I’m trying hard to resist jumping on Jen Hatmaker’s coat tails, to tell you about how I’m the worst end of school year mom ever, but I can’t do it any longer because it’s true. I am the worst. In fact, I’m worse than Jen because I don’t just check out at the end of the year. It’s pretty much the case all year long.
I am a “terrible school mom.” Period.
I actually can grow to resent school and all it asks of me. I am “team teachers” and pro education and all that. I understand the importance of parent involvement in schools.
I keep lists in my phone about how school has wronged me.
There is a note in my phone from February titled “school requests” and it details all the grievances I have. I wrote about one five day period earlier this year when I was asked to volunteer or bring snacks to classrooms, and other various requests NINE TIMES.
This was just the random stuff too. It does not count all the muffins with mom and donuts with dad and holiday performances and parties and ice cream socials and homework help, sports games, back to school nights, Spirit Day, science fairs, book fairs, parent teacher conferences, and other classroom helping opportunities.
SCHOOLS. I AM JUST ONE PERSON. I CANNOT DO ALL OF THIS. I CANNOT EVEN KEEP TRACK OF ALL OF THIS.
Part of my waning endurance to keep up might not only be in part to the larger size family, but also the sheer number of years my kids have been and will continue to be, in the school system. My oldest is sixteen. My youngest is four. I have served many years and I have many years to go.
Two weeks ago, my neighbor walked by in a sun dress and fancy shoes. We live one block from school and she was coming from that direction. After we said our hellos she mentioned how she was just coming home from the Mother’s Day tea.
“Oh,” I said as my heart jumped into my throat.
Had I…missed? The Mother’s Day Tea?
I will tell you I was equal parts sad and relieved that I legitimately missed it, but I still felt terrible for my kid’s sake, if I indeed had.
I vaguely remember the Mother’s Day Tea was for a certain grade. Maybe not my kid’s grade?
I wouldn’t know because I only open about half the emails I receive from the school.
I read the subject lines! I open the ones that appear important! But sometimes I miss things.
Later that night I’m sitting with my boy.
“Hey Jeremiah, did you have a Mother’s Day Tea last week?”
“No. I think that’s only for like, second grade or something” he said.
I breathed out. Thank God I did not leave my babies hanging. And once he’d mentioned it, I remembered I DID go to a Mother’s Day Tea with Olivia last year. She made me a book. I refused a scone and lemonade. It was all coming back to me now.
“I remember I had one, though,” he went on, “and you weren’t there…”
Mortified. Mouth agape. Horror.
“Oh my gosh! Son! I wasn’t there? What did you do?!”
“I think I just sat there and ate with my friends.”
He didn’t seem sad about this. I feel it’s important to point this out. He recalled it like it didn’t even matter. Like he couldn’t even really remember, even.
For the love. I just can’t keep this stuff straight. There are just too many things. It was probably in one of those emails I didn’t open.
I’m not an uninvolved parent. I signed up for not one but two snacks when the high schoolers had testing this year. And I made sure to make good things that the kids would like, such as peanut butter oat bars and chips with good salsa. Not Pace Picante or anything like that.
I signed up to bring in an appetizer for the high school GIS presentation this Thursday as well, WHICH I ATTENDED, THANKYOUVERYMUCH.
I went to Jeremiah’s “Jingle Bell Jeopardy” last year around Christmas time and brought baked goods from Winona’s with me.
I bought the elementary teachers food this year when it was requested because they were holding conferences. I took in a pizza.
The pattern here is that the MacGray’s are good pulling our weight with snack contribution, but that’s about it.
We make it to the basics for sure. I went to the annual meeting I have with all of Olivia’s teachers and aides at the beginning of every year to discuss her IEP (individualized education plan). I also attended “parents weekend” at Isabella’s high school which, was two days long, I feel the need to point out. Ellie’s teacher came to visit us at our house before the beginning of the year started like the school suggested. I also sent Jeremy to one of Jeremiah’s teacher conferences this year, too. The first one.
I’m good for a conference once a year, per kid, starting in the first grade okay? Two just seems a little aggressive.
I’m just saying.
I did get confronted about this lack of parent/teacher conference attendance two weeks ago by Ellie’s preschool teacher.
Here was our actual conversation:
Mr. John: Krysta, we’ve got a sign-up sheet for conferences up here by the sign-in sheet but didn’t see your name. I just wanted to make sure you knew it was here?
Me: Oh, yeah, I saw that.
-slowly realizing something else needs to be said-
Me: It’s sad I know, but Ellie is the fourth child. I have so many conferences and school functions every year, and so I see things like that sheet and think “preschool conferences?” (now I’m putting my palms face up in the air like I am weighing something on each of my hands) “I mean…is it absolutely necessary?”
I say it nicely. An elbow jab “am I right?” inside joke that parents will get. I feel bad immediately after saying it though, since he’s a teacher who is putting the time into putting thoughtful conferences together, not just a fellow parent. But it’s also true for me, so I let it stand.
Mr John: I totally understand. So you’d prefer a written report then?
Me: Oh yes, that would be awesome.
Mr. John is a gracious man. Who might also think I’m a slacker who doesn’t take an interest in her child’s welfare but, OH WELL. You can’t win them all.
Some people like to say it’s irresponsible to have a lot of kids because you can’t possibly give them all the time, attention and resources they need.
They may be right.
However, if you think showing up for every thing the schools ask you to participate in is the way to guarantee your child gets everything they need from you and life, instead of seeing all the silver linings, like modeling “not having your stuff together” and showing how you love them well anyway, then I can’t help you. Just go on thinking I’m a horrible, irresponsible parent who deprives my children of the love, resources and attention they deserve. It’ll be easier.
Meanwhile, this is me.
You will be happy to know, however, that I am attending Ellie’s preschool graduation next week, after attending her pre-pre school graduation last year, and before her Kindergarten graduation next year.
Yes. I meant that to sound excessive. I’m terrible. I told you.
But it’s because there are just too many things. Too many trips and performances, plays and productions, and organized or required get togethers, end of the year whatevers, and holiday and birthday things. Picnics, and requests for cupcakes and treats. Requests for field trip chaperones and bags of supplies to bring for said field trips. And on, and on.
And I can’t keep up, okay? Uncle.
I tell you the truth, my kid quit band this year and didn’t tell me for weeks because he thought I’d be upset since I’d paid to rent him an instrument. However, my first thought was “Hoorah! Now we don’t have to go to a band performance!” If my kid took an interest in band, maybe I’d have a different reaction. BUT MAYBE NOT.
Why just yesterday Jeremiah came home and his skin was fully burnt from the sun. I did that thing where I slid my sunglasses down my nose just to make sure I was seeing this right.
“Are you…burnt? What in the heck happened? WHY ARE YOU BURNT??”
“Mom” he says “it’s not just my face, it’s my whole body” and then he lifts his shirt to show me bright red all over his back and shoulders.
“But how? Why?”
I wait for him to answer while I worry this one event will be the catalyst for future skin cancer.
“We had a field trip to the pool all day today and I didn’t have a suit or sunscreen”
So. One, I’m confused because I had no idea he had a field trip to the pool. Two, why didn’t the kid call me to bring him some shorts and sunscreen? I ask him but he says he just decided to swim in the cloth shorts he was wearing and his friend did put sunscreen on him but “musn’t have done a good job.”
You guys, I have to call my friends to ask things like when Spring Break starts, or inquire about whether or not it’s a half day.
I find it super weird that they even know the answers to these questions.
My acupuncturist had to tell me I couldn’t come in when I tried to make my next appointment because it was going to coincide with some school thing he knew about and I didn’t.
It’s embarrassing sometimes.
Look, I contributed to all the teachers end of the year gifts and signed the cards and got gifts for all of Olivia’s aides, so really, it’s not like I’m an uninvolved, unprepared parent who doesn’t show gratitude. I can rally when it counts.
Here’s where all this is going, though. Here’s why I am insecure and need to get really honest with myself about the kind of person I am and am not. Our family has to decide on private vs public school next year for a few of my kiddos. The private schools here are excellent. I will tell you first hand, I am impressed. However there are little things, combined with what I’ve disclosed about myself above, that give me great pause.
For instance, parents of kids who attend the elementary and middle school who also own restaurants take turns catering the children’s lunches every week. And wouldn’t you know it, we own restaurants. This is freaking AWESOME if you don’t happen to own one and your kid gets to eat gourmet sandwiches and salads daily though. I admit it. Of course we don’t HAVE to volunteer to cater, but how awkward will it be if our child was a third year student and one of the restaurants bowed out because their child graduated or something and we don’t immediately step up to fill the gap? Not because we don’t want to help but because of something else like we have partners in business and it isn’t exactly our call. I worry about this.
At the private elementary and middle school there are weekly meetings on Friday’s when the kids get out early and the parents come to hear announcements and what is upcoming.
A weekly commitment, ya’ll.
And finally, during the application process we were required to have our child’s current teacher fill out a form where one of the questions was “on a scale of 1-5 how involved are the students parents in school matters?”
(insert regret about not attending that second parent/teacher conference here)
If I’m a terrible regular school mom, I will be the WORLD’S WORST private school mom. Did I mention they have you go on bi-yearly camping trips and climb mountains with your kids if you are a private school mom here?
It’s both a selling point AND the reason our kids probably can’t go.
My kids went to bed at eleven o’clock last night— a school night. This is because we couldn’t eat dinner until 9:00pm. We had spent the last hours of our day going from my nieces ballet recital to my daughters school presentation after moving furniture into our new house before that and shuttling kids around after school and also prepping an appetizer to bring to the school function and we just needed a glass of wine, man. That’s all. We just wanted to sit for a minute with nothing to do but eat and drink. So we went out at 9pm which is very, very weird for the MacGray family who likes to be in bed early.
As a consolation, I told the kids they could sleep in and go to school late the next morning or maybe just even stay home.
I could be wrong but I don’t think this will fly with a private school that values education above wine and a nice meal.
To be clear, I don’t value ANYTHING above wine and a nice meal.
Private schools, lets just speak the truth to one another. You don’t want me and I don’t want you. Let’s just admire each other from afar while the public school figures out what to do with me.
They’ve done a pretty stellar job for the last twelve years, after all.