We now have three successful open houses under our belts, and by successful I mean we showed up, shook hands, and shuffled out as quickly as possible. When you live in a town as small as ours, focus is key to getting in and getting out in under an hour. I left each school with the expected amount of parental homework including forms to be returned to everyone from the teacher to the President.
On the way home, the kids and I talked about what they were and weren’t excited about for this upcoming year. It was much of the same as any other year. They were excited to see their friends, meet the cool science teacher’s pet lizard, and have the high school football team visit their schools on game days. They were NOT excited about getting up early, riding the bus, and of course, homework.
I was in the midst of getting the kids tucked in for bed much earlier than they preferred (Sorry guys, but we have to get back on our school schedule!) when one of my younger mommy friends texted me with questions about open house and expectations when starting school. Knowing her child is only three years old, I was partly impressed and partly concerned she was worrying about these things already.
Then I realized she’d fallen victim to a social media post of an “Open House Overachiever Pinterest Mom,” or the OHOPM. Yes, this is a real thing. The post read something like what a panic attack feels like. This poor OHOPM was frazzled about everything from whether her attire was fancy enough to whether the professionally printed teacher gift she ordered would be ready in time for open house. Seriously? The only gift I brought was my own pen to use to fill out all of those required forms. My logic was I’d avoid inadvertently leaving the classroom with one of her supplies AND any germs one of those third-graders might have sneezed on her pen. I guess MY gift was actually for both of us.
My poor friend immediately panicked and asked me if this is REALLY how things are now. “Is this what I have to look forward to next year? Why the heck is it so stressful? Why do you have to give the teacher a gift before school even starts? Why do you have to dress up? I’m soooo gonna fail at this game. Why is it such a big deal nowadays?”
I’ve been on both sides of this coin, mainly as a parent but also as a teacher, so I felt comfortable with the advice I gave her. I assured her this is NOT par for most parents’ courses, this was only par for the course of the OHOPM, who will most likely reach sudden and irreversible burnout by the time her children reach middle school.
I eased her mind about the dress code for this event – there isn’t one. Most of us didn’t overthink our outfits because we were already dressed from work or have the common sense to know open house is a casual meet and greet, not a teacher-bribing pageant. I didn’t see a single slovenly dressed parent, nor did I see anyone in a ball gown, but it wouldn’t have mattered if I had.
You want to give your teacher a gift? Teach your child manners, and his teacher’s name. They really appreciate that.
Do the homework the teacher gives you. Yes it’s a lot of paperwork but it’s nominal compared to the amount of paperwork your child’s teacher will do on behalf of her students this year. Just do it, and send it back to school with them on the first day.
Tell her how your child is getting home from school. If a teacher gets nothing else from you that night, it should be the transportation information. Sure, teachers like presents, but the night of open house follows a week of crazed pre-planning that leads to a crucial moment in time when parents check “bus” or “car” and all becomes right with the world, at least until the first day of school. These vital details ensure your child ends up where they’re supposed to, because a teacher’s biggest fear is sending a student to the wrong place.
One last thing – update your emergency contacts. This is invaluable in the off chance your child starts blowing chunks and you can’t be reached because you’re taking a nap with your phone on silent. This is purely hypothetical.
Don’t kill yourself trying to wow or fool the teacher – she knows. Unless this is her first year teaching, she’s seen moms like you and me and many others before. She knows what you’re doing, and you may just frighten her a little or inadvertently label yourself as the “high strung momma with a perfect child,” or the HSMWPC. I’m sure I have a label of my own, like MOFOWSKWTDBSTHF, the “mom of four who should know what to do but seems to have forgotten.” The bottom line is there’s no gift big enough for a parent to win the new teacher’s unbridled affection before the first day of school – unless it’s a car. A car might do it.
I met my daughter’s third grade teacher last night and she had it all: a winning personality, a doctorate in education, and suckers for her new babies to grab on the way out. She had a wicked organization system in place to save her a few steps in the future, and I could tell this wasn’t her first rodeo. It was simple and efficient, and that’s how it ought to be. As always, I asked her if she had any classroom needs (yes, I periodically send essentials – and coffee – to the classroom so she doesn’t have to buy them with her own money), and her advice was to wait until Octoberish when all the other class contributions have waned and send the basics: Kleenex, Lysol wipes, and pencils. She swore her little sweeties must eat theirs as fast as they go through them.
There may have been a point in my life when I would have been threatened or intimidated by the “bedazzled gift-basket bearing mom,” or BGBBM, but not anymore. As a matter of fact, my Pinterest page may be expired from lack of use. I used to overdo things like teacher gifts and picture-perfect lunches, but after working in a classroom my perspective changed and I found the bulk of those I worked with appreciated the simple things. And gift cards. Teachers always love gift cards.
As I attempted to doze off last night, my highly organized high-schooler brought me a stack of school papers to sign – at midnight. For her, there is no wrong time to organize and plan ahead. I literally want to be her when I grow up.
I signed my name on the dotted line and noticed some extra questions at the bottom.
Is your child allergic to anything?
Yes. Sleep and silence.
Do my children have any special needs the teachers need to be aware of? Oh, THIS would be fun.
Yes. She’s always hungry. Like always. Have snacks or a vending machine nearby or you may experience her hangry side.
He’s an exceptionally slow typist. Just let him write it out to save yourself a few grey hairs or permanent balding.
Much like Olaf, she likes warm hugs, like every five minutes, although this may not be an appropriate need to meet in the classroom.
He asks a lot of questions. When you think there are no more questions you could possible answer, he has another.
She may correct you when you answer her question, and don’t be surprised if she’s right.
I think I’ve just become the MOFOWISOH, or “mom of four with an inappropriate sense of humor.” I’ve definitely lightened up over the years, and life experiences have taught me less is more and simpler is better. But that’s what works for me. If you want to knit your child’s teacher a sweater before the first day of school then follow Chandler Bing’s advice and “Knit, good woman, knit!” If you just want to drop your child off on the first day and drive to the beach and have a mimosa, knock yourself out. Just wake up in time to pick her up from school. If you aren’t sure where you fall on the crazy mom spectrum (yes, we are ALL a little bit crazy), don’t be intimidated by other mamas’ styles. It really does take all kinds of kinds. You just do you.
For my many beloved teacher friends out there about to start another exciting year – good luck! My wish for you is more smiles than tears (for you and your students), more touts than tantrums, and more coffee than coughs. Take your vitamin C! If you can, tell those mamas and daddies what you need, because you know they will come bearing gifts. Otherwise, you may just end up with a freshly knit bedazzled sweater and hat to match your first day of school outfit.