It was week one of Kindergarten, parents had been invited in to the school for an information evening with their respective teachers. We entered the classroom, all dressed in our daily attire, a mixture of business suits, exercise wear and uniforms. Many of us were new to full day school and you could tell; we were the ones taking notes while asking detailed questions about exactly which type of drink bottle was required.
Our dignity disappeared the minute we sat down. With our knees up around our chin and our bottoms precariously perched on the edge of the miniature chairs, it was hard to take anyone seriously. Except the teacher, she had her own chair, the chair of power. She ran through a few house rules. Bags go here, shoes here, coats are hung here, the red folder goes home on Wednesday, the blue on Thursday, Art is on Friday. There were rules for snacks, rules for lunch, and suggestions were made about healthy alternatives. We were told if sugar was listed in the first five ingredients of a product, it would be sent straight home. I began to break out in a sweat thinking of anything in our pantry that may have deemed me an unworthy mother. "You should be considering hummus, carrots and cucumbers rather than anything in a wrapper". No-one disagreed, in fact, no-one said a word - we were all suddenly back at school and doing as we were told.
Having just left Libya where I had been living under a dictatorship, it occurred to me that there seemed to be a lot more rules in Kindergarten than Tripoli. Gadaffi could have learnt a few things in this room.
"We will have a number of events throughout the year - it's always nice if parents can come along". I nodded along, I had plans of getting involved with the school, it was a great way for someone new in town to make a few friends. A women's voice came from behind me "Umm, will we have much notice when it comes to events, what sort of lead up can you give us?"
The teachers eyes darted in the direction behind me, did we have a dissident amongst us "usually we give a few weeks notice - why?" I immediately felt uncomfortable for the mother, it was obvious by the teacher's tone that she was going to need a very good reason for her question.
"I'm an obstetrician, getting away from the hospital can sometimes be challenging"
"Oh - I see, well maybe you'd like to come along one day and speak to the children about your career, we love to have the parents come and discuss what they do".
And in that moment, that mother was excused from every field trip, class party and bring a plate of veggies event throughout the year. The rest of us though, we were still fair game. It appeared that if we weren't removing babies from people's vaginas, we were still required to front up with a fruit platter and six pack of juice.
It's been a busy week at school. Poetry readings, art displays and kindergarten concerts have meant that G has joined me and hundreds of others at the school, with cameras at the ready. This morning as G flicked through his calendar he realized he'd doubled up, he had a meeting he didn't think he could move and was going to miss the choir concert.
I broke the news that he may not be there to the second little traveler thinking she'd be understanding - not so much. There were tears, blame, and when I reminded her that I would be there, she said "but you're always there!"
Please feel free to address me as Chopped Liver.
I can't remember my father being at school, not once, and not because he didn't come, but because he wasn't asked to. With two working parents it was always understood that we said goodbye in the morning and hello again in the afternoon. If my mother arrived at school to help coach netball, or deliver chocolate crackles for the fete, it was usually after 3.30. Amazingly, we managed to get through the day without them.
I have watched many parents squirm while they've explained their impending absence to teachers and fellow parents. Pilots and nurses rearrange schedules, and anyone paid on an hourly rate will go to extreme measures to not miss the forty five minute music concert, in which their child will play a recorder for approximately two of those minutes. No-one wants their child to be the one without a parent. So why do we make it so hard? As a working parent you cannot go to everything, and if you can, please feel free to share your secret now, because I definitely couldn't when I was working full time.
An hour ago, G rang to confirm the time of the concert "have to be quick as I've got someone with me, I think I can make it - can't talk, see you there".
I can't wait to see her face when she see's him.
I just hope she remembers this, and when he can't make it to the next event, she understands that he just can't come to everything. What do you think?
Is there someone out there who has made it to every field trip, poetry reading, winter festival or science exhibition?