School Days, School Forms

The beginning of the school year is full of traditions. Buying new pens and folders. Waking up the kids at 5 am instead of noon. Establishing after-school routines that will end all homework stresses. Throwing those out after day one, when you learn your son had a book project he was supposed to complete over the summer but hasn’t started.

But my favorite tradition is the “First Day Packet.” Maybe it’s called something else in your town, but I guarantee, if you’re child attends a public school, you will receive the large envelope of forms that are so vital, they must be completed before your child will be assigned a locker or even allowed in the cafeteria.

There are the basics – immunization records, emergency contacts, the fifty-page district policy book that you’re required to read and sign, acknowledging you’ve done so. Right.

And then there are the guilt forms. The ones that claim you can improve students’ educational experience by heading up cookie sales or chairing the horticulture committee (which means you’ll be pulling weeds in front of the school). Of course, you’ll want to support the science department by buying a science-class-spirit shirt. They’re not required, but strongly encouraged to support the science department – which happens to be chaired by the teacher who will be determining your child’s grade, thus GPA, thus future college.

But the ones that really blow my mind are the ever-growing “liability” forms:

“I acknowledge that if I do not sign and return this form by ___ date, my child’s photo will be published in the yearbook even if her bangs did look ‘OMG, horrible’ that day.”

“I give permission for my child to use the internet while at school and will not hold the district liable if he/she should use the medium to hook up with a sixty-year-old pervert from Ohio.”

“I understand that the use of any sports-enhancing biophysical substance will result in the automatic disqualification from all UIL events.” That’s cool. I support that. But my daughter’s in choir. Is blood doping a big problem in the show choir circuit?

And the forms go on and on. It’s enough to make you consider homeschooling.

Whooooa! Hold-up. Nothing could be that bad.

Are You Kidding Me?

This week, I crossed one more milestone on my path of parenting. The last-minute project. The project that’s worth 60% of the grade. The project that was assigned three weeks prior and is due in two days. The project that hasn’t been touched.

So last weekend was spent riding my son’s . . . tail. It was traumatic for both of us. You know there are seven steps of grief. Well, I found there are also seven steps to this phenomenon.

Shock: “What the hell do you mean, you haven’t started?”

Anger: “I hope you’re happy. If you flunk this class, you’ll have to go to summer school.” Of course, I don’t know if that’s the case, but it catches his attention.

Hope: “You can do this. I’ll help you.” In my son’s case, that involves me typing.

Frustration: It kills the writer in me to simply take dictation. I can’t resist the occasional prompt: “If your hero is an adventurer, how could you reveal his personality? Maybe you could provide some actions that show what he’s feeling.” My son’s response: “Nah.”

Another Round of Anger: “I can’t believe I have to hold your hand through this process. Do you realize how much of my time I’ve wasted helping you? You’re grounded for the whole summer!”

Acceptance: This is not my project. It’s a huge undertaking, so at this point, I’m just hoping he can pull off a “C.” That’s what keeps my mouth shut while I type narrative that switches between past and present tense on every other page.

Joy: My son actually gets excited about the project. I leave for a much-needed Girls Night Out, and upon my return, he proudly shares his project that he’s finished on his own. He’s even included some impressive symbolism. There’s hope he won’t end up living in my basement after all.

In the end, he received an “A” on the project. So much for learning a lesson. Is he that talented? Is our school system that mucked up? At this point, I don’t care. I won’t have to haul his . . . tail to summer school.

I know, I know. I should have let him suffer the consequences of his choices. So consider this blog a gift from me to you. As long as I’m raising kids, you’ll always feel better about your parenting skills.