There are many very wonderful things I have to say about school in general—and my kids' schools in particular. I also have also a whole list of serious grievances with the school system in general—and MCPS in particular. But now is not the time for those lists. Now is the time for my list of my Top Ten Most Annoying Things About Elementary School:
1. The morning drop-off line: It's not that hard. You pull up as far as you can, open the door of your car, and shove your kids out. There is no need for your car to jump the line or for you to abandon your vehicle. You don't need to honk and you probably shouldn't have a conversation with your buddy who is standing on the sidewalk when you should be driving away. Of course, it takes me a million years to convince my kids to get out of the car every morning, so I probably shouldn't throw stones. Did I mention that you shouldn't honk?
2. Packing lunches: I hate packing lunches for my kids maybe more than anything else having to do with school. This has a lot to do with the fact that not one of my three kids will eat sandwiches anymore. It takes every ounce of creativity I have to not regularly throw a bag of goldfish and a juicebox in their lunchboxes every day and hope that the scurvy doesn't set in. I wish I could buy them school lunch, but there is very little on the MCPS menu that my kids want to consume. Shrimp poppers? Come on, I don't even know what those are. Help a sister out, MCPS. I live for pancake day.
3. Homework: I'm against it. You? The time my family spends doing homework is the worst hour of my day. Or two hours. Or three. My kids seem to think their after-school time could be better spent doing...anything else. Not to mention that as my kids get older, their homework makes me feel dumber and dumber. I corrected my third grader's homework the other day and was feeling pretty good about myself—until my fourth grader told me that it was right in the first place. I have a graduate degree and can no longer do third grade math. This makes me sad.
4. IEP meetings: You're lucky if you don't know what these are. Special education students have documents called IEPs that outline their individualized educational plans for the year. No matter how fantastic your school team is, these meetings are lengthy exercises in nervous grinding of teeth, red tape-induced headaches, and attempts to not cry in front of the principal. Again. God help you if your school team doesn't play well with others.
5. Schools keep instilling good habits in my kids: I used to control the values that were taught to my children. I taught them about kindness, honesty, fresh air, the importance of ice cream. Now my fourth grader gives me the stink eye every time I crack open a soda because his teacher taught him that it was bad for me. Yesterday he mentioned that he was thinking of abandoning cars altogether because they pollute. Oh, and I can't forget that memorable dinner when all three of my kids thought they had been poisoned because they had just learned that salt was bad for them.
6. After-school "Unload on Mom Syndrome": You know how everyone always says that your kids are really secure if they are comfortable unloading onto you all the angst and misbehavior that they've been holding in all day at school? Let's just say that my kids are completely at ease with me.
7. Evening activities: Everyone always looks like they're having so much fun at after-school events like math night, bingo night, and international night. I don't know why it seems like I'm the only mom who is afraid that her kid is going to roam off and deconstruct someone's project during the science fair. Keeping track of three kids who get overstimulated and try to wander off during these things is kind of a nightmare. Unfortunately, overstimulated or not, they always want to attend. They just don't always tell me with words when they're ready to leave; they tell me by wordlessly taking off for the parking lot or maniacally running in circles around the school courtyard.
8. Summer break. And spring break. And winter break. Oh, and Labor Day: There are an awful lot of days off during the school year. I don't know how families where all the adults work out of the house do it. As for us stay at home parents? Well, summer break is an awful lot of togetherness, don't you think? Don't even get me started on snow days. I will shovel a path to the school if that is what is necessary to get my kids out of the house after a snowbound weekend.
9. Phone calls from the school (e.g. the nurse—or worse, the principal): I consider these to be delightful little grenades that are lobbed at me at unexpected times throughout the school year. Your kid threw up at lunchtime; come get him. BAM! Your son swallowed a Lego today. POW! Your child drew a picture of the teacher in a dunce hat. KABLOOEY!!!
10. Report cards: I don't understand MCPS report cards. Seriously, what is an "L," and does that mean I take my kid out for ice cream or ground him? Also, I see that kids don't get F's anymore. They get E's. I think "F" makes more sense because "fail" starts with an "F." "E" should stand for excellent, just like "B" stands for boring. Duh. I miss the kindergarten days when you either got a star, a smiley face, or a check mark. I understood that system.
That's ten. I could probably keep going, and I badly want to hear your top annoyances in the comments. But I wanted to add one thing I love about school—it makes me miss my kids so much. After being without them all day, I am always so happy to see them get off the bus—Unload on Mom Syndrome or not.
Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland; an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and a column called Autism Unexpected in the Washington Times Communities. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey.