on to the next class. This is not the forum to approach the teacher and sing the praises of your “gifted” cherub or, and this maybe my favorite moment of the evening, talk to the Spanish teacher in Spanish about your muy talented “niño.” Can you say show off?

No, I take that back, that wasn’t my favorite moment. My most favorite thing about back to school night is the mixed message you receive from almost every teacher. While they’re churning through their presentation they will tell you that your child must learn to “self advocate” and be “independent.” They said self advocate so much I began to believe they were get paid by some sort of for-profit self advocate alliance to shill for them.

Now, here’s where the mixed message comes in. As you are being told to let kids fend for themselves, to grow, to embrace emerging adulthood you are also given cutting edge tools to stalk their every move. There’s Parent Vue on the school website where you can find out everything from what your kid had for lunch down to the sodium consumption (okay, that’s a very slight exaggeration) to the grade they got on a PE homework assignment. Then there’s Edmodo, which I’m almost certain was set up by a joint task force of Homeland Security, the FBI and the CIA. Here, you can creep on almost anything your kid does in class so much so it’s almost like your right there with them in Honors English minus the smell wafting in from the cafeteria.

I have no doubt by next semester they’ll have kids wearing heart rate monitors throughout the school day so from home, work, even the grocery store, we can go online and check and see if our darlings seem stressed or if their vital signs are in the normal range.

So, if I may raise my hand and ask a question to the schools out there – which is it? Do you want us to let our kids make mistakes, figure it out on their own and grow in the process or do you want us virtually in the classroom?

This mom needs an answer.

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good. Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival. If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you.

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.