If you were to offer me $10 million to do high school over again, I would turn you down before you could finish your sentence. It wouldn't matter if I were allowed to take with me all the hindsight I've collected since tossing my mortar board out the window of my mother's white Toyota Corolla with the lapis-blue interior. You could sweeten the pot with Elin Nordegren's $100-million divorce settlement from her naughty little Tiger and I might entertain reliving the misery.
Oh, those many brooding days spent slumped against the cold brick of East High School on the corner of 13th East and Ninth South, bangs draped across my dark-lined eyes, chain-smoking clove cigarettes while skipping Mr. Koenig's typing class. I never could stand his greasy comb-over or his resenting scowl or his plaid, short-sleeve, button-down shirts or, most especially, his shiny, shiny patent-leather shoes. I dreaded, with all the force of my scornful teenage angst, the way he trolled the rows with his hovering red pen, ready to slash it across my page of typos, his enormous belly pushing against my shoulder as he leaned in to make his mark.
Ewww. No. Not even Elin's hush money is enough to make me endure the pettiness, the hormones, the mean people and—worse—the stupid people. God, those stupid people. And now they friend-request me on Facebook? Ignore.
The irony in this scenario is that I am going back, and I'm not getting paid to do it. That's right: I'm going to do it all again, gratis! And I'm not just doing high school. I'm doing K through 12.
Because I'm a parent, you see. And this educational do-over is the part of being a parent that nobody ever warns you about. It's the part I certainly didn't ponder with any amount of critical thought when I decided to be a mother. I sort of figured you just had to make it until the kid's 5 and then send her off down the road with her princess backpack and her lunch box and she'd pop out of Harvard at the end.
But I cozied up to Harsh Reality last week as I sat down for kindergarten orientation in the library of my daughter's new school. By the time Sam and I filed in to the parents-only event, we were relegated to the child-sized seats at the front of the room. My ass didn't fit on the chair like it used to, but I had no time to harrumph about this because I was suffering a flashback comparable with those once induced by the LSD I took in my teens. Hmmm—maybe it was me, and not Mr. Koenig, who was the jerk, after all.
The days will be long for my girl, jam-packed with math, reading (independent and aloud), writing (modeled, shared, interactive) and social studies. Granted, despite the endless budget cuts, there is one very generous 20-minute block of each day dedicated entirely to PE, music and art, so it's not like she won't have an outlet. Important, too, because when she gets home, she'll need to focus on the homework.
There will be lots of that apparently—a weekly packet full of it—and You Know Who will be sitting at the dining-room table doing the math, the reading, the writing, the social studies. I started to sweat as I read the information packet, remembering too vividly the many nights of crying over Algebra III equations with my tense and utterly helpless mother next to me. Oh my God, people! What did I get myself into?
I was trying to snap out of my PTSD when I became aware of another thing I hadn't fully internalized but which became shockingly clear to me that night in the library: Those stupid people from high school? They grew up and became stupid parents. And they were sitting behind me, not raising their hands, blurting out questions willy-nilly, talking over the teachers and other patiently waiting parents.
“But, my little Caeidyn has to eat before the 11:15 snack time. Can he just sit quietly at his desk and eat when he gets hungry?” No. He'll adapt. “You said that there's no food allowed on birthdays. But, can I bring cupcakes for little Makynzie?” No. You may bring pencils—. “How about popsicles?” Nope. No food. “So, what you're saying is that Jaelyinn can't bring cookies for the class on her special day?” Collective gasp.
That was it. “Must we really engage in this line of discussion for 10 minutes?!?” I hissed at the clodpates. “They. Said. No. Food. Is it edible? Yes? Then you can't bring it! And what the hell kind of name is Jaelyinn, anyway?!?”
It's been proven (by researchers at MIT, among others) that résumés topped with “black-sounding names” generate fewer job interviews than those bearing names more phonetically pleasing to the Aryan ear. But employers would do well to know that people with creatively spelled WASPy names that include lots of consecutive vowels (unlike mine, of course) tend to be coddled, entitled pricks who will call in sick to work on their first day. Or ask for a nap after their lunch break.
OK, so I didn't really blow that night in the library. I rolled with it. I took my lumps and a lot of deep breaths. I sat quietly taking notes, since that's what a good student does. I might have even thrown up a little prayer to the friendship gods asking, Please, I'll do anything without complaint—even division of fractions!—so long as you don't let my child become besties with Jaelyinn.
Because that fate might just drive me to black eyeliner and a carton of cloves.
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