Back-to-School Parents You Will Meet Along the Way

As the school year begins, I can’t help feeling a little misty eyed at the memories of that first day of kindergarten with each of my kids. I can picture them now: Their clothes are bright and clean – free of ketchup stains, wrinkles, laundry-fading and that stinky kid school smell. (What is that, anyway? Kind of a mixture of playground sweat, dirt and industrial floor cleaner.) Their sweet little faces are open and excited. Backpacks are light and unencumbered with the flotsam of decaying lunches, handouts, childish artwork and worksheets.

Their little 5-year-old selves were ready to learn, play and make new friends on their first day. The parents, on the other hand, were either joyfully skipping off to work or yoga class or tennis or the coffee shop or whatever they do when the kids go to school or they were gathering in the lunchroom to commiserate over donuts because they were finding it a little difficult to leave.

The donuts are a clever diversion to get the clingy parents away from the classroom door. I was not a skipping-away mom. I was a donut mom.

But, I’m not going to look back on the early elementary years with sentimental nostalgia. I’m here to tell you about the Parents You Will Meet Along the Way.

The Savior Parent. This mom or dad cannot stand to see their child fail. The child will make perfect scores on everything, and you will especially notice these parents when the class is assigned a project from home. The projects from home will be professionally done. While your child’s project may be a stained and illegible poster board with odd drawings and perhaps scraps of construction paper or bits of a younger sibling’s hair glued to it, the Savior Parent’s child will have possibly conducted a successful heart transplant from a mouse to a hamster, with the animals in a cage accompanied by graphs, video and a full lab report. If the child doesn’t consistently excel, you will notice that Savior Parent will blame the teacher for doing a Bad Job. Accept that your child cannot win in this situation.

The Passive-Aggressive Parent. You will recognize this parent by backhanded compliments such as: “Oh, I see you let your child dress herself this morning. That’s so open of you. Don’t you just love it when kids wear shoes that don’t match and they’re on the wrong feet? So cute.” These parents will also try to undermine your parenting confidence by telling you that they’re taking their 5-year-old to a two-hour chamber music performance and ask if you and your child might be going, knowing full well that you are not. This parent excels at giving pitying looks.

The Hip Parent. The Hip Parents roll into PTA meetings in expensive clothes, looking casually cool, apparently without trying. They don’t follow conventional rules such as the school calendar. They may miss a few weeks here and there. After all, it’s more important for their children to experience Switzerland than to be in school. Hip parents’ kids may often be tired during the school day from going to all the concerts at the BOK, or sometimes in other cities.

The Popular Parent. This parent may overlap somewhat with the Hip Parent, but generally attracts a certain clique. They enjoy talking about things that you have been left out of – kind of like in middle school.

The Me-Too Mom (not to be confused with #metoo). This parent will often have a child who is having difficulty at school. Or, she may feel that what is being taught is not rigorous enough, or that there is not enough homework, or that there is too much homework, or too much or not enough whatever. Rather than talking to the teacher, school counselor or the administrator, this parent prefers to call all the other parents in the class to create a group mentality to support her complaint. It can feel very self-righteous and gossipy, which is super fun. I have been caught up in this one before, and it is a mistake – especially if the parent starts having secret parent meetings off-site. Do not get sucked in. If you have a problem with your child, go to the teacher.

The PTA Mom or Dad. Whoever is taking on the job of PTA President, which has basically become a full-time fundraising position, is a saint. Help this person in any way you can.

The Overly Involved Emotional Parent. This parent insists on knowing everything his or her child is thinking and feeling at all times so that he or she can “fix” it if the child feels sad, angry or anything other than happy. This parent likes to get overly involved in normal childhood squabbles and make them into much, much bigger events than they actually are. Often, this parent likes to encourage boy/girl “dating” at an early age and loves to talk about who their child “likes” of the opposite sex. (Could be latent homophobia?)

The Authoritarian Parent. This parent loves to bring his or her bossy attitude to every kid at the school. He or she enjoys disciplining other people’s children. Authoritarian Parents are very easily spotted at athletic events yelling at children on the field or getting into altercations with the parents of the opposing team.

The Village Parents. No matter what parents you meet, they will become the village for your child. Understand them. Embrace them. Appreciate them. I am grateful for those adults in my children’s lives – other parents, teachers, coaches, administrators – who helped me in the difficult, joyful and sometimes painful years of child-rearing. These people are your village. Learn from them. Love them.

Categories: Editor’s Blog