Family / Kids / Parenting

In which I am a wee bit punchy about the beginning of school

2013-09-03 09.50.04

If you’re reading this, it means my children are back in school. And while I would weep for joy, there’s no point, because I’m just going to pull them out again tomorrow for a few hours to go to Rosh Hashanah services.

It’s a bit of a cruel joke, the scheduling of this school year. I mean, first there was the summer itself, the eight kajillion weeks in which the only routine was change: different day camps each week, punctuated by travel, camping, and — the cherry on top — the past 11 days, during which time we scheduled no formal activities for the kids with the idea that we would “just all hang out” and Rachel and I would each work half-time and “just hang out” with the kids half-time. It’s day 11 of 11, and my day to work, which means that I am hiding out in my office and steadfastly ignoring any and all chaos going on outside my door.

(For the record, my doorknob is busted: if you close the door all the way then I am effectively trapped in this room, unable to get out unless I unscrew the doorknob and manually turn its inner workings with a wrench.)

(I am contemplating closing the door all the way.)

Yes, so, the summer itself, and then the past 11 days,  have been, if I am to be fair, just fine. They have even been fun. We’ve fit in lots of play dates and trips to the pool, an overnight at a friend’s cottage, a pig roast. Yesterday, we hung out at a friend’s house in the country, where Isaac caught his first fish.

2013-09-02 13.39.36

It’s just that working half-time and parenting half-time leaves very little room for anything else. Like, say, exercise or writing blog posts or spending quality time with one’s partner, or trying to buy the three new pairs of highly expensive children’s running shoes that you will need for coming school year.

But we did! On Friday at 3 PM I managed to finally haul the kids into a shoe store, where we spent OMG dollars on nicer sneakers than I have ever owned, none of which come with Velcro closures. (Maybe if we had gone to the shoe store earlier, there would’ve been more selection, but we were too busy Surviving The 11 Days.) This means that Isaac is going to have to learn how to tie his own shoes. I got all earth-mothery and crafty this morning and made him a little practice board out of some corrugated cardboard from the recycling, into which I punched some holes with kitchen scissors. The idea, of course, is that I would thread a shoelace through the holes, and he would — all Montessori-like — gleefully practice tying the two bunny ears together until he got it right.

He would have none of it. I swear, trying to get him through three rounds of lace-tying took about 20 minutes of whining and complaining and wriggling and protesting “But I can’t do that!” and “I don’t know how to do that!” And I would explain that of course he didn’t Nossa Senhora do Socorro know how, because nobody knows how to do everything from the minute they’re born and that’s why they have to learn how. By practicing. With the cardboard and the laces, and… well, apparently he’s supposed to learn how to read this year. In first grade. We’ll see how that goes, TEACHER.

First grade! I remember calculating, after he was born, just how long it would be before we would stop having to pay for childcare. Back then, the 2013-14 academic year seemed so far away. But it is now upon us! Except, EXCEPT, that the school board, in its infinite wisdom and cruelty, has decided to torture parents like me by scheduling a teacher’s professional development (or PD) day FOR THE DAY AFTER LABOUR DAY. Because what most of us need after an entire summer spent with children is a four-day long weekend.

Followed almost immediately by Rosh Hashanah. This year, the kids both have teachers we’ve had before, which means that at least Rachel and I don’t have to go in and give them the “We’re a two-mom family” talk. (Although I will admit, it never hurts to do a refresher on these, but, again, The 11 Days.) I’m not sure, however, that we’ve been entirely up to speed on the “We’re also Jewish” talk – and, for the record, while teachers have been generally unfazed by the two-mom thing, they often seem entirely flummoxed by the whole Jewish thing: You mean it isn’t really acceptable to schedule an entire month of Christmas activities during December? Who knew?

I knew. I really did, as did all the human rights boards, etc., but that’s what happens when you live in a small town where Jews are so much rarer than queers.

So. Summer. Labour Day (spelled with a U, because I am Canadian), PD day, one full day of school (which is also the first day of Rosh Hashanah, but our synagogue is so small that we have children’s services only on the second day), synagogue on Friday.

And then, next week, five full, sweet, uninterrupted, days of school. And five more the week after that. And the week after that. And the week after that.

Happy new year.



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  1. I had no idea we were supposed to have a “we’re a two mom family” talk with the teachers! Adding it to my list!

    • At our preschool, I hastily scribbled it on the “getting to know your kid” paperwork under “anything else we should know?” And then handed it to the teacher on the first day because I forgot to send it in earlier. Awkward!

      • And better than not a’tall, brother Levi! 🙂

        You know what, Casey: you’re not *supposed* to have “the talk,” necessarily, but I promise you a moment will come up when the teacher will stumble over an assumption, even a really well-meaning one, or a really proactive one but not accurate to your family. Among folks with open hearts, not much of any of this is a big deal or a problem. But in my experience, even super-progressive allies can feel uncertain about what to say, with what language, and so on.

        Our first year in preschool, our daughter came home sad and confused on Mother’s day with a gift for my partner, and a half-assed thing for me that she was told to add in, even though we celebrate me on Father’s Day and call it Baba’s Day in our family. I said all this to the preschool teachers, but it was just non-normative for them, and they didn’t remember the first year. (I got nothing from her on father’s day either). We all felt bad. Things got way better later, by the time our younger son was done with preschool.

        I believe we who are re-crafting family in this generation are doing something vital for family in general – expanding it in the direction of love, building networks of human interdependency that only exist because of effort and trust, never accident or presumption. But this is new to many, even if welcome.

        I model for all my kids’ caregivers the direct, open language and reference I want them to feel empowered to have. When they hear me describe our family (it’s never a huge freighted deal, but it’s always as important as disclosing a peanut allergy or whatever), they get the green light I need them to have, indicating that they can always come to me with any questions whatsoever.

        Big tome of a reply here. But in my experience (peppered with super-well meaning straight allies), your kids’ teachers and caregivers are grateful for whatever education & support you give them. It’s a brave new world for them, too. 🙂

  2. For the record, we’ve never had a “we’re a two mom family” talk with teachers.

  3. Montessori snob!

    No, but really. Have you never had a situation where a teacher’s assumptions or language about your family (like, reference to absent “dad” vs. present “donor” or whatever) has been a problem? Or even a wrinkle? Does your kids’ school already have LGBT family-friendly curriculum & policies & forms & all? Man, I would love to know what we’re all experiencing (I smell a site poll baking in the oven!)

    • We had an issue at Roozle’s Montessori school where another child was a bit obsessed with asking us questions about our family and telling us that we couldn’t have two moms and that it was weird and gross. The teachers handled it POORLY (basically leaving it up to us to deal with on our own with a kid who wasn’t even in R’s class). It happened only about a month into her first year of school there, so they had a big meeting about it with all the teachers to make sure they handle something like that better. We’ve never had any issues with teachers saying or doing the “wrong” thing or causing any kind of wrinkle. Maybe because there were two 2-mom families in one class? There will be in R’s new school too and lots more in the school who have gone before us, but we will still check in a bit. I did notice they have Tango Makes Three on the shelf! Woohoo!

      • As it turns out, we didn’t get the teachers I thought we were getting, so I just had the talk now. it took 5 min.The one time we didn’t do it, the teacher very clearly thought that one or both of us had been married to a man, had kids, divorced, and then got together after the fact. It took several conversations to (no pun intended) straighten her out, and when we finally managed to get the message across, she said, “Oh, well that’s almost normal these days.”

        Head em off at the pass, say I.

        • We finally just found out (after two weeks of school) just who our son’s kindergarten teacher is going to be so now that the kids won’t be getting juggled between classes I get to have that talk with the teacher. Only our family did start out with me being married to the kids’ dad and then divorcing and now I’m with my partner. Its a confusing mess and I’m not sure I’m ready to field the questions that are likely/possible(?) to come from the talk…

        • With apologies to Kate Hudson, et al.

          almost normal

  4. Arg! I have forgotten how to do polls on Facebook (or they have changed it). Otherwise, I would totally put out a poll for you!

  5. Pingback: Mama Non Grata » Blog Archive » On shoelaces and Frisbees (or, stuff I wrote other places)

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