By some hideous accident I have been made the parent representative of my son's class. I know this sounds like I slipped on a banana peel and ended up as a humble footman in the service of the Parent School Association, but I'm afraid that's pretty much what happened. For those who don't know what being the parent representative of a class in my kids' school means, here goes
1. What it should mean — that parents who have issues they would like to raise with the school convey it to me and I check if this is a concern the larger parent body has. I edit out lunatic requests and convey reasonable ones to the school and relay the school's response back to the parents.
2. What it actually means — that I am absolutely the wrong person for the job, I'm a non breeder who ended up having two kids by accident (well not by means of slipping on a banana peel this time, but, you know...) In more than ten years of my kids being at school, I have had NO concerns about the school, so in my view pretty much all concerns are lunatic. I believe a school is just a school, it can't replace the home as the primary laboratory for hatching one's kids for crying out loud. As a school, this one seems to be doing great, trying to educate my sprogs and doing a far better job of it than I ever could.
(Though if I'm being totally honest, I do have a microscopic concern, which I think is totally non lunatic and worth forwarding to the school. The fees are obviously so incredibly high because they're clearly feeding the kids foie gras and caviar. What I want to ask is, if I send a packed lunch of a kheera tamatar sandwich can I get a discount? Sadly, I have to wait till there is critical momentum behind this reasonable query, because no other parent seems to be able to get behind such a mundane mercenary request — everyone has much more high minded concerns.)
The other day I got a phone call from a mother who wanted me to ask the school to review its policy on tests. No, she wasn't asking the school to cancel all tests, she wanted it to change the rule that a child missing a test can only make up one test missed in a term, not more. The child wasn't even sick at this point, (and therefore in no danger of missing even one, leave alone more tests) but the mother kept talking of how diseases like dengue have a recovery period of ten plus days which I thought demonstrated a rather ghoulish streak, but hey, I'm not judgmental.
I tried laughing weakly and saying, "Really?? Dengue your daughter hasn't contracted JUST yet? THAT'S a concern?" (I don't know why I bother with this line of response because people have no respect for my weak laughter and mock incredulity at all — they trample all over it and demand to see its' supervisor.)
Then, I tried explaining that really, a missed test here or there wasn't such a big deal. There was a sharp intake of breath at the other end. Clearly I am the only one not privy to the irrefutably proven fact that all that lies between an 11 year old and a career as a life time sloth, louche, debauchee and criminal is one missed grade 6 test.
When it was clear that my own cluelessness and inability to keep up with important research in the field of child rearing might actually get in the way of her daughter's hopes of a successful life, the mother began to get shirty. "Don't you understand? A missed test means they are ineligible for the subject prize at the end of the year and a missed subject prize means they are ineligible for the Scholar Of the Year award!!!" (What she clearly wanted to say was that this chain of events would inexorably lead to the Nobel Prize that lay in her daughters future also being pushed back, but the sound of my snuffled snorts at the other end may have led her to leave that projection unvoiced.)
I was vastly amused by this phone call because it was clear to me that this parent was barking mad, a member of the lunatic fringe. As far as I am concerned the only bright spot in childhood illness is that you get to miss tests. Who, then, in their right minds, having finished with the menace of their own schooling, would hatch a diabolical plan to trap their own child into taking more of them?
But because I'm nothing if not diligent (even if I did slip on a banana peel to land up here) I put the concern forward to the rest of the parents, hinting delicately that derisive howls of laughter at the paranoia and helicopter parenting inherent in the query should not be aired in public.
To my horror, practically every other parent had thought about this subject and agreed with what I had thought was an insane request. The derisive howls of laughter were not aired in public for sure, but must have been reserved for MY poor hapless children who clearly are massively and strenuously handicapped by having such an idiot parent. "Surprised it's not been raised before" a few officious parents spat out. "It's absolutely not fair on the poor children, they feel very demotivated to miss year end prizes," many of the others reiterated. The chorus of agreement was deafening.
All of which was massively enlightening but paradoxically leaves me with three burning questions that I want the universe to answer
1. If children motivated by year end subject prizes DO exist and are not urban myth, then why have I been landed with two squishy sweet but utterly gormless models who have never yet been motivated by anything not made of chocolate? Why is it that the fruit of my loins exclaim, "oh that's ABSOLUTELY not fair!" to me a hundred times every day, but never, not even once, have they meant that massive injustice to refer to a missed test they have not been allowed to make up later? Where can I register this manufacturing defect with the universe?
2. I once gave my son and his friends some incredibly small yet powerful magnets as party favours. At the exact same time as one of the other mums called up to thank me and tell me that her son had attached the magnets to his Lego earth mover and had fashioned a crude pulley and was moving giant suitcases around the room, I was fishing out one of the magnets from my son's nose with giant tweezers. There can't possibly be any correlation between my cavalier attitude toward missed tests and this huge differential in ability, behaviour and orientation between my sprogs and their peers, can there? Can there???
3. The hideously high school fees are due again. If the foie gras expense is not eligible for a discount, what about missed tests? Any luck there??
Any responses on behalf of the universe welcome.