If I had only one child, I would still be around the bend by the amount of paperwork that comes home from school.
With six kids still in school, and the ambition of being a good mother, and a caring mother, or at least a present mother, I try to thoroughly read the things I sign.
In part this is because I care, and try to be good. In part it’s because I don’t want to learn I ended up as chair of the planning committee for a playground structure to be completed in 2018.
The first thing every single one of my kids does after walking in the door is dump the backpack .
Then, like the paper zombie apocalypse, they surround me with hands thrusting things in my face. “Sign this, Mom, and read the discussion questions.”
The discussion questions?
“Sign the pledge, Mom. You forgot that part.”
The pledge? Like AA?
“Mom, you have to sign this and give me a check for thirty-five dollars. Or twenty-five dollars. I’m not sure.”
“Mom, sign this. It means I’m staying after every other Tuesday from three to four in the afternoon. So I’ll come home on the bus but then you have to drive me back right after because I’m not in Stay and Play.”
“Mom, can you volunteer to help my English class write a novel? Twenty of us are going to write one chapter at a time.”
“Mom, sign my spelling test.”
Sign my take-home folder. My permission slip. My picture-day makeup. Sign my math practice. Sign the slip for my recorder and put five dollars in this envelope. No, I can’t use Will’s because he said he spit on it and had cold sores.
Sign this twelve-page document explaining the reason I was assigned to the orange reading group instead of the green reading group.
Sign the permission for me to audition for ‘Annie.”
Sign the permission slip for me to try to get into the orange reading group.
All this leaves out the visitations, which began the first week with Open House – for which the children draw maps, write letters and make puzzles intended to cause wretchedness for those parents who are still at work at 5 p.m. when the tour of the school begins – and continues through Back to School Night, Progress Night, The Octoberfest, The Holiday Holller, The Spring Fling and The End of Days.
Now, I know that my parents knew where my school was, and knew my teachers in a general way. This was not because they ever showed up for any Open Houses that didn’t involve liquor or barbecue. It was because I got very good grades and also got in trouble a lot. I got the good grades because I liked to read, and I got in trouble because I had (and still have) a mouth disproportionately big compared to my size and … it must be said, intelligence. I remember once my mother having to come to school because I refused to write the fifth-grade skit about the immortal love of John Smith and Pocahontas because my sources had proved conclusively that they were BFF’s (although she might have been better off with him than John Rolfe). The 60s offered a more civilized approach to school: my parents did their job and I did, or didn’t do mine. My own school bag was like the vacuum cleaner bag of someone who owns five golden retrievers, swollen with papers I dutifully put in but never took out.
I know what today’s teachers are trying to accomplish. They want to make sure that uber-busy parents stay connected to school, and take responsibility for their children’s education. I hope this has worked for me, although when I was quizzing my eldest daughter on SAT words and learned her definition of “probity,” I had my doubts.
I don’t know about where you live, but for me, there hasn’t been this much signage in Massachusetts since the Constitution.