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Dear Schools: Stop Making Parents Visit All Year Long!

Hallway at High School with Lockers.

Dear School District,

We’ve had a great year this past year. My kids loved their teachers and I was happy with the education that they received.

But I have one complaint: the sheer number of times parents are invited and encouraged to come to our children’s class over the course of a year.. Here is a sample of events that I was asked to participate in this last school year:  Veteran’s Day letter writing, birthdays, holiday parties, New Year’s party, field trips, Mother’s Day tea, Field Day, end of the year picnics and a bagel breakfast for the end of the year (overkill?). I have two kids in grade school, so double the amount of time that I am in your hallways.

This is not limited to just our district but all over. At the water cooler at work, we hang around discussing (read: complaining) about the umpteen school events we are expected to attend.

What prompted this letter were certain instances I observed while attending some of these “parent friendly” events. Of course, these events are usually smack in the middle of the day, so you can’t work that much in the morning and by the time the event is over, it doesn’t pay to go back to work. At this year’s holiday party in December, there was a student sitting next to me whose parent didn’t come. The teacher asked the child; “is one of your parents supposed to come?” The child answered sadly, “I don’t think so.”

All I knew is that here we were celebrating holiday cheer with our kids and one student was without cheer. It reminded me of the year prior when a child’s mother didn’t or couldn’t attend Mother’s Day Tea. Why should this presumably hard working mother (whether inside or outside the home) be shamed and guilted on her own holiday? What if she couldn’t get out of work? Or what if she stayed at home but had something previously scheduled? What if this child had one dad and no mother? What if this child had two dads and no mother? And speaking of dads, how come there isn’t a Father’s Day tea or outing? Are the dads time and jobs considered to be more important than the mother’s time?

Here’s the thing: when I was growing up, I don’t remember my parents coming to school this often.. For my birthdays at school, my mother sent me in to school with cupcakes. Today, parents are not only encouraged to physically come in for birthdays, but to do a craft with the class! This is optional, but your child will remind you of the parent that brought in a Pinterest-worthy craft just last week. As it is, I am hanging by a thread. Don’t give me more projects to do!

And why can’t we send donuts or cupcakes in for our child’s birthday? We are a healthy family. I actually run a Paleo and clean eating social media account. But one day out of the year, our children should be permitted to bring donuts or something sweet and festive for their birthdays (of course, being mindful of allergies that may be in the class). Can’t we keep it simple, and basic?

I digress.

Back to the topic of parents who need to attend the many events of the year. I could not attend the last end of the year event because I had a meeting. I could have conceivably moved it around, but I realized, that in that very month, I had already been at your school three times. So therefore, I did not attend my second grader’s end of the year picnic. She knew that I couldn’t come ahead of time and was allegedly okay about it. But when the picnic happened. she wasn’t okay. After school that day, she cried and said that while she had a good time, I was one of the few parents that didn’t come.

Dig the knife further into my overscheduled, guilty chest.

In short, there are many ways to be good parents, to make our children our #1 priority, and the quality time we spend together outside school and on vacations are priceless to me. I am not asking you to cancel every school event. I am sure there are parents that wish to attend as many events as possible (although I have yet to personally meet these parents).

All I ask is that perhaps your teachers limit these events per year, and please, ask the parents ahead of time if they can attend the event. The rule of thumb should be that either we all come or none of us come.

No student should be sad that they are without a parent for what is supposed to be a “fun” event, and parents should not feel guilty that they can’t attend these events.

As parents of this generation of doing it all, we have more guilt than time on our plates.

Thank you,

An overscheduled parent

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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