Playground lessons for parents
My youngest son is finishing fourth grade. Next year, he’ll go to the big, bad middle school across town, and I’ll say goodbye to my role as an elementary-school mom. For my parent friends with many more years of elementary school ahead of them, here are a few lessons I learned on the playground:
Raise your hand (you’ll get an “A” for participation).
Many things your kids enjoy most about school — field trips, assemblies, book fairs, field day — are staffed by parent volunteers. It’s O.K. to have an opinion, but if you’re not willing to jump in with two feet and help, then (pardon the expression) “shut up.” The only way to make a difference and get involved at school is to participate. Being a working parent is no excuse. At my son’s school, our last three PTA presidents were working moms. There are lots of opportunities for all parents to get involved. The bonus for your time is the smile on your child’s face when they see you helping at an event.
Don’t wear your favorite shirt every day — people notice!
When my oldest son started first grade, I was just getting used to my new role as a stay-at-home mom after years of working in an office. I would show up to school dressed as if I had someplace to go other than my basement to do laundry. The more seasoned moms commented on my flashy attire and quaffed hair: “Do you have a meeting today?” I learned to be comfortable in my comfortable clothes. Why get dressed in anything more than sweats when my next stop was the gym? Now anytime I wear something nicer than a sweatshirt, I get those comments. People DO notice. Keep that in mind the next time you roll out of bed to drop off your kids. It’s O.K. to wear your favorite yoga pants and t-shirt, but not every day, and for Pete’s sake, at least brush your hair. Speaking of hair, thank you to all the moms who noticed my haircuts over the years. It would take a buzz cut or green hair for my sons to take notice!
The world does not revolve around you.
Some parents work. Some parents stay home. Both are jobs and a lot of responsibility. I know — I’ve been on both sides of the fence. Whatever your situation, remember you are not the only one who is busy. Keep that in mind the next time a parent seems a little off. Maybe they are just having a bad day.
Try new things.
Elementary school is a time for kids to try new things. Sometimes this means missing a ball game or two to attend another child’s birthday party or participate in a variety show. It means letting them learn an instrument or try an activity that you know nothing about. Our society’s chronic problem with over scheduling often gets in the way of allowing our children to try new things. Is that sports practice really that important? No, it is not.
Make new friends.
When my kids were younger, I arranged play dates with children of the parents I liked most. I tried to steer my kids to the children I wanted them to like. All of this effort backfires later when your child starts to choose his own friends. They are not always the children you know or would expect them to like. Be open-minded. You can learn a lot about your own children through their friendships. Along the way, you may make some new friends yourself.