Wednesday, May 04, 2005


September 7, 2004: Daughter and I arrive at school at 7:55 a.m.

May 4, 2005: I wake up Daughter at 7:55 a.m.

That should give you a hint of the inertia I am battling these days.

School begins promptly at 8:30. I draw some comfort from the fact that when we arrived at school today at 8:28, only five other children (out of her class of 22) had arrived. Right now, most of my friends with children are pretty much over the whole school year business.

We’re over getting them out the door in the morning; a process that is best compared to pushing tapioca pudding uphill with a colander. You don’t really have a full understanding of the concept of eternity until you watch a small child eat a bowl of cereal.

We’re over discussing elementary school options and passing along rumors about the selection process for certain hot schools (“…I hear they’re only interested in same-sex parents with woodworking skills.”).

Certain members of my crowd are over being wait-listed for their school of choice -- a state they can remain in until the first week of September, when the enrollment finally gets settled. I sometimes imagine how it happens: one child at the hottest school in town has a parent who gets transferred suddenly. The mother calls the headmistress apologetically -- so sorry, but Branford is coming with us to Laos, so he won’t be going to your school, which starts in two days. At that moment, every mother in Los Angeles with a kid on a wait-list feels a rippling breeze as the wait-list phone numbers are cracked open. Child #1 is offered a spot at School A, which opens a spot at School B, which is quickly filled by Child #2, and so on throughout the city. Money changes hands, regulation shoes are quickly bought, and before 18 hours have passed, the game of Private School Musical Chairs has answered the prayers of forty or so families. The parents of the still wait-listed kids come together to do the traditional autumn dance: Elementary Schools Are All Pretty Much Alike and We’re Fine Where We Are.

I am certainly over the lunch-box. Please note the plummeting quality of Daughter’s lunchtime menu:

September: Home-baked goods, sliced vegetables, note of encouragement.

January: Thawed pizza slice, box of organic juice, Fruit Roll-up.

Today: Applesauce cup, breakfast bar, pretzels.

Another week and I will be sending her shirt cardboard smeared with jelly. Clearly, I had to get to the grocery store before the state intervened. After school, we headed off to the store. Once inside, Daughter saw a display and said prayerfully, “Nuts”.

“Go on,” I said kindly. “Pick whatever kind you want to eat”. It’s not Aristotle Onassis naming a yacht after his daughter, but I felt reasonably munificent. Daughter beetled over and looked thoughtfully at the Brazil nuts while disdaining the walnuts. I then noticed a woman in her 70’s watching the whole thing. She had the faintest trace of disdain in her brow. Her gaze lingered.

“My daughter likes nuts” I volunteered, because it pleases me to state the obvious.

“When my kids were young,” she said flatly “they ate whatever was put in front of them”

Oh, no. A parenting expert. With women of a certain age who know everything but A) your kid or B) your situation, you can either start a screaming catfight or roll over and show your white maternal underbelly right away.

I rolled.

“Well,” I said neutrally, “I’m sure your children turned out wonderfully. Maybe moms these days give their kids too much of a say”.

Having taken away all of her fun, she came back with a resigned “That’s what I tell my daughter”. I grabbed my Daughter, by now holding her bag of pecans, and walked off. Having bitten my tongue as a mark of respect for an older person, I am now going to rail at her in the comfort of my own blog.

“Lady, let me give you a few pertinent facts. First of all, she doesn’t pick all her food. If she did, our kitchen would contain only macaroni and cheese, candy hearts and toast. She does get a few situations where she may be in control, like picking what kind of nuts she has. What the hell do I care? Nuts have all those…things I am currently forgetting the names of which are good for you. And yes, I could remind her of my hegemony over her by sanctioning her snack food, but if I don’t give her the occasional taste of autonomy she will run off at 14 with her gym teacher. So, in closing, if you want to remind someone my age about how be a mother, please call your daughter. But she’s probably blocked your number!”

You want to question my judgment? I suggest coming back in September.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Shirt cardboard smeared with jelly..." I'll be laughing at that all week. My son, however, would still eat it, so it's worth a try.


10:57 PM  

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