Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Goody Beg

I'm torn on the whole goody bag thing.

Before I weigh in on that, here's an important side note.  In general, one of the unwritten rules among my mom friends is that we don't judge each other's parenting choices and occasional goofs.  We understand that we're all just doing the best we can as we let our kids eat some pretzels that just fell on the ground.  And those other so-called "perfect moms" are probably drinking martinis out of their travel mugs at the playground in the afternoons (not that we're judging them.)

Planning a party is one of those choices.  It's nice to know you won't be judged no matter how much of a raging disaster your child's party turns out to be, especially since the children always have a great time no matter what.  Parents spend hours trying to plan the ideal party -- the kids would have fun if you took them to an abandoned warehouse and handed each of them a super ball (Damn - wish I thought of that idea a little sooner.)

But back to the goody bags -- you know, those little bags of useless plastic crap and stale candy that get handed out at kids parties?  Should you or shouldn't you?  There doesn't seem to be any kind of choice that anyone can make about those that really feels right.  Here are a few thoughts on this pressing issue:

-The kids love them.  You could literally pick up little pieces of trash from the ground and put them in a cute bag with a few Starbursts and the children would be totally thrilled.
-Nothing says "Time to go home" quite like that goody bag.  The kids might be having the time of their lives destroying your house, but once they see those little sacks of loot, they are outta there.
-They are a simple pleasure of childhood. The days when they will not satisfied with a little bag of cheap trinkets are fast approaching, and when our kids are begging for cell phones in I'm guessing second grade, we'll be wishing for these days when they were perfectly happy with a spiderman ring and some pixie sticks.

-The contents of those bags end up everywhere.  I feel I should include a note in the bag apologizing in advance to the parents who will find that half-eaten lollypop permanently fused to the floor mats of their car in a few months.
-Those little imported plastic toys are probably made from some deadly secret combination of kerosene and lead.
-Goody bags bring out the worst possible manners in children.  The shyest kid in the world has no trouble whatsoever screaming "Where's my goody bag?!" And if there is no goody bag, the nasty looks those little cherubs toss over their shoulders on the way out are truly chilling.

One year I attempted to make a little homemade item to hand out instead of a goody bag.  As a result of this, my daughter reminded me 8 months in advance that she wanted a Halloween costume "from the store."

So - there are no good choices.  And there are no bad choices.  Hope you enjoy that spiderman ring.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's Official

Sarah is registered for kindergarten.  I thought this day would be more, I don't know, more something.  On some level, I appreciated the total lack of emotion exhibited by the school district employees.  As you may recall if you are one of my three loyal blog followers, I like our preschool director very much because she loves the kids and tolerates the parents.  But we have been looking forward to this day since our children were born and...

Here's What I Imagined Would Happen:  After a short wait, I would turn in my carefully photocopied paperwork.  A district employee would gratefully take it from me and compliment my organizational skills.  This person would say "You have raised a human being for five years!  That is wonderful!"  This person would validate my decision to send my child to our neighborhood school and not try for one of the magnet schools.  She would ask to see a picture of my daughter and tell me how sweet she is.  She would remind me that we're starting an amazing journey together and public school would be fantastic and would prepare my child for a bright future. This is the beauty of a free, public education.  The whole process would take about 15 minutes, leaving ample time for my friend Beth and I to go out for coffee.

Here is What Actually Happened:  After a long, long, long wait, I turned in my carefully photocopied paperwork, including a registration form that looked similar to something you might have to complete when being released from prison.  The person who took it checked it, looking exhausted.  She eyed me suspiciously when I said "Thanks so much!"  After that first line, we were given a bakery-style number and told to take a seat and fill out some more paperwork.  One of my good friends had forgotten to bring her child's birth certificate and was given a piece of paper which implied, among other things, that she is a terrible mother.  When they called one of the numbers, a district employee actually checked that number to make sure this person was not trying to sneak in ahead of the other moms.  (She needn't have worried because at this point the other moms would have stoned any line jumpers to death like Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery")  When my number was called, I raced to the first of the three "stations" which was manned by a person who everyone described as crabby.  I was happy to find that she actually did appreciate it when I said "Thanks so much" and asked briefly about my child.  I suspect she did this to make the line move even more slowly, but it was nice anyway.  The lady in change of health forms must have been totally worn out because almost nobody had these forms ready yet and she had to explain the same things over and over and over.  I asked it I should drop the forms off when I had them and she cheerfully handed me three envelopes and said "Or, you could MAIL them!"  (Implying "If you are stupid enough to want to come back to this hellish district office, go ahead, but it seems to me you might want to cough up for a stamp and avoid this little nightmare.")  The person working the last station had the best job,  She was in charge of collecting the fees .  According to my careful calculations, this was .03% of the amount we paid for preschool.  Sweet!
2 hours after we started, we were on our way!

And the public school journey begins.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Book Called: Things I Will Never Ever Do When I Have a Child

OK.  See the title of my post today?  If I wrote that book before Sarah was born it would be a big, thick book. A big thick book of lots and lots of things I would never ever do -- all of which I have done.

Today at lunch I was chatting with another mom about the relatively poor food options available for our kids when they go to school next fall.  We discussed that the things they are feeding the children really do not seem very nutritious.  Would you like to know where we were having this conversation?  McDonalds.  And to make it even better, the kids were eating Happy Meals, and the Happy Meal toy was a Barbie.

This was the lunch of my child who was exclusively breastfed for 8 months and then ate only organic baby food.  My child who now likes to eat those fruit snacks that don't contain any fruit.  My child who only eats white bread.

Now when we shop, she hangs from the side of the shopping cart at Target.  She uses the playground equipment in all the dangerous ways that used to horrify me back when I was pushing her on the baby swing which I had padded with a cloth diaper to make it more safe.

Most moms I know have a long list of things they vowed they would never ever do and then they did. At least it gave us a good jumping off point.  OK, so my daughter eats those crappy fruit snacks, but she also eats tofu.  She leaps off the top of the slide, but also will gladly tell another child that throwing sand is not nice.  She plays with Barbie but so far has not copied her outfits.

My new list of things I would never, ever do as a parent is quite short.  Pass the McNuggets.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Call Me Clueless

This was not a great day for me at work.  That doesn't happen to me very often.   This is sort of understandable because I'm physically at work for less than 4 hours at a time and that doesn't really leave a lot of chances for things to go too wrong.  (The rest of the time I'm working I'm planning and grading at home or at one of the Starbucks on Central Street where the baristas let me sit there for 6 hours with my grande vanilla soy latte.)

But today was a bad day at work and then got a little worse when I got home.

On a cheerful note, both classes had mostly productive debates on the Odyssey and my students seemed quite proud that we got through this long text.  But after class one of my students wanted to talk about how they were struggling in class and I tried to make helpful suggestions.

That last part is the kind of thing that happens almost every day at work.  I really like talking with students who are struggling.

But then I got home and the struggling student had sent me a scathing e-mail that said, among many, many other things, "You don't know what you're talking about."

You know what?  That may be true.  I'm pretty much winging it a lot of the time.  I stood with a few moms yesterday and we discussed if we were supposed to check yes or no on some question on the District 65 registration form.  (I checked yes.  Seemed OK.)  I cooked some chicken in the crockpot that had been in the freezer for a long time.  Was I supposed to do that?  (We didn't eat it but we would have if it would have turned out a little better.  The sauce was bland.) Am I supposed to put my daughter's leotard in the dryer?  Is the Disney Movie Club a ripoff?  Do sprinkles expire?  Is that new Yoplait Princess yogurt unhealthy?  What the heck should I put in those goody bags?

I don't know what I'm talking about but I am very willing to figure it out eventually.  And if I make a few mistakes, I'm fine with that.

But you know what, student?  I actually did know what I was taking about today with you and I'm sorry you didn't like it.  I'm sorry we didn't go someplace private to talk.  I'm sorry you thought it was a good idea to send me a pretty rude e-mail when we have 9 more weeks together.  And I'm really sorry that you will probably make that mistake a few more times in life before you figure out that it is not a good idea to insult someone who has the ability to give you a bad grade.

Wait - maybe I do know what I'm talking about sometimes.