Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Where do I start? So many things that I have experienced over the past 13 years have led up to this…the day my son left the house headed to school for the first day his Senior year. Besides being overwhelmed by the fact that I am old enough to have a senior in High School, the day was relatively uneventful, thankfully. Gone are the days of overseeing most aspects of school. The course of our 13 year public school journey, from Kindergarten orientation when we rode the bus together (yes, parents rode the bus with their child), to now, has had numerous ups and downs for the both of us. The kid drama, educators and administrators who may have had different philosophies from my own only scratches the surface. And after today, I think I am worthy of an average parent award!
The educational journey of for us included navigating a total of five different schools – two in New York and three since moving to North Carolina. Considering the stress of navigating two states and their remarkably different and complicated ways of doing things should qualify me for some sort of recognition. When we moved to North Carolina and entered the monstrous (in more ways than just the size of the district) Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), there was a huge learning curve. My introduction to WCPSS was to choose an elementary school from a long list provided to us within our choice area – some up to 40 minutes away. It wasn’t as simple as moving into a neighborhood and your child would attend the elementary school down the street. Because of the influx of Northerners like me, the growth in the area and the school district is exponential. Managing placement of all these extra kids is complex and at times certain schools get capped (more on this later)*, based on need, location, and a variety of other factors I am not privy to. Ultimately, there are winners and losers and the neighborhood school down the street was no longer an option. Coming up with plan B or C was how I learned to operate within the district. Being able to shift from one plan to the next is absolutely an award worthy talent, don’t you think?
To combat some of the uncertainty of being a newbie when we first arrived, I involved myself in the school PTSA, and proudly became a class parent. I wasn’t working outside the home our first year in North Carolina, and for the first time in my child’s life. I wanted to be THAT parent – the one who knew all the teachers by their first names, who knew all the kids in their child’s class, the one other parents would go to for information and gossip. Thankfully his Fifth grade teacher didn’t want parents overly involved in the classroom, and was able to do the bare minimum. I quickly realized I bit off more than I could chew as I had no creative bone in my body and had a serious inability to come up with fun projects for the class to do. I yearned to be like other creative parents, who did contribute to their child’s learning experiences. I was amazed by what they could do with colored pencils, molding clay, and lots of ingenuity. Mind you, this was all in the pre-Pinterest days and so began my self-induced mom-shaming.
After my brief and unremarkable stint as a class parent in elementary school, my ‘involvement’ in my son’s school quickly diminished. I started working again and it was logistically impossible to fully participate in school activities, be present for assemblies, or help with an after school functions. Now that he was in middle school, the level of embarrassment my child experienced increased and I had a sneaking suspicion he didn’t want to see much of me at school. Still, I was in awe and most envious of those who were present, involved and aided in their child’s educational experiences. During Meet the Teacher nights, I would walk around like a sad puppy, not knowing the teachers or the involved parents who seemed to know every other involved parent, again feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t one of those parents.
It wasn’t until this past Sunday, when I received a text from another parent letting me know that there was an organized event later in the afternoon to decorate our child’s parking spot that I felt a shift in my thinking. Please note, this is the same parking spot that cost $200 / year for the privilege of parking a car in the student lot. Mind you, this past spring I received notification from the WCPSS that our neighborhood schools would be changing. *As I mentioned earlier, the district routinely reassigns neighborhood schools when the needs of the district and the capacity of schools fluctuate. Based on our address, the high school assignment was at another neighborhood school for the next school year. My son was going to be a senior in the fall and the last thing I had the energy for was to have him start over at another school. We were given the opportunity to have him grandfathered into the school he started in and currently enrolled. Sounds great, right?! The caveat was we had to forfeit the right to any transportation to/from school. We all know many seniors are fortunate to drive themselves, but, seriously, what if we weren’t in a position to get him there? I feel as though I made a deal with the devil. Now, back to the story at hand, the parking spot.
After some deliberation, I decided I would go and decorate the expensive parking spot we paid for. At the last minute, I ran to three art supply stores to find the sidewalk chalk we were allowed to use. Along with a friend, we arrived to do our parental part as both of us didn’t want our kids to be the only ones coming to school the next day without a decorated spot. The pressure! From the moment we stepped out of the car, all those feelings of not being THAT parent were rearing its ugly head. I crouched down, outlined my design on the 90 degree concrete, inhaling the powder of the disintegrating chalk as it touched the hot pavement and wondered What the hell am I doing? Here I was on my hands and knees, scraping my knuckles, breaking a few nails trying desperately to draw a semi-presentable, and
hopefully not an epic fail that it would lead to embarrassing moments for my senior. I stopped, looked around and watched my fellow parents actively work in their child’s space and saw some that were pretty incredible. Not only were some extremely creative, I imagine some parents must have spent hours planning what they were going to do, cleverly cutting out stencils, taping down areas to fill in, coordinating colors, and painted away. I scratched my head…hmmm, I didn’t get that particular memo that we could use spray chalk paint, I thought to myself.
Then it hit me. I was really annoyed. The more I thought about it, the more aggravated I became. Who the f%@$ thought this would be a good idea? With average temperatures hovering in the low 90s, decorating a piece of pavement in a parking lot is not on my list of fun things. For the amount of money we are paying to get my child to school (car, gas, insurance…), AND to park at the public school lot, the school or the PTSA should be the ones decorating our spot with large dollar signs. Or, better yet, make it a fundraiser/contest and have the kids do it themselves, enlist faculty to judge and the winner gets to park in the lot for free. Please don’t get me wrong, I believe in the PTSA, pay my dues, and truly appreciate all the work that the organization does for the school, teachers and students, however at the same time enough already! At this point in our child’s lives, our senior kids should be the ones doing for themselves – they are or are almost eighteen. Please don’t get me started on senior portraits with and without the school’s vendor, announcements, and whatever else someone has thought of to celebrate going to high school. Why is everything a thing?! (In complete transparency, know that I will most likely buy into all the hype.)
As I watched my son drive off to school this morning, I made a decision. I will no longer measure and compare myself to what other parents are doing and providing for their child. I am pleased to report, my son already knows he has a good life regardless if I decorate a parking spot – the parking spot only reconfirmed it. In addition, I will no longer feel obligated to volunteer at a school activity and will do so only when I want to and not because I think I should. My days of volunteering at school are close to being over, and will not feel guilty by saying NO. All the tools and encouragement will be provided for my child to hopefully do for himself. I’ll be honest, I do cave, especially when I see the dirty laundry piled high and shutting his bedroom door won’t cut it for me any longer. Lastly, I will fully support my child to make the most of his senior year without his mother being overly involved, unless of course, he would like me to be part of it. This is pretty much the way I have operated over the past 13 years, and today, is the first day I actually feel good about it.
When I first titled this piece my plan was to reflect on my own senior year and how I developed a serious case of Senioritis, where my attendance and level of participation dramatically decreased as the school year was coming to a close. Now, I think I am suffering the same affliction, only as a parent. Words cannot fully express how proud I am of my son’s accomplishments, and as he enters his senior year, he will figure things out on his own, fortunately for me without much fanfare. As the day comes to a close, I am ready to celebrate me for making it through the past 13 years. In this age of providing awards for averageness, I think I am more than qualified. And The Senioritis Award goes to….