Flashback Monday: Board Meeting or School Play?

by Abby on October 1, 2012

I’m still recovering from a weekend away — more on that next time — so while I’m playing catch-up on the laundry, dishes, and school paperwork that SHOCKINGLY were not completed for me while I was gone, please weigh in on this post I wrote a few months ago.

Board Meeting or School Play?

School playWhenever there are debates about working mothers – say, when a pregnant woman is named CEO of a major internet company – people never fail to bring this up: at some point, all working moms will have to make the tough decision whether to attend the big board meeting or the school play.

I’m here to tell those moms to relax. I’ve attended ALL those school plays and you’re not missing much.

I’m fortunate that my job as a freelance writer affords me the freedom and flexibility to attend most school functions, which are inevitably scheduled for smack in the middle of the day, during the baby’s nap, and/or at rush hour. Then they either:

A) start promptly and are over in 20 min., which is longer than it took you to find parking,

B) start late and include interminable song selections from every other class before it’s your child’s turn, or

C) are held in a jam-packed, overheated auditorium where your view is blocked by a dad filming the entire show on his iPad.

If you are attending the event with a younger sibling, you’ll be lucky if you even SEE your child’s performance because you will more likely be stuck taking your toddler to the bathroom for the 4th time or standing in the hall to avoid noise complaints and dirty looks from other audience members.

And all this is assuming, of course, that your child even WANTS you there. Remember the Muffins with Mommy debacle? Well, the Kindergarten Nursery Rhyme Recital of 2012 comes a close second on the Excruciating School Activities Scale. Each child in my son’s class had to choose, memorize, and recite a nursery rhyme in costume in front of the whole class and their families. Initially, my son outright refused, citing stage fright. Finally, he was coaxed forced into participating. People, it was painful to watch. PAINFUL.

But first, we had to sit through at least 4 renditions of “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” by little girls dressed in their fanciest frocks. We could hardly hear them over the panting of the cotton-ball covered dog who was brought it to serve as the lamb in “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The kid who did “3 Blind Mice” was a cut-up, with dark glasses and a cane. Then there was my son. With his teacher coaching him from the sidelines, he mumbled his rhyme into his elbow. I can’t tell you what it was because I couldn’t HEAR it! My toddler skipped his nap for THAT?!

The Christmas concert ran for well over an hour in a stuffy gymnasium filled with hearing-impaired grandparents, crying babies, and impatient parents checking their iPhones. On stage, a couple Broadway-bound kids belted out the songs while the other kids (OK, mine) were picking their noses and poking their friends, oblivious to all the dedicated parents who had made time in their busy days to show up and support their beloved offspring.

Frankly, I think the people who fret about missing school plays are projecting their own guilt onto the rest of us. By all means, make an effort to attend a couple of the special events, especially if it’s important to your child. But there is absolutely no need to beat yourself up if you can’t make it to all of them. That’s what dads and grandparents are for!

And seriously, you’re not going to ruin your kid’s life if you miss some stuff over the years. I’m a case in point. My parents never attended any of my tennis matches or track meets in high school. NOT ANY. I pointed this out to my mom a couple of years ago when we were discussing working vs. stay-at-home moms. She looked flabbergasted for a moment and then replied, “We didn’t know you WANTED us to!”

Well, damn. I don’t even remember if I DID want them to come, or if it was just something that had occurred to me now, in the midst of my own mom-guilt. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because I’m not scarred for life. Much. Although I never did make it to Wimbledon, and I place the blame squarely on my parents for that. If there’s one thing that all of us, working or SAHMs, can agree on, it’s “blame your parents for everything.” I’m sure our kids will do the same to us one day.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Cara October 1, 2012 at 11:36 am

Since my daughter is currently 10 months old, I don’t have much of an opinion on me attending all kinds of school functions (though I work nearly an hour away from her daycare and what will be her elementary school, so there will definitely be missed events in her future).
I do remember my parents at events though, and with a few exceptions, I didn’t much care if they were there. There were always a few events every year I wanted them at (the big school play) but generally, I didn’t care either way. They never went to a single debate competition (which was MORE than fine with me) but went to every taekwondo tournament (because one of them always had to drive me) and I would have been perfectly happy had they not.

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Abby October 2, 2012 at 10:06 am

That’s interesting, Cara, thanks for sharing. I wonder how many other parents are wracked with guilt when their kids don’t even care that much!

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Kristy S. October 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm

You know this one hits close to home for me now given I am writing an essay on how I left my career to be a stay at home mom in part thinking about all I was missing out on with my kids. I love your portrayal of school events. We have our first “character” assembly this week where my oldest is being recognized for “responsibility”. I am sure our assembly will play out like ones you mention…especially since the younger sibling who just turned 3 and is potty training has to come with me. Maybe on second thought, her Dad should just go. Or better yet, he should just go and take the 3 yo with him too!

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Abby October 2, 2012 at 10:07 am

I see no reason why dads, grandparents, even babysitters or friends’ parents can’t “count” towards attendance at events important to our kids. Be sure to sit near the aisle for those last-minute potty breaks!

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Corey Feldman October 2, 2012 at 10:36 am

My kids haven’t gotten to the school play stage yet, but I know I will miss a lot and that saddens me. But the grass is always greener I suppose!

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