Dear Teachers, School Officials and PTA,
Thank you so much for providing my child with a wonderful school, great teachers, and very involved parent groups. Although I had high hopes for myself when my son started Elementary school, I fear I am not going to live up to my expectations. I was going to do things right, participate in all activities, and be a great Mom. Now I am clear that is not going to happen.
Let me start by saying, all is not lost. There are many things I have done to make you proud:
· Fed my kid breakfast almost every day.
· Made sure he was dressed in semi-clean clothes
· Got him to school on time or no more than 10 minutes late
· Only parked in the loading zone a handful of times.
· When I did park there, I always tried to “fast walk” to his classroom.
· Remembered his “sharing day” at least 50% of the time.
· Brought the camcorder, with a slightly charged battery, to each school performance.
· Volunteered in my son’s classroom and resisted the urge to wear a hospital mask.
Next, please let me make it clear that I am a Liberal, Earth Loving person. I believe in Global Warming and feed my kids organic chicken and non-antibiotic fed cow milk. I want to leave the world a better place for my children and my grandchildren. Unfortunately, there are two areas of school year that have simply kicked my ass.
TRASH FREE TUESDAY and WALK TO SCHOOL WEDNESDAY
It all started when my son came running home at the start of school and told me “Mom…Tuesday is TRASH FREE! I am going to save the planet so YOU need to go to this website and buy me one of these lunch boxes so I don’t ruin Mother Earth.” I thought to myself, “Of course I will help you, my little Al Gore!” I loved the idea. No more clogging up landfills or putting stuff in the trash! Amen! A joyous day filled with recycling and reusing…how could it go wrong?
At that moment, I remembered we had just bought a seemingly Earth friendly Superman lunchbox at Target for $10. I asked him if we could possibly wait until that one got old before we bought a new one. The look he gave me was devastating. It was as if I had just shot an endangered beluga whale. I quickly apologized, grabbed my computer, and got online.
As I looked at these highly overpriced, environmentally friendly lunches boxes, I realized it was simply a large plastic box that was divided into a few smaller plastic boxes. I had an overwhelming dislike for the creative stay-at-home mom who had come up with this idea and would now make a fortune from my parental guilt.
From the start, I didn’t think those things would work. If these things were so good, how come there was still such a large section for Ziploc bags at every grocery store? But who am I to stand between my son and his desire to stop Global Warming. I entered in my Visa number and hit order on his new, $50, astronautically designed, 5 compartment, stainless steel water bottle included, environmentally friendly lunchbox. Mom of the Year award here I come!
A few days later it arrived, and from the moment I met that lunch box, I hated it. Talk about a pain in the ass. Packing his lunch became an engineering project. Each compartment could only fit about 3 grapes and maybe 6 chips (if they were stacked perfectly on top of each other). I realized these lunch boxes would be great if you kid was anorexic, on a diet, or some type of modified fast. But if they were a regular kid who liked to eat regular amounts of food, you were screwed. I so missed my neat little plastic baggies, artificial flavored go-gurt tubes, and pre-packaged goldfish bags. To make matters worse, the lunch box included a built in dry erase board on the inner flap. I know you are thinking, “That is so genius. A lovely place to tell your kid how much you love them.” Here’s the thing, I don’t leave notes, its just not what I do. But now that empty white board was staring up at me and my guilt and anxiety became unbearable. That meant each day I had to think up something new and loving to write to my son that he could read and ponder while eating lunch. I quickly wrote, “Dear Jack, I hope you have a great day…and p.s. I hate trash free Tuesday.” It wasn’t perfect but it was the best I could do.
Turns out, I should have listened to Oprah and followed my intuition. That lunchbox did not work…at all. On the first day he used it, I got a call from the school. The teacher explained that when my son had opened his lunch box, the sandwich flew out of its airtight compartment, fell on the ground and ended up with dirt all over it. The applesauce I had carefully poured into container #3 had also spilled everywhere and my son was soaking wet. And the 5 chips I had jammed into container #2 couldn’t take the pressure when I had closed the space ship tight lid and had crumbled into tiny pieces. The teacher explained that my son was DEVASTED and CRIED SO HARD! She then calmly said, “Mrs. Chittick, next time I suggest you place his food in a plastic bag.”
Therefore this letter is telling you that my son will no longer qualify for the “I am a friend of Mother Earth” stamp. The lunchroom helper will not be able to smile at him and say “Congratulations, you don’t have any trash today.” Instead from now on, he will take his 6 little baggies (the ones that can kill sea turtles), plastic applesauce container, and paper napkin and throw them away with his head pointed down in shame. Please don’t blame him, it’s not his fault.
Walk to school Wednesday is even worse than Trash Free Tuesday. This Earth Friendly idea is physically and logistically impossible…at least for me. You want us to walk to school and make the Earth a better place; I want to somehow survive the morning. These are two honorable and challenging goals…unfortunately, they may not work well together.
For working mothers, the hours between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m are what we may call PURE HELL. In between blow-drying our hair, getting dressed, and taking a quick conference call, we must also get our kids up, dressed and fed. It is war and someone always wins. It is ‘us’ against ‘them’ and when you add the pressure of Walk to School Wednesday…we don’t have a fighting chance.
Each Wednesday my son says “MOM, can we PLEASE walk to school today? I want to help Mother Earth!” And every Wednesday we have to have this conversation:
Me: “My dear sweet boy, we can’t walk today. Do you know why?”
Son: “No, why?”
Me: “Because right now I am already 30 minutes late to a meeting and we haven’t even left the house yet. Because I make my living in outside sales, I am currently dressed in 6-inch stilettos and a miniskirt. I will explain why that is when you get older. In these shoes, walking 7 blocks (or even 7 steps) makes absolutely no sense. My boss doesn’t even know I take you to school and if I show up sweaty, it will give me away. If he finds out about how much I am juggling to make this work, he may just fire me. If he fires me, we won’t have anywhere to live and you may have to go to bed hungry.”
Son: “Hmm...I don’t want to be hungry”
Me: “And there is more. Your little sister, the one who is 2 and just learned to walk a year ago, she throws tantrums and runs away from me in public. I wish we didn’t have to bring her with us but we do. See, your father mysteriously leaves for work 15 minutes before you start school so I am stuck taking both of you. I have no choice. As I mentioned earlier, we live 7 blocks from school, which in my book is close to a mile. That qualifies as exercise and since I am not wearing a sports bra, it is not going to happen. Plus along the way there is a lot of dog poop on the sidewalk. This is because some people in this neighborhood are bad and irresponsible. I am pretty sure one of us would step in it on the way to school and then I may have nervous breakdown. So if you could PLEASE GET IN THE CAR that would be great!”
When we get to his Kindergarten class, the teacher takes role and then asks this question “Jack, did you WALK or DRIVE today.” Here is where he turns around and looks at me like I am the most disgusting person on Earth. He stands up tall and points to me with his little dirty, chubby finger and says, “Mrs. Murray, I drove because SHE wouldn’t let me walk.” The public humiliation is just too much for anyone to bear. (p.s. last week when I asked him if he wanted to walk to school on Friday because my meeting was canceled he said “Mom, we can’t do that. We can only walk to school on Wednesday’s”…maybe they are missing the point?)
So this letter is my white flag. I give up, you win, and I have done all I can. I haven’t been to any PTA meetings, I barely remember his parent/teacher conference, and I use plastic baggies and drive on Wednesday. I am not ashamed anymore and I will not hide from the truth. We recycle at home, we turn lights out when we leave, and we clean with non-chemical products. In the end, I am doing the best I can.
So please keep up the good work and thank you for all you do. If you happen to start Margarita Mondays, I will be the first to sign up!