I’d like to ask you to participate in a little reading comprehension test. Imagine that you are a parent of a child entering Kindergarten this Fall. You receive the following notice of an upcoming event at the school:
“Open House for Parents: You will learn important information about classroom curriculum and school policies —please make every effort to attend. Tuesday September 3rd for K0—K1 from 12:30-1:30p.m.”
Select the answer that BEST describes the meeting:
(a) This is an important meeting for new Kindergarten parents to attend and learn about school policies and procedures;
(b) This is an optional meeting to attend if you happen to live a life of leisure and have nothing better to do in the middle of the day; OR
(c) This is an important orientation for your child to attend.
Ready with your answer? Ok, now imagine you receive this follow-up email a week later:
“This is a reminder for families of KO and K1 children that the Open House will be this Tuesday 12:30 to 1:30 and Open House for K2 and Grade One parents is Wednesday 1:30 to 2:30. Although we have limited ability to provide child care during these times, we really would like you to attend. So if you are not able to obtain alternative childcare, you are welcome to bring your child to Open House.”
Select the answer that BEST describes the meeting:
(a) This is an important meeting for parents to attend and they are hoping you’ll leave the kids at home so that you can concentrate on listening to the presentation;
(b) You should bring all of your children as they’ve offered to provide limited childcare; OR
(c) This is an important orientation for your child to attend and you are of sub par intelligence because you failed to see the obvious differentiation between the phrases for K0/K1 children and the K2/Grade One parents.
You’re all smart, so I’m sure you can guess what happened.
I practically strutted into Bree’s school for the Parent Open House, so proud of myself for making the commitment to a mid-day meeting and for actually being a few minutes early (thank god for flexible employers!) and excited to get more information on what Bree’s life would be like. A very friendly woman (vice principal?) greeted me at the door and directed me towards Bree’s future classroom. I saw a sign in sheet on a shelf next to the door, and two women setting up the class room. “Hello,” I called. “Should I sign myself in?” The women looked up and one answered, rather coldly, “It’s only 12:20. It’s not time yet.” Not sure whether she was the teacher or someone else, I uncomfortably backed out of the door and mumbled, trailing off “oh sorry, I guess I’ll just go sit here in the hallway…” “Yes, please do that,” came the reply.
I could feel the tears stinging in my eyes and immediately started to panic. What was I DOING here? Why am I pulling Bree out of her school with all those lovely teachers? The worst I ever get from them is the passing reminder that I forgot to bring a certain form YET AGAIN or a comment that I MUST be older than Patrick after telling them that he turned 40 this year. How can I send my sensitive Bree to this cold, unfriendly teacher?
Another woman eventually joined me, along with her small daughter and older son. She too was turned away from the
inn classroom and was wandering the hall, looking annoyed. Seeing an opportunity to make a new friend, I immediately went over to her and asked, “oh, did they send you away too?”. To which she replied, “No habla ingles.” My disoriented brain somehow couldn’t recall how to say, “I don’t speak Spanish” so I looked helplessly at her children. Her son was there to translate. “Are you the teacher?” he asked, noticing that I was alone and clearly confused why I would be there without a child.
It wasn’t until the other parents and their children started to arrive that I slowly realized that something was wrong. I didn’t bring Bree, and this was obviously an orientation for her. When we were finally granted access into the classroom, I pulled one of the teachers aside (the nicer one who didn’t snap at me earlier) and asked her if Bree were supposed to come. She said yes. I told her that because of the communication, I had assumed I shouldn’t bring my child and now it was too late to go pick up Bree to bring her. She looked at me as though I was wearing clown makeup and a bikini and asked, “You didn’t think that you should bring your child to meet her teachers and see her classroom before the first day of school?”
The absurdity of the situation really sunk in while I was sitting in a child size classroom chair waiting for the parent meeting to start while “Tainted Love” played on a portable radio/tape deck that was so “vintage” that you couldn’t quite call it a boombox.
I was in Parent Disorientation and suddenly became a lot less sure of this next phase of my life.
Emma’s Orientation at her new school is coming up this Friday. On the plus side, the message was idiot proof as the event was billed as a “Parent and Child” Orientation [emphasis added] and the email specifically noted for us to “please bring [our] child.” On the down side, we just received the invite on Monday and had to rearrange our entire week’s work schedule in order to be able to attend…
I’m hoping that one of these orientations will eventually help ME improve my own comprehension of what it is that I should be doing. Transitions are always hardest for the parents, right?
Whenever I hear of a potential snowstorm, I always think about families with school age children. I imagine the children giddy with excitement, sleeping with fingers crossed. Then I imagine the parents, up late in the evening deep in negotiations about who would take the day off. Perhaps they are panicked and already calling local babysitters, grandparents or friends. Perhaps they are lucky enough to work for a progressive company that allows them to work from home. Even then, they are still probably strategizing about how they can possibly get work done and be responsive with stir-crazy kids running around the house.
This is exactly how I feel when I hear about contagious illnesses going around at our daycare center. It’s always the same. If it’s not your child who is sick, a notice is sent home saying that a child in such-and-such classroom has such-and-such illness. There is often a helpful flyer attached, outlining symptoms and reminding parents that we cannot drop off our child if he has a fever, or is vomiting, or is covered with oozing sores.
Within one week, we received three notices for: (1) hand, foot and mouth disease, (2) chicken pox, and (3) head lice. P and I have debated the relative merits of each. Out of the three, he’d probably be most horrified with the lice situation. He’s already talked about shaving the girls’ heads if they get it (this is the one time I can be grateful that they barely have any hair on their heads). P did not go to public school most of his life and apparently never lived through the experience of everyone having to put their coats/hats in plastic bags on their coathooks. I’m not alone on that one, right? There’s also the social stigma that you and your children are presumed dirty, and people gossip that you are also an animal hoarder and turned down an offer for a TLC reality show. Finally, there’s the sheer exhaustion of not only having to de-louse the family, but also washing, vacuuming and bagging every soft item in your house.
I’ve already done some preparatory research on this one, and was thrilled to find out that you can OUTSOURCE lice removal! This is a definitely a problem that I’d be happy solving by throwing some money at it. I’ve also learned that tea tree oil is a natural “deterrent” to lice. For what it’s worth, I’ve bought out Target’s entire stock of California Baby Tea Tree and Lavender Shampoos. Finally, I am going to ask the daycare director why on earth the Toddler 3 classroom has what B affectionately calls “the hat box” where all the children’s hats are thrown in willynilly to teach the children how to locate their own outdoor gear. Seriously, am I the only person who ever had to do the bag the coat and hat thing at school???
Personally, I would have thought chicken pox was the worst. I’ve never had it, and I don’t think any of the three children are fully immune. O’s never been immunized (you have to be 12 months old), and neither E nor B have had the booster you receive at four years old. And I’ve heard that getting the Pox is 1000 times worse when you are an adult. At the end of my last pregnancy, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the Pox and shingles after my midwife went into panic mode when someone I work with was diagnosed with shingles. And, for the record, I now have medical proof that I have NO immunity to the Pox. Mom.
Unfortunately, it was a friend of mine’s baby who got the Pox. And she had to stay out of day care for ten days. I am planning to return to work on Monday after having been out for over SIX WEEKS; any of us getting the Pox would probably be tantamount to having my personal items currently in my office shipped home to me with a note thanking me for my service. Of one month. Every time I’ve seen any spot on me or Owen, I’ve freaked out and totally analyzed it. O had scratched himself on his nose, and I had what could actually be a tiny stretch mark. Sorry, TMI sidenote, but how is it possible that I have had three pregnancies and never had a single stretch mark and now suddenly developed one after my baby is five months old????
So, while we would’ve voted for hand, foot and mouth disease (which is also our Pediatrician’s “favorite” because, and I quote, it is a “sign of fall”), I’m now starting to back off it as a preferred issue. A mom friend recently recanted her tale of its intrusion on her family. Apparently, you get all these sores in your throat that make it impossible to drink anything. In her mind, all three afflictions are equally bad. I don’t know, but that sounds like at least one more trip to Childrens Hospital to me whereas the others you probably recover at home.
And so we all wait and brace for the storm. With three kids in full-time day care, one or more is bound to be sick at any given time. As one of my Facebook friends noted in her status update today: “There is no fear in life greater than that of a healthy parent in a house full of stomach bugs.” Or, in my case: there is no fear in life greater than that of a working parent who has been on disability for over six weeks in a brand new job in a daycare full of sick children.
Keep your fingers crossed for us. As my sister said to me last week: 2012 can be someone else’s crappy year!