Thursday, January 22, 2015

absentee parents

In my last post about redshirting, I claimed I wasn't angry. But I am, a little bit. I was speaking with another mom, who happens to be an elementary school teacher, about the whole redshirting issue. She feels that "parents these days" hand over too much responsibility for the enrichment and education of their children to the school system, and said, in so many words, "If parents did their job, kids would be ready for kindergarten by the time they were 5."

Alright, lady. Slow your roll. Now, don't get me wrong. I feel like being a teacher is super f*cking hard and I give them mad props for the work that they do. I'm sure our collective shortcomings as parents don't make their jobs any easier. But. I am doing my job(s). ALL of them. Mother. Wife. Lawyer. Google Doctor. F*cking Awful Chef. Ill-prepared teacher-of-things. Incompetent laundress. Housekeeper. Dog-walker. Unfortunately, having nineteen jobs means I am a less-than-stellar employee across the board. This dilemma raises a few questions/concerns:

a) When in the Sam Hill are we supposed to be teaching our kids to read/write/etc?

Look. I love books. Books are probably my fourth favorite thing in the world. My children do, too. They have a ton of them and we "read" together every single night. My kids memorize books and pretend they're reading like pros. But actual reading? Not so much. Barring the geniuses who teach themselves to read with the New York Times at three, I'm assuming it takes some serious time and effort. And I just don't have that.

Here's my weekday:

If I leave when I'm supposed to in order to get to work on time, I don't see my kids. I'm often running late so I have time for some fly-by snuggles before I go. I work for 8 hours. (And if I don't, for whatever reason, spend 8 full hours in the office, I make it up on my own time.) Keep in mind that this is considered "part time" for lawyers. I get in early so I can leave early, and I get paid half what the "real lawyers" do for the luxury of leaving in time to pick up my kids before the preschool closes. Not a day goes by without someone giving me grief for leaving, some time between 4 and 5, after I have put in the 8 hour day that I am paid for. To them, leaving at this time of day might as well be leaving at lunch. They think I'm on permanent "vacation." Little do they know, after an hour at home, I would happily return to work, free of charge!

I drive home. It's 27 miles, but in traffic, it can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. I didn't mind this so much when I was listening to Serial, and I do get to witness some wicked pretty sunsets, but most days it makes me want to die, not least because if I leave any later than 4:29, there is a good chance I am racing the clock and praying to my non-denominational deity that I get there by 5:59. Thanks to the grace of my non-denominational deity, I have only been late once.

Because taking photographs while driving on the freeway is frowned upon,
I stalked pics on Instagram. It's hard to be too bummed on life when this is your view.
Then I pick up my newest baby from doggie daycare because I am that white. Also because I like my shoes and my furniture, and am willing to take measures to see that Feta is too tired to consume new items daily.

My work here is done.
(She sleeps like this sometimes.)
FYI, this pic is a few weeks old. We do not still have our Christmas tree up. Mainly because we had company ;)
We get home somewhere between 5:30 and 6:15. I feed the kids a healthy snack (not because I'm super healthy, but because if I feed them junk food, they are that much less likely to eat their dinner (which is already 10:1 odds)). Also because I am slow as f*ck at cooking and it will probably be an hour before dinner is served. I try to be "fun and engaged mom"-slash-"WWF referee" while simultaneously cooking a nutritious meal that my kids will not eat. I usually serve said nutritious meal between 6:15 and 7:00. They do not eat it. Colby can often be bribed and/or hand-fed like a motherless baby llama. On the other hand, Jack can be threatened upon punishment of death, and still will not eat. Nine times out of ten, it is a painful, tear-filled, tantrum inducing debacle for all parties involved. Seriously. There are so, so, so many other terrible things that I would rather do than endure the ninth rung of hell that is trying to get my kids to eat dinner.

Only slightly less painful is trying to get them to brush their teeth, get in the bath, get soaped and scrubbed and shampooed without the neighbors alerting the authorities, and get into their PJs. It's like a three-ring circus populated by deranged monkeys. If we're lucky, it's 7:30 by the time we're finished with that mess on wheels, but Lady Luck is seldom on our side, and it's usually closer to 8. Then we sit down and watch some inane cartoon for 22 minutes. I suppose I could use this time for educational activities instead, but honestly, I need this as much as the kids do. It allows them to calm the f*ck down, and me to gather the last shreds of my sanity.

Then comes the royal coronation jubilee that is bedtime, including three books, fresh fruit, and ice water (with FOUR ice cubes, chilled to exactly 52 degrees Fahrenheit). On a good day, they're in bed by 8:30. Contrary to those chipper bumper stickers, they're not all good days.

Except when they're sick, tired, hungry, it's Tuesday, I served something other than plain pasta or chicken nuggets for dinner, I gave him a GREEN cup, I gave her a SHORT fork, there's not a new Paw Patrol on the DVR, their favorite PJs are in the wash, their favorite PJs today are not the same ones that were their favorite PJ's yesterday, she doesn't have blue eyes, he doesn't have curly hair, I did not pronounce "Millenium Falcon" like Daddy does...
I am scared - TERRIFIED - of the day when my kids have actual school work. I can barely get them to bed before 9pm when all I have to do is feed and bathe them. WHEN is homework supposed to happen?

On the weekends we have some free time, but I feel so bad about how little time I spend with them during the week, and how un-fun a lot of that time is, that the last thing I want to do is sit them down and play teacher. I work it in when I can (e.g., Jack loves his Star Wars letters and numbers practice books), but really, on the weekends, we just want to have fun.

a1) A subset of this is the "Play 60" movement: get your kids outside, help offset the childhood obesity epidemic, and so on and so forth. I recently read an article, "The REAL reason why your children fidget." It's actually a really good article. But. The take-home is that they're fidgeting because they're not getting enough exercise. Kids "need hours of outdoor play in order to establish a healthy sensory system and to support higher-level attention and learning in the classroom."

Well, shit. Hopefully they're getting some of that at school because they're certainly not getting it at home. I guess this (along with academic enrichment) is supposed to happen with the voodoo magic where I turn 2 hours into 8 hours without the earth spinning off its axis into a black hole? In the summer, they can squeeze in an hour of play outside while I attempt to cook/reheat an edible meal. But now? It's dark by the time we get home. And sure, maybe they engage in half an hour of wrestle-mania in the living room. But if my kids' utter inability to keep their butts on their seats during dinner is any indication, it is not enough.

What are working parents to do? If this is really what kids need, then the entire system needs to be overhauled. Job-sharing, second shift, whatever... something's gotta give.

b) Not that this is a bad thing, but, I feel like parents are expected to be WAY more involved nowadays than our parents were. (Which reminds me of this hilarious post - Back to School: The 70s vs. Today.) I cannot IMAGINE my mom (or either of my dads) coming to my class to read a book or host a class party. They all worked full time. They, too, rushed to fetch their children from daycare by 5:59. My mom drove on one singular field trip in junior high (of which I have amazing memories), and said she would never do it again because it sucked that she was expected to hang out and make small talk with the other parents when she really wanted to ride the rides with us ;) She didn't send gluten-and-sugar-free- or cupcakes of any kind to school for my birthday until I was old enough to inform her that this was something that "should" be done, and then, by her logic, I was old enough to bake them myself! And I did!

I get weekly, sometimes even daily emails from teachers and class moms urging me to come to my kids' classrooms to read books, play a musical instrument, discuss our family traditions and cultural heritage, volunteer for the Book Faire, attend the PTA meeting, make memory books, schedule playdates, attend 22 birthday parties, etc.

And I WANT to be that mom. I really, really do. I don't play any musical instruments, but I can craft the shit out of things, scour Pinterest for the neatest toddler activities, and bake a mean zucchini-sweet potato muffin. Here's the hang-up, though. I'm already getting serious side-eye for leaving work "early" in order to pick my kids up at the very last minute from preschool. Monthly requests to ditch out on work so I can make quinoa-macaroni necklaces with my kids' classes is definitely frowned upon. To say nothing of the plethora of other obligations that need to occur during business hours, such as doctor and dentist appointments, dry cleaning, car repairs, carpet cleaning, physical therapy so I can fix my knee so I can actually exercise (in all my free time), and those inevitable sick days.

I guess this all just goes back to the recurring theme of the supersized helpings of mom guilt being served daily. It's a personal pet peeve of mine. Can't we all just agree that the vast majority of us are doing the absolute best that we can, and that is gonna damn well have to be good enough? Mmmkay? Thanks! Buh-bye!

P.S. I swear I start out every post and it's like, a paragraph, and then somehow I blink and it's a novella. Sorry 'bout that.


  1. Well said. It's tough out there these days. I went to kindergarten when I was 4 and could already read because my mom was a stay at home mom who had infinitesimal time to dedicate solely to my enrichment. I want my daughter to go to kindergarten when she is 4 as well (we are both November babies....a day apart in fact) but I'm not sure she'll be fully ready for it. She attends an awesome daycare. She knows all her letters and can (almost) count to twenty (thanks to daycare, Sesame Street & Super Why) but I'll have to see how well they prep her when she gets to the "4's Room" later this year.

    I have more time than you do, but I still can't fit in trying to teach her how to read. I am lucky in that I can work a straight 8 from 7-3. I get home around 4 an immediately dive into dinner prep so that dinner is on the table no later than 5pm (she gets a little grouchy if dinner is late, lol). We have our family dinner and clean up. Then it's time to pack her daycare bag for the following day, get her clothes ready and do a bath with a little play time before. She has to be in bed around 7-7:30 because she usually wakes up with us at 5:30 because we have to leave the house by 6:15.

    I can't imagine how things will work when she starts to attend school. Hopefully yours start first so I can glean some insight! ;)

    1. Ha! Well, I wouldn't count on me to be the pioneer, hahaha ;) I'll be sure to report back though! It's all just hard! It is the 8th wonder of the world to me that everyone just handles their shit and grows their children up and doesn't complain about it (too much) and doesn't lose their mind! Good luck to you! And your little smarty girl! The most consistent advice I hear is, "Trust your gut, you know your child best, you'll make the right decision."