Como te llamas?

>> Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kindergarten is kicking my ass.

God, that would be funny if it wasn’t true. But kindergarten should have a giant flashing neon sign above it that shouts, “WARNING: Giant learning curve ahead! You might not make it! (Counseling available upon request.)”

The Forms

Every other day, something new comes home in Elizabeth’s folder that I need to attend to: Spanish classes, sports classes, Girl Scout groups, does she want to participate in this art project and if so sign here, school picture order forms to complete, pictures for her to color and contests for her to enter, permission slips to sign, book fairs to attend and books to purchase, catalogs of products that we’re supposed to sell if we love our child and her school. It’s endless.

The Schedule

Mondays and Thursdays are P.E. days. Tuesday is Sharing day. Wednesday is the “short day”. Monday afternoon is Spanish class. Wednesday afternoon is soccer. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like too much to remember, especially if you have more than one kid in public school and you’ve been doing this for a few years, but this is new to me.

Now there is so much to remember that I am constantly paranoid that I’ve forgotten something. Is it P.E. day? Does she wear dress shoes or tennis shoes? Did we listen to her Spanish Learning CD? What is her sharing day assignment? Did she memorize the nursery rhyme, bring the “environmental print” (whatever that is), and memorize the speech entitled “What makes me a good citizen”? Did we practice the Spanish phrases? Is today soccer day? Did I remember to pack her soccer clothes? Did I turn in the permission slip?


The Lunches

School lunches were better when I was a kid. Many schools today don’t have ovens or stoves so the food is preprocessed and microwaved. That’s why we pack her lunch.

But I don’t know what to pack. Sure, I’ve seen web sites with great suggestions. But there’s a lot of planning that goes with it. After all, I can’t make a turkey sandwich one day, soup and grilled cheese the next, and a tortilla wrap the next. Why? Because before you know it, the tortillas have gone bad because I forgot to freeze them, the turkey has gone bad because I only used it twice in two weeks, half the soup is wasted (also because I forgot to freeze it, but who’s going to freeze half a can of soup anyway?), and the block of cheese I bought (in order to save money instead of buying those expensive cheese sticks) has gone bad, too. I might as well take my paycheck directly to the paper shredder.

I just don’t know how to think like this. I finally got my head wrapped around dinners for four, but this daily lunch planning has my head spinning. Needless to say, Elizabeth is eating a LOT of turkey sandwiches and carrot sticks. A. LOT.

The Homework, Homework, Homework

Homework began in earnest October 1st, and from what we’ve seen so far, it’s going to be a long, difficult road. Elizabeth usually doesn’t mind starting her homework, it’s finishing that’s the problem. She gets distracted. She remembers a million other things she’d rather be doing, like pretending her pencils are people, or drawing rainbows.

The other night, after the girls had gone to bed, I saw Michael sitting on the couch, holding his head and sighing.

"What’s wrong?" I asked.

"Elizabeth didn’t want to do her homework -- she didn’t want to do it right."

The assignment: Write your name three times on lined paper -- something she could do easily.

Remember the lined paper, with the solid top and bottom lines and a dotted line in between? Remember how you’re supposed to line the letters perfectly between those lines. This is the HEIGHT of boredom for Elizabeth. Why write neatly when you can write creatively? Why make all the letters the same size when you can write some of the letters BIG and some teeny-weeny and some slanted and some straight? Why?

I looked at the homework and saw a piece of paper with everyone’s name printed on it fairly neatly.

“Well, that’s pretty good,” I said.

“That’s mine,” Michael said.


I, too, know the trials of getting Elizabeth to concentrate on her homework. But the fact is, neither of us wants to do homework -- and trust me, we both have homework. My homework is corralling her into her seat. My homework is reading through her assignments and staying with her to make sure she understands them and does the work. My homework is practicing Spanish with her -- and let me tell you, it’s not easy for me. I can’t roll my Rs for crap and I sound like a hick when I try to speak Spanish. I imagine her teacher cringes when Elizabeth comes to school speaking Spanish with my accent. Plus, all those new words pass right over my brain and land on the floor. My brain is full. There’s no more room at the mental inn.

How am I doing? Muy mal.

I’m not sure what I expected. I guess I thought Elizabeth would sit happily at the kitchen table and do her homework mostly on her own while I cooked supper. Occasionally, I’d help out with a difficult question, but all in all it would be a pleasant, easy-going experience.

So, numero uno problem? Unrealistic Expectations.

Numero dos problemo? I’m beat.

I’ve had such a busy month -- a huge deadline at work and political and personal stresses that are totally busting my balls. Last night I tried to explain how I’m feeling. Basically I feel like I’ve been placed inside a rickety old barrel with nails and splinters and then pushed down a steep rocky hill, and while I was bumping down the hill, someone was yelling at me at the same time.

So when I come home, I desperately need a break. But there’s no time for a break. There’s cooking and homework and threatening and washing dishes and bathing girls and getting wet and packing lunches and getting clothes ready for tomorrow and filling out forms and packing Elizabeth’s homework.

That’s why this homework thing is making me extra grumpy which, ironically, is turning me into a total bitch about it because I just want it done. Stop playing with your pencils. Are you doing your homework? Focus! If you don’t do your homework you won’t get a good job and you won’t be able to afford super hero costumes or cookies or be able to go to Disneyland ever again. Comprende? Hey Lizzy -- Como te llamas? I said what’s your name in Spanish -- Como te llamas! Lizzy, I’m asking you a question. COMO TE LLAMAS?!

It’s not good.

I want to be better. I want to feel better. I want to be nice. I want to do homework with her willingly -- happily. I don’t want to be this stressed, overwhelmed, freaked-out mom. I want to do these parenting things easily and with good humor and love. I want to be able to step back and see how lucky I am to have public education and a healthy child. I want to be the Cheerful Mom of Endless Patience. Tell me, where is the spirit of Donna Reed? What have I become? What kind of mother am I that I cannot handle kindergarten of all things? Kindergarten?!

But I’m working on it. I’m taking stock -- working on a game plan. I dug out a portable file box from the garage to organize her many, many papers. On top of the file box is...guess what -- an “in” box. (Yes, she has an “in” box...and it’s full!) I also bought a dry-erase calendar on which to track her daily and weekly schedule of homework and activities. Currently, I am accepting donations for her Blackberry and personal secretary.

But until they arrive -- como me llamas?

Me llamo Ass Whipped.


Bookdiva October 5, 2008 at 1:15 PM  

I wish I could say something reassuring. But...





Until you stop caring (quite so much, about every little thing).
Then it's a lot easier.

When does that happen?
I'll let you know when I get there.

P.S. Donna Reed didn't work.

mimi of sexagenarian and the city,  October 7, 2008 at 12:46 PM  

i remember sitting up in my hospital bed after my first child was born and noticing that the bed looked like a was full of papers, forms to fill out, bits of information about breast-feeding and formula and different kinds of car-seats....they didn't go away, these papers, till she got to sophomore year in college.

still: that sounds like an awful lot for just kindergarten!

i'm sure it was simpler when i was in kindergarten, but....

good luck, melissa.

xx mimi

Dawn October 8, 2008 at 4:53 PM  

I'm so not ready.

When did this all get so hard?

We're all screwed.

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