My daughter Scarlett started Kindergarten at the local elementary school this week, forcing me to have my first brush with the institution of school for nigh on twenty years. I was there on her first day, and let me tell you, that classroom was hot,(no air conditioning, which is fine, I’d rather they spent the money on books, anyway.) The teacher had staggered entry to the class, so that only five girls including Scarlett were in attendance, as well as the corresponding five parents, sitting on tiny chairs, and, maybe I am only speaking for myself here, feeling like total fools.
The teacher, a friendly, cuddly woman, was telling the kids that it was normal to feel scared on the first day of school, and that separation anxiety was perfectly natural. If they missed mom and dad, if they cried, that was fine.
Five young faces looked at her in puzzlement. What was she talking about? Their expressions seemed to say: “Are you crazy?”
While I was attempting to fill in a dozen forms at the Hobbit sized table, I noticed the anxiety on the faces of the parents. Forget the children having separation anxiety; it rapidly became clear that it was the parents who were going to have trouble letting go.
Firstly, the teacher asked for volunteers to come in at lunchtime to help the kids set up their lunch, which seemed like a silly request, until I calculated how long it would take for twenty five unsupervised kids to unwrap their lunches, have a yogurt fight, poke their eyes out with straws and spill juice all over themselves, and reckoned the chaos would last a good two hours, unless adult supervision was involved. Mercifully I couldn’t volunteer, because they don’t allow you to bring younger kids with you. Naturally, all the other parents volunteered immediately, much to their offsprings' horror.
Then the questions started.
What kind of home baked goodies were allowed to be brought in for kids’ birthdays? Answer: none, because allergies were rife in the school. My first thought was hallelujah, not only will the pressure of having to bake a perfect ‘Barbie Princess in a Crinoline’ cake be off my shoulders, but my daughter won’t have cake on twenty-five different teeth rotting occasions throughout the school year.
“Would it be all right if I followed the school bus for the first week in my car to see that my daughter gets to school okay?” asked one mother.
To which the teacher replied, “Sure, but any longer than a week and we'll have to issue a restraining order on you,” and gave a sinister chuckle. Actually, to my surprise, she bit her tongue and said that if the woman wanted to trail her kid for the first few days that was perfectly understandable.
One father asked if it would be okay if he fitted his son with a tracking device, so he could be certain the boy wouldn’t be abducted by aliens during school hours. Another asked if it would be all right if he hid in one of the supply cupboards for the first semester, to make sure his daughter was actually eating her apple every lunchtime, rather than throwing it in the trash.
Okay, so I made the last two up, but it was the usual litany of silly, petty, niggly questions that the teacher must have heard hundreds of times before, and which, to her credit, she answered with a generous spirit and a warm smile.
The only thing that worries me about Scarlett starting school is that they have a new policy where, if an adult is not there to meet the child off the bus at the designated spot, they just let the child off anyway. I must say, that did strike me as crazy. Say I was stuck in traffic or I had to take my other daughter to the ER or something? Still, being British, I kept my mouth shut, since there’s nothing I can do to change the rule.
So, anyway, my experience with this group of overprotective parents got me thinking. Rather than teachers having to deal with hundreds of phonecalls from on the edge parents at the beginning of school, I have a suggestion to make life easier for everyone. In
No, I’m not suggesting we give these treats to our kids. A much better idea would be to give them to the parents on the first day.
But instead of candy, these ‘goody bags’ could contain things like:
A certificate for parents, with the text: Congratulations. You have survived the first five years. Your son/daughter still has all his/her limbs. Pat yourself on the back. You’ve done a great job. Now that he/she is at school, it’s time to realize that he/she is not your little snuggly wuggly Bunnikins anymore, but a child on his/her way to independence. If you need to baby something, consider getting pregnant or buying a chinchilla.
For moms - trashy celebrity magazines
You won’t be biting your nails down to the quick wondering if little Johnny has choked on an eraser if you are deep in the latest gossip in the lives of the Hollywood bimbos and himbos.
For dads - racing car magazines
You can pretend to look at the cars, while ogling the gils in bikinis. Before you know it, six hours will have passed in a blur and you’ll have forgotten to collect junior at the school bus stop.
Pre-mixed bottles of Tequila Sunrise
You can’t worry when you’re lying in the garden imbibing deeply and dreaming of buxom hula girls or a greased up pool boy wearing only a leopard skin thong ready to grant your every wish … (or maybe its only me that Tequila Sunrise affects in that way).
I think it’s a terrific idea and would save school teachers a lot of trouble all round. What else could I put in it? I'm open to ideas...