Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Shopping list: Basketballs. Icing. Cash. World Peace.

Apparently, the children in El Saalvador never smile. Or laugh. They are sad all the time. This according to Mermaid Girl, after she viewed a slide show at school promoting the school's Siister Schools program. "We have to buy them paper," she declared. "And balls. Do we have any balls around the house that we could send them?"

Well, no, we have no balls around the house. (I will refrain from overtly making a crude joke at this juncture but will point out that the only male member of our household, Shy Kitty, was spayed at a tender age.) When I sorted through the voluminous papers in her (pink!) backpack and found the Siister Schools flyer, I found that they prefer new materials anyway. And, indeed, school supplies and sports equipment are high on the wish list.

Also, we are signed up for not one but two Giving Tree stars at MG's after-school program. One is for a 7-year-old girl who wants Baarbie, Hello Kittty, or "anything pink." We figured we can't really get away with buying her a Baarbie when we won't get one for MG, but we're down with the kitty and the pink stuff.

The other star is for another 7-year-old girl, who wants "reading books, math books, a globe or a dictionary." !! How could we resist? Even MG was charmed. "Let's get her a globe!" she begged. We left the star up on the bulletin board for a while-- we had Kitty Girl's star already and didn't want to be greedy--but as of this evening, almost all the stars had been picked except that one. Have people no souls?! Who could deny this child her dictionary while grabbing up stars for all those kids who want action figures and video games?

So, now we have two. And we're supposed to put in money for the aftercare teachers' bonus, cash preferred but too bad as we have almost no hassle-free opportunity to access cash these days since our favorite bank machines went fee-based. Checks, credit cards, we got it, but cash we ain't got. So the hapless volunteer parent will be getting a check from us.

Oh, and MG's class is making gingerbread houses, and everyone's supposed to bring in a box each of graham crackers and a can of frosting, plus whatever else to decorate them.

And Kindergarten Fun Night is next Wednesday, and everyone's supposed to bring in god knows what for that, too.

Which is all by way of saying that, even though we went to Trader Joe's the other day and are well-stocked for groceries, MG and RW are out shopping this evening, for all the aforementioned items. They left over an hour ago. MG's bedtime was fourteen minutes ago, and they're not back yet.

Okay, I'm glad she cares about the kids in El Salvador and the kids across town and I'm glad the aftercare teachers are so good and they totally, totally deserve a bonus, and I'm glad the class is making gingerbread houses, and though I'm dubious about the true fun quotient to be experienced during Kindergarten Fun Night, I'm sure it's a fine idea.

My question is: why is this so much more complex than it was last year?

I know why, actually: last year she was in full-time childcare, this year she's in School. And day care. So, more places to be, more information to process, more papers to bring home, more stuff to do. Plus, School is more plugged in to the world, and that's a good thing. Also, there's a base of stay-at-home or part-time-working parents that's being assumed at MG's school. No one at the preschool was hocking us to send basketballs to kids in Latin America, because we were all two-working-parent families with little kids and getting through the day, plus occasionally writing a check, and pitching in during the odd weekend Work Party, was about all anyone could expect of us.

But...we're the same family we were last year. Our kid is older, but only a little bit older. We're not working any less. There have been no new hours magically added to the day. So all these expectations, even though they're a Good Thing, are sort of knocking us for a loop.

And I haven't even gotten into the Homework issue.

Parents of the world! Treasure your child's four-year-old year; it's as easy as things will get for quite a while!


Blogger jo(e) said...

I think what drives me most crazy about the elementary school years (I have four kids) is the sheer amount of paperwork that comes home every day in their backpacks.

There are always piles of paper on my kitchen table, waiting for me to sort through. And I'm always missing important stuff like permission slips.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Oh man, me too. I only have two kids in school (so far) and the volume of paper is staggering. I'm always sneaking stuff into the recycle bin and hoping no one will notice. My youngest will start preschool next year and I don't know how I'm going to manage. Franklin Planner, I guess.

3:24 PM  
Blogger GuusjeM said...

My daughters were at my school till they started middle school and then I switched them to a "smartypants yuppie" school. Ye Gads, what a difference when it came to parental contribution - in both money (for trips) and things such as graphing calculators. It only gets worse as they get older and pray to any and all Gods that MG does not want to be cheerleader or join the drill team.

1:48 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Guusje--yes! I feel like I didn't emphasize the Smartypants Yuppie aspect enough in this post. That's a lot of it: there's a base of parents with the time, money and motivation to make all this stuff happen. At the diverse neighborhood school MG isn't going to, I'm sure they don't assume parents can blithely send in money for all the field trips and etc., not to mention the time to chaperone and otherwise volunteer. (imagine all the volunteers they'll need to make those gingerbread houses!)

So basically, it's as we thought it would be: our kid is benefitting from the wealth of money and time available to her classmates and their parents. It means the bar is set higher for us as parents, which is what I was whining about above. But it bugs me on a deeper level that kids at other schools aren't getting to do this stuff.

Of course we could've put our kid where those values are and invested in the neighborhood schools. But *we* don't have enough extra that we could pour ourselves into that school, either.


3:00 PM  
Blogger Kiles said...

hi, I am pretty new to blogging and have only been doing it about a week. I love reading your blogs. I have 2 girls, 12 and 13, we have just paid out for a year 7 (end of high school here in Australia )Formal. By the time we paid for hair, clothes, make up, it was amazing how much we had spent.
Thanks for your great blogs.

8:38 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Hi, Kiles! welcome! The Year 7 Formal sounds like prom here. I shudder to think of how many years of special events we have ahead of us...

9:06 PM  

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