Wednesday, January 05, 2011

mystery reader



So my being on call yesterday was not just mere happenstance, it was actually a request--not so much for the fact of working overnight last night, but the need to be post-call this morning, so I could go into Cal's school to be the "mystery reader" for his kindergarten class. Every week a different "mystery" parent shows up to read a book, and the big excitement is that none of the kids know which parent it will be until you actually show up. Outside of the setup, there's not very much to it, I just showed up at the predetermined time and read a book (well, actually two books--I brought a backup in case my first choice did not go over well, but in the end enthusiasm was high so I ended up reading both) but Cal was very excited to see me.

As per tradition, the kids were all sitting on the carpet when I came in, but they had their heads down so they would not see me until my big "reveal." (Yes, very makeover reality show, I know.) As I walked to my spot it was high drama, as the class was all shouting out muffled guesses of whether I was a man or woman based on the sound of my footsteps. When the teachers finally told them they could lift up their heads to see who the mystery reader was, everyone went "WooooOOOAAAAH!" (imagine the sound of twenty-two kids screaming) and Cal's reaction was priceless--he literally fell down with shock. If it was a cartoon, his hat and shoes would have flown off. Also he would have had exclamation points shooting out of his head, and maybe a couple of springs and cogs.

"You're here! But you never come!" he kept saying to me. (Joe managed to make it in for about twenty minutes two, having scheduled a gap between surgeries.) "I can't believe this! You never come to my school!" I reminded him that mom and dad work at the hospital, and we're very busy, so it's hard for us to come to school for every little class party and field trip and performance during the school day...and anyway, we're here now, aren't we? It takes some planning and some trading and occasionally some wheeling and dealing, but for things that matter, we're here. And that's something, right?

Probably this is a message he'll understand a little better when he's older, because I remember feeling pretty much the same way when I was a kid about my parents' participation at my school. (My parents never even went to Parent-Teacher Conferences, which so far as I can tell are essentially mandatory, but which my parents seemed to view as a somewhat indulgent American custom, and at any rate, only for the parents of kids who were flunking out, which I wasn't.) Joe and I are never going to be those parents who are planning every class party and chaperoning every trip to the zoo, and aside from guilt (which everyone has, regardless) we're fine with that. But we do what we can, we try our best, and we're always there when it's important. Which is essentially what parenthood is, right?

21 comments:

  1. Gosh, this makes me a dork, but I always think of that Savage Garden lyric: "I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do." I'm constantly repeating it to my little sisters when they complain about my folks though, so yes, philosophy via late-90s pop music.

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  2. LOL my parents had the same attitude towards PTC's.

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  3. Anonymous7:34 PM

    What books did you read?

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  4. Anonymous8:19 PM

    This made me tear up.

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  5. First thing that comes to mind are those YouTube videos of children being surprised in class by a parent who just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan or Iraq.

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  6. As a working parent (though with a slightly more relaxed schedule than a doctor!) I have found that whatever I do at my kid's school is really appreciated because it is relatively rare, so she is thrilled when I do come (which makes me want to come more often) I also found that choosing quality over quantity and surprising them (as you did) is totally worth it. Also, I give money whenever I can rather than participating! but I think it works out. As they get older they don't want you there anyway.

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  7. Meanwhile, at the end of the day we have not just carpool, but carpool DISCOVERY! What is that, and can I use it to spice up my daily commute?

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  8. Nice job Mom! I am a stay at home Mom but due to illness can't make it to school at that often so when I do show up I not only shock the kids my fellow parents and teachers usually have a thing or two to say.

    I am laughing at PGY1's comment - I was thinking the same thing. What IS carpool Discovery

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  9. Canadian Michelle9:35 AM

    This reminds me... remember "back in the day", you used to give us a "Currently Reading" update? What are you Currently Reading?

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  10. Constance9:43 AM

    Same deal with my parents, who both worked fairly long hours. However, one of my fondest memories of childhood was when my mom was able to be one of the chaperone parents for a third grade field trip. It was the one and only time that she was able to volunteer during my school years in that manner and I remember it being an awesome day. So a big props to your efforts of being there when you can.

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  11. My mom was in the army reserves for 30 years, as well as a consultant dietitian when I was growing up, which meant she wasn't around as much as I'm sure she'd like to be. But I remember her showing up to my cross country meets in her army fatigues, which didn't really embarrass me, but just made me happy that she was able to come. Just do what you can with what you have.

    I also am intrigued by Carpool Discovery. Sounds like the best part of the day after the Mystery Reader.

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  12. Marianne10:20 AM

    I initially read the second activity as "morning massage" and was very jealous.
    My parents both worked fairly standard office jobs and I still only recall my mom chaperoning a single preschool event. If it helps any, I remember thinking how weird it was that parents would come to school at all - didn't they know school was for kids?

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  13. I also thought it said "morning massage."

    Wouldn't THAT be nice!

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  14. Anonymous1:07 AM

    Of all my plays, meets, games and/or anything parents showed up to, my busy mom showed up once to a soccer game. She was late and had to leave early. 20 years later I vividly remember that day. Not sure if it's because I was happy she was there or pissed off cause she never went to anything else.

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  15. Great post! Your last line is dead on, with our kids it is about quality not quantity. As long as our children feel love and cared for all the rest will work itself out.

    I'm a fairly new reader but it sounds like you and your husband have the work-life balance philosophy figured out for your hectic situation. Good job mommy.

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