Tuesday, September 11, 2007

the traumas of parenting

My daughter Lola is in a co-op preschool, which means I work a shift a week (it means a lot more than that, sigh, but we'll leave it there for now). Today I was supervising the bike deck (historically where the craziest, most dangerous play occurs). A small child was at risk of being run over by a larger child in a little car. I said to the car-driving child, "Be careful, you don't want to hit her!"

As it turns out, I inadvertently made a huge faux pas. The child I'd referred to as "her" said tearily, "I'm not a girl!" His father was within earshot, and the father came over, scooped up the child, and said in a nasty voice, "Of course you're not a girl." The father didn't speak to me but turned his back on me and then stomped off.

The little boy in question is a three year-old with an angelic little face and a high, piping voice and long hair several inches past his shoulders. If it's so frigging traumatic to him to be called a girl and if it's so upsetting to the father, then why the hell don't they cut his motherfucking hair?

I never got pissy with anyone who mistook my older daughter for a boy when she was little, and it happened quite a lot. Iris Uber Alles had a very serious demeanor and I tended to dress her in overalls and other practical, rough-and-tumble clothes. (Lola, on the other hand, was a very girly baby from the day one, with a very feminine face, giggly bearing, and an insistence right away on wearing beautiful dresses).

Of course, the long-haired little boy, being in a bad mood, refused to obey the basic safety rules of the bike deck, and when, as a consequence, I told him he had to play elsewhere, he said, "I hate you", refused to obey, and hit me. Oh, what a joyous life we lead at the preschool. (And people keep telling me I should go into teaching ... oy vey. To be fair, the other children were, for the most part, charming and respectful to my authority as they careered about madly, but yet it remains true that the Drunken Housewife is not cut out for the teaching life).

That was not the worst part of my day as An Involved and Active Parent, however. That came when I registered online to pay for Iris Uber Alles's school lunches. Her school has given its lunch business to a new outside company, and now we are required to pay online with Paypal. I was fine with that... UNTIL I LEARNED THAT IRIS HAD RUN UP AN $11.25 DEFICIT ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. It costs $11.25 for her frigging school lunch now??? One day's lunch for a SECOND GRADER is $11.25??? When Lola starts kindergarten next year, it's gonna cost $22.50 a day for their motherfucking lunches???

Trying to figure out why her lunch cost so much, Iris mused, "I had soy milk." "Did it come in a golden cup?" I acerbically remarked.

21 comments:

Meeks said...

Wow. School sure has gotten traumatic and expensive since my days. Boys looked like boys (not the mention knew better than to hit adults) and lunch was 50 freakin cents.

Meeks said...

Not TO mention. Apparently all that non-traumatic schooling did nothing for my ability to write coherently.

Silliyak said...

Let them eat Sunflowers I say!

Steve said...

So what did she get to eat for $11.25? I hope it was spectacular.

hughman said...

man. i am so glad i'm gay and never had kids. even the local waitresses at my Breakfast Place know not to fuck with polly. she gets her water, her turkey, end of story. she also barks at loud trucks and david spade. other than that, don't even try.

kids aren't a gender till they're 7. that's the rule. tell the pop an expert told you this and then send him to me where i'll tear him a new asshole.

2amsomewhere said...

I said to the car-driving child, "Be careful, you don't want to hit her!"

As it turns out, I inadvertently made a huge faux pas. The child I'd referred to as "her" said tearily, "I'm not a girl!" His father was within earshot, and the father came over, scooped up the child, and said in a nasty voice, "Of course you're not a girl." The father didn't speak to me but turned his back on me and then stomped off (the same man had been rude to me previously by asking me to do something for him but not saying thank you or introducing himself to me).

The little boy in question is a three year-old with an angelic little face and a high, piping voice and long hair several inches past his shoulders. If it's so frigging traumatic to him to be called a girl and if it's so upsetting to the father, then why the hell don't they cut his motherfucking hair?


Good, gravy, this brought back bad childhood memories!

Being young parents in the early 70s, my mom and dad opted to let my hair grow long and shaggy... and then they sent me to an Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (read: conservative) school for grades K through 8.

I was mistaken for a girl more than once, and was taunted by my peers many a time. As I got older, I kept my hair short.

I think I would have been tempted to give that parent a piece of my mind had I been serving your role.

'Tis a shame that we can't check our emotional baggage on a flight. It might actually have a chance at getting lost.

--
2amsomewhere

the Drunken Housewife said...

We should have had the gendered hair discussion when you were over, 2AM. The husband was traumatized by his long, lush ringlets as a little boy (his mother was a modern dancer, his father a Communist. My hairdresser Michele was traumatized by a pixie cut which led to a supermarket cashier inquiring, "Would the little man like to carry out a bag?" When I was pregnant with Iris, Michele made me promise: "Swear you'll let her have long hair." The husband also has a firm commitment to appropriately gendered hair for little kids.

Now that the girls are old enough to voice opinions, Lola is allowed to get haircuts (she favors a bob), and Iris still grows hers out but must be bullied into brushing it.

hokgardner said...

I have an acquaintance who refused to cut her son's hair until he was old enough to make the choice himself. After six months of getting teased and bullied at his Montessori school he begged for a haircut. The mom also refused to dress her daughter in anything with pink because she didn't want to reinforce gender stereotypes. The daughter is now four loves pink. Hee

Susan said...

Wow! Sounds like quite a day. At least I know I'm not the only one having preschool challenges.

By the way, there's something waiting for you over on my blog... :-)

the Drunken Housewife said...

Steve, she supposedly had some pasta, a salad, a bagel, and some soy milk. I'm imagining the portions must be petite, given that these are servings for second graders.

Anonymous said...

We kept out sons' hair short when they were children, but as the older one grew out his hair in high school, the younger one wanted to also. The older one had facial hair, so no probem! The younger one...well, it's lovely curly hair, he does keep it trimmed, and he says no one ever teases him about it. But he chose to have long hair, I wouldn't force it on him.

Brown said...

Given the enormous influence parents have over their children, I'm becoming a bit skeptical about this little school you've been patronizing. Please understand that I in no way intend this as even further criticism of your mothering skills -- not in any way.

But for the last two years (at least) the serious social ineptitude and outright presumption of many of the parents at that place (as related in your work here) seems stunning.

Can you trust your children to such a place? These people are raising space aliens.

And, likely, assholes.

The last thing we need: space alien assholes.

Alison said...

I'm stunned by the cost of that lunch. That's more than I used to spend on my own lunch (even in Switzerland, not known for low-cost anything).

But it's shown me where your future lies - there must be good money to be made in the school lunch catering business!

the Drunken Housewife said...

Hi, Brown, I did NOT take offense at what you wrote. I think the picture may be muddied by the fact that there are a total of three schools here: Lola's old preschool (which I would have written about over the past year, but I don't think I really trashed any parents from there. The parents on the whole were great there. I did write here bitching about the vegetarian issues there, but that's about it); Lola's present school, which is also where Iris Uber Alles attended (Lola changed preschools because she has an awkward birthday, where she doesn't qualify for kindergarten this year. Her old preschool doesn't have a pre-k, but Iris's does for just this sort of child), and the private k-8 school where Iris Uber Alles attends. Next year presumably Lola will enter this school in kindergarten, and then it will all be easier to follow as there will be just stories from one school.

There are a lot of really wonderful things about Iris's school, but the cost of the lunch is not one of them.

The parent with the long-haired child is from Lola's preschool, NOT Iris's private school. The parent who took me to task for not going to the first day of 2nd grade is from Iris's school, though.

the Drunken Housewife said...

I should write about why I love Iris's school: it has the most amazing art program. It has the best campus of any school in SF (it has a lot of outdoors space, which is very rare). It has the best library of any school in SF (one librarian used to be the head of the Newbery committee). It's a very academic school, but there's a real attempt to be developmentally correct (no homework in kindergarten or 1st grade, 2 recesses a day, phys ed every day... very different from other schools).

I don't really fit in with the other parents there, although the Sober Husband does. I'm the only visibly tattooed parent in the parent population, and I'm definitely kind of slobby by comparison to the other mothers, who wear Prada and Michael Kors. I do like quite a lot of the other parents, though. My biggest fear there is that Iris will develop an eating disorder (if you just look at the population of mothers, you will see that over 90 of them are blonde and size 0. I don't care if my child goes blonde --- hell, I dyed her hair blonde for her myself once -- but I don't want her to be anorexic or bulimic).

the Drunken Housewife said...

Oh, and a bit more: the teachers and staff are great. Iris gets a lot of individual attention and is known as a bright, eccentric girl with an irreverent sense of humor and a natural gift for math. We are appreciated by the staff and faculty as being a more funky, fun family, and I've had a couple of staff & faculty say to me with a lot of seriousness, "I'm so glad we have your family here."

Brown said...

I take all back.

The Woman of Science said...

I must say that I find it problematic that the little boy's father obviously feels that haircuts should not be "gendered" but hasn't taught his child that it's ok to be mistaken for a girl. You can't have it both ways: either there's nothing wrong with being androgynous or you should use some visual gender clues.

Love your blog; thanks for writing.

Trouble said...

I would have to punch most of the parents in your co-op in the face to punish them for their poor parenting skills.

Of course, this tendency towards violence on my part probably comes from having parents who spanked me, quite thoroughly, as a child.

I'm no pacifist, that's for sure.

And of course, there was that pixie haircut my mom saddled me with for years that probably doomed me to a life of being a tomboy.

I'm so using that on her in the future, even if it isn't true.

I can sympathize with not fitting in, btw. I'm the tattooed mom with the gauged ears. And I'm surrounded by junior leaguers and sorority girls from the SEC universities. It's lovely. They hate me, pretty much uniformly.

And I love them. ;)

Trouble said...

p.s. If lola didn't get Kobe beef for lunch, she was totally ripped off.

Melissa said...

What a chump. You're looking after his son, he's getting snarky because you used the wrong pronoun.

Puhleeze.