Parenting Politics/Community SPM/MM

Let’s Calm Down with the Elementary School Activities Already

I’m an emotional time bomb these days. Most recently, while writing a farewell letter to my high school students, I got all teary-eyed thinking about how much I was going to miss them this summer.  The normal, not pregnant me would have had those feelings in my heart but would have told me to get a goddamned grip and be happy it’s time for summer break already.   But the pregnant-at-the-time me started blubbering onto my keyboard, certain I’d never encounter such precious snowflakes like these again in my entire teaching career.

I’d like to say this was my only emotional outburst of the day, but alas, it wasn’t. After I got home from work, my husband and sons and I sat down to watch my middle son’s preschool graduation photo montage, which we had missed along with the actual preschool graduation itself because we had to do this crazy thing called work for a living during the smack middle of the day when someone decided it would be a perfect time for this huge parent-child end-of-year milestone activity.  Thankfully, my mother was able to take an hour out of her work schedule to be with him, but this didn’t stop him from still asking why his Mommy and Daddy weren’t there like the other mommies and/or daddies in the room.

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As if hearing about that weren’t heartbreaking enough, along came the part in the photo montage featuring the Mom’s Night activity, something I was able to attend when my oldest was in preschool because it’s one of the few events actually held in the evening.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend with my middle son because it took place just as I was suffering through the debilitating morning sickness that left me bedridden for weeks.

The Mom’s Night segment of the montage, with its cute pictures of mothers and their children making stuffed animals and dream catchers and lifelong memories together, sent my hormone-elevated mommy guilt into overdrive and I burst into tears, sobbing and shaking and ugly crying all over my husband and our unforgiving suede couch.

And I was reminded of something I’ve thought for forever: Why the hell do we have to have so many of these preschool and elementary activities?  WHAT. ARE. WE. DOING?

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Are preschool graduations cute?  Yes, of course they are.  Are they necessary?  Fuck no.  They’re ridiculous is what they are.  Because you know what?  After 3-year-old preschool graduation, there’s 4-year-old preschool graduation followed by kindergarten and first grade and second grade and fifth grade graduation, all of which are made out to be these big huge ordeals deserving of tiny little graduation caps and robes and diplomas and unspoken but heavily expected parental involvement.

And maybe it would be OK if it were just the stupid graduations.  But it’s not.  It’s not just the stupid graduations.  It’s the Halloween parties and the Thanksgiving parties and the Columbus Day parties and the daytime choir concerts and the science nights and the book fairs and the field trips requiring parent attendance and the cupcake decorating contests and the pumpkin carving events and the movie nights, most of which aren’t school created events but rather parent requested and created events.

And you know what, parents who create and request all these stupid events?  The teachers and the principals don’t want to have to organize and supervise this shit during the school day (no matter how much you think you, the parents, are doing the organizing and supervising, there’s a crap ton of responsibility on the staff’s plate as well) or, even worse, at night when all they want to do is head home and spend some quality time with their children and families for a change.

I don’t remember having all these ceremonies and dog and pony shows when I was a kid.  There were holiday parties for students only (and the few parent volunteers who offered to come in and help out) and one or two big family events during an entire school year, and that was it.  It’s like suddenly everyone thinks their kids are the first to ever attend an entire year of preschool or kindergarten and to dress up for Halloween or celebrate the presidents of the United States, and they want to mark it with a whole giant thing involving parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles every other week.

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Well, guess what?  NOT EVERYONE HAS TIME FOR THAT SHIT.  Not everyone can just drop in on a random Tuesday at 10 a.m. once a month to celebrate their kid’s ability to finally wipe his own ass.  And not everyone should be expected to, either.

Thank God my oldest didn’t have a formal kindergarten graduation ceremony.  Instead, his teacher made a really cute portfolio of each kid’s work throughout the year for them to keep, laminated a nice certificate for each child saying they had completed kindergarten, and sent them home with a thoughtful gift.

The best part?  I got to sit down with my kid — just mine, without all the pomp and circumstance and distraction of an entire classroom ta da — and talk about what he was most proud of and what he enjoyed best that school year.

I got to share that moment with my child without any expectation of Pinterest perfect finger foods and fancy parading about the school.

You know what I say?  I say parents today need to get some hobbies that aren’t their kids.  I say a nice holiday party and a couple family events — both daytime and evening to cater to everyone’s needs — spread out across the year are all we need.  I say we need to stop treating school like our own personal look-what-a-good-parent-I-am platform, because if we’re really honest, that’s what all these events and activities are about.

They’re not about the kids.  They’re about the parents.  They’re about this weird need to prove something about how much we love our kids through cookie baking and party planning.  They’re about the very real need for parents to get some lives of their own.

There are ways to be involved in our kids’ schooling and lives that don’t include concocting outrageous and unnecessary parties and activities every week and fostering a community expectation that all parents should participate (as well as the disappointment it breeds in the children whose parents can’t).

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I say we need to get back to basics and see the value in the parenting that occurs in the privacy of our own homes.  Injecting ourselves into every aspect of our children’s school lives does not mean we love them more than if we didn’t.  It simply means we need to learn to let go and allow them to grow on their own in the safe school environments created for them to do so.

Let's put an end to this now. (Photo Credit: Greg Williams on Flickr)
Let’s put an end to this now. (Photo Credit: Greg Williams on Flickr)