Tuesday, November 4, 2014

This Angry Mom Calms the Eff Down...Sort Of

When my son colors, he colors aggressively.  He presses down hard and leaves a layer of wax on the paper so thick that he practically creates his own scratch pads.  It's a sensory thing, I think.  I don't mind because it seems to help him blow off steam and it's encouraging him to use his "bird beak" grip on the crayon.  Years of OT have gotten him to this point.

The boy has crap fine motor skills.  I know this.  When we work on papers that ask him to match a picture from one side of the page to the other, he can point to the correct answer, but drawing a line from picture to picture is difficult for him.  Not only does he have to grip the pencil correctly, but he also has to cross the effin' midline.

Last night, I received a large envelope with an order form.  It said, "Look inside to see the special card design your child has created!"  Considering that his homework the other night looked like this,---------------------------------->
I was expecting some kind of Pollock-esque, action-crayoning mess.  In fact, I was looking forward to it.  I pictured his intense little face--jaw jutted out--as he savagely scribbled.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this:


What the actual fuck?  I can't even begin to talk about how wrong this is.  What am I supposed to do with this?

Here's the thing, folks.  Despite the fact that I curse often, I'm not an angry person.  I don't offend easily.  It takes a lot to piss me off.  I'm a public school teacher and I know the hoops we're expected to jump through, the daily insults to our credibility and profession, and the unreasonable expectations of parents and administrators.  I'm especially sensitive to all of this, but I can't fathom any reason why a teacher might think I'd want to order greeting cards designed by a paraprofessional.

I seethed.  I raved.  I ranted in private Facebook groups about the insult of it all.  This was the artistic equivalent of a pity fuck!  And then I poured myself a glass of wine and watched a few episodes of Key & Peele until my blood pressure went down.

I prepared to write the dreaded indignant parent email.  What I actually wanted to write would've looked something like this:

     Dear Art Teacher,

     Thanks a lot for the order form.  I was truly impressed with his self-portrait.  You must be an amazing teacher to improve his drawing skills so dramatically in two short months!  You have got to be kidding me.  Do you really think I would believe this was my son's work?  Or that I'm going to order cards designed by his aide for your little fundraiser?  Yeah, I'll send them out to all our friends and family.  "Look what the boy's aide drew!  Can you believe she's only 43 years old?!  We are soooo super proud of her!"

     Maybe he didn't feel like cooperating during art class that day.  Maybe he just scribbled.  You know what?  I'm happy with a scribble!  I don't give a flying rat's ass whether or not my child can draw a self-portrait.  We have bigger fish to fry--like learning to grip a damned pencil.  Send me his real work and don't waste my time with this bullshit.  Did you feel sorry for me that my son's drawing skills aren't up to your standards?  Well, your heart may have been in the right place, but your head is up your ass.  My son needs support and understanding, not your pity.

                                                                                                       Mrs. Effin' A. Mom

I did not send this email.  I thought about my mother-in-law's saying, "Kill them with kindness."  Reasonable friends suggested I give the teacher a chance to explain first.  And then there's the old adage, "Honey and vinegar and shit."

So I took some deep, calming breaths and wrote a brief email asking her why I received a design that was clearly not the boy's work.  She responded with an apology and explained that this was a graphic design fundraiser and it "didn't register" with her that this was something completed by the aide and that she hopes I've seen other projects that have "included his input."  I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth and composed this response:

     Dear Art Teacher,

     Thank you for clarifying.  I would be happy to order a card containing the boy's designs.  I know he's not yet at the level of creating self-portraits.  He still struggles to hold a pencil or crayon appropriately, and I'm proud of the progress that he has made in that area.

      I would hope that anything sent home is my son's work and contains more than just his "input."  In the future, if he refuses to do the task, please write me a note.  If he simply scribbles all over the paper, please send that home.  I would rather see my boy's scribbles than work completed by an aide.

Thank you.

                                                                                                      Mrs. Effin' A. Mom

Sometimes I think I ought to fly off the handle more often.  Maybe these bizarre stomach pains I've been having would be relieved if I just lost my shit on people.  Then again, I'd end up feeling guilty and developing an ulcer...if I don't have one already.
But maybe I don't need to freak the eff out.  People generally mean well, and I understand that meaning well is not the same thing as doing well.  It comes down to this:  I know my kid and I know what he can do.  If the school ever sends me his aide's work again, I will send it back with a sticker and a comment, "Good job, Mrs. Smith!"

 I'm reminded of the old saying that Irish Diplomacy is the ability to tell a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to making the trip.  

Or as my husband explained, "You're good at telling people to fuck off, but you do it classy-like."

Thanks, hon.


  1. I hear ya'. When my son was in 1st grade, he came home with a class project -- a bear all designed with an outfit (not done by him, of course). It went immediately in the garbage can. I don't save his aides' work. But then I got an email from the teacher asking that it be returned so that she could photograph all the class' bears together. I had to say "I threw it away immediately." Oh well.

  2. I wonder what would happen if we all sent the first drafts of our emails? Sometimes forcing myself to be civilized is so painful. I often wonder if it's worth it. Maybe first drafts would accelerate change.

  3. I just found your blog today and I could do guest posts because our rants/frustrations are very similar. Good to know that I'm not the only Effin' A Mom out there.

  4. There's quite a lot of this BS going on in schools. My son's elementary has murals proclaimed as by so-and-so's 5th grade class all over the place. When it was time for my son's class, I learned that the murals were actually painted by professionals, based on the drawings the kids had made. Because God forbid we see the messy, imperfect art out children create, right?

  5. Your posts always make me laugh! This was no exception. My sides hurt. I wish I could take something that pisses me off like that and make it as funny as you do!

  6. You tell it like it is. My son's writing and coloring's has got better but it has take a very long time and he is now 14.