This is my 13th and final year at my elementary school, not because I couldn’t pass, although I always had trouble with fractions. It’s because since 1992, one of my three children has been there.
I’ve been a room representative (formerly known as room parent and, before that, room mom) in every grade, every year. I’ve done everything from photocopying to running the Renaissance Fair to chaperoning field trips.
Here are some things I’d like to share with rookie school parents:
1) If organizing an event that needs baked goods, know that mothers of young students send in goodies baked fresh at home; mothers of older students send in whatever’s-on-sale cooked in a New Jersey factory.
2) Before making a presentation for Career Day, be sure the front of your shirt isn’t sticking out your pant zipper. My daughter didn’t speak to me for six weeks.
3) Get to know the group of people volunteering with you, because chances are you’ll be the same folks volunteering every ... single ... year.
4) At every Back-to-School night there are two parents: One who asks numerous highly specific questions like, “What if my child prefers to sit on the right side of the room?” and another who announces, “My child has a gift of being gifted and must be in a gifted class taught by a gifted gifted-specialist, otherwise his gifts won’t be challenged.”
5) You will never find all those decorations from last year’s Colonial Fair, so give up.
6) Stop with the school photo retakes. That’s how she looks. And she’s beautiful.
7) Keep a large supply of poster board.
8) If your child has to write a get-well note to the principal, read it before he brings it to school. Learn from my mistake. Cover: “You should be happy!” Inside: “At least you’re not dead yet!”
9) Memos sent home to parents: 10 percent actually end up in the parents’ hands; anything past five lines isn’t read.
10) Volunteer in the classroom. Kids are way more fun to work with than grown-ups.
11) Parents tend to size each other up. Everyone will seem like better-dressed better-parents. I stopped caring back at #2.
12) Young children are very candid. Bad part: Your hair is weird, you look like Grandma and your breath smells. Good part: Volunteer during the kindergarten Class News Day and you’ll hear that Jessica’s mommy “bounced a check” and Tyler “drew on Daddy’s car with a rock.”
13) Kids eat 30 percent of their lunch and smash/mix/share the rest.
14) Don’t be worried about what they learn on the playground, because it pales in comparison to what they hear on the bus.
15) Invest in a backpack that can withstand three to 10 times your child’s weight.
16) Help with homework, because once they hit middle school, it’s over your head [not to be confused with “helping a little” with a school project. Sure it’s fun and somewhat therapeutic making a diorama, but put down the glue gun and step away].
17) Treasure this time, because it passes far too quickly.
[May 13, 2005]
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