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Intersections – Parents, play it cool

D'ish Decatur Metro ATL slideshow

Intersections – Parents, play it cool

Nicki Salcedo
Nicki Salcedo

Nicki Salcedo

By Nicki Salcedo, contributor 

I love school, but I dread the first day. We are headed into a gauntlet of meet-and-greets, orientations, and back-to-school gatherings. My stomach tightens at the thought. Our youngest is entering big school, elementary school. This school year I’m destined to be the old mom. Every class has one.

I was advanced maternal age when I was pregnant, and I’m advanced maternal age now. I’ve seen how parents can be. Helicopter, micro-managing, indifferent, negligent. I’ve done it myself. So I avoid those fresh-faced, new moms visibly anxious for play dates and room parent duties. I respect the room parent. I thank the room parent and other brave souls who step forward to volunteer. It is important. But I’ve done my time. One school year I was the room parent for three different classrooms. My biggest accomplishment was only cursing out one parent. Believe me, it could have happened weekly.

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You should know that we will decline all birthday party invitations this year. I don’t despise you or your child, even though there is a rumor that she picks her nose and eats it. We are more likely to just forget.  We sometimes like to sit and do nothing in our own house. Four kids, each in a class with 25 students, equals 100 possible birthday parties. That’s two a weekend, every weekend. For the rest of my life.

Do you remember back in the day? We were allowed a birthday party maybe once, at age 16. The spoiled kids had two birthday parties. One at age 10 and one at age 16. Even then the invite list was your four very best friends in the world, your cousins, and the kid from next door who had to be invited because he could see the birthday cake from his kitchen window.

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School hasn’t even begun and I’m exhausted. I haven’t recovered from May. How can it be the beginning of school? I know the teacher assignments of over 100 kids in my town. And none is in the same class with any of my kids. Big deal. My kids will make new friends. My advice to parents is play it cool.

If you ask whether our family liked having a specific teacher, I will tell you that we loved that teacher. I like sweet teachers and strict teachers and teachers with a strong sense of discipline.  So do my children.

Your child is going to need to experience all the types of teachers. Even the ones you don’t like and your kid doesn’t like. I’m a little embarrassed for the parents who incessantly complain. Yes, a few might not be fit for teaching, but the vast majority are. This is preparing your child for the real world.

Are you going to call up the college and ask to switch little Johnny to a different Political Science professor? You better not. One day your precious little Jane will have a mean boss, and it will be a job that she can’t quit right away because she has two kids, two dogs, and a mortgage. Just maybe she’ll be able to deal with the mean boss because of that tough teacher she had in 5th grade. Remember, the one you didn’t like?

Our kids need to learn to navigate different personalities and situations starting now. Being a teacher is a tough job. If it were easy, I would do it. If I were a teacher this entire town of kids would know about Star Trek, Star Wars, 1980’s soap operas, a hint of Shakespeare, and the poetry of Sharon Olds. General Hospital 101. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

Be good to your teachers. Here are some easy things to do to make the school year go smoothly:

– Tell your teacher you trust them.

– Tell your teachers that you are willing to help out however they need (not how you want to help, but in the specific way the teacher has requested). And then, actually help out if you can.

– Show your teacher appreciation all year. Don’t wait for that one week or that one holiday. Ask the teacher about their favorite book or restaurant or sport.

– Then go away. I avoid eye contact with teachers and principals if I can. Think about it. I leave my 5-year-old with them all day. My 5-year-old likes to talk. These teachers know things about me. The less time I spend around these teachers the better.

– Tell your kid how important their teachers are. And show them. If you treat the teacher with respect, so will your kid.

– Tell your kid they have one job. That’s school. They better work at it like they’re earning a paycheck.

– Don’t get caught up with gossip about which teachers are good and bad. The teacher that your neighbor thought was horrible, might be perfect for your kid.

I don’t dread homework. I don’t dread my alarm going off at 6am. I dread the drama of it all. I have a friend who is considering having kids.

“You don’t make it sound very appealing. You don’t seem to like kids,” she said.

“I don’t like kids,” I say. “I only like my kids sometimes. And I don’t like parents. They are still learning. I am still learning. We only pretend we know what we are doing.”

I look at the calendar. The last days of July. School is about to start. I hope the parents stay cool this year.

“You don’t like kids and you have four? You don’t like parents and you are a parent?”

I think, “Goodbye, summer.”

I say, “Exactly.”

“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.

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