Friday, September 01, 2006

Calendar Mom

Usually I like being the keeper of the calendar. Sometimes it wears my ass out. Recently it's been much more of the latter than the former.

Collecting the information to put on the calendar can be somewhat of a challenge. My boys seem to lack the ability to transfer information from the school to the parent in any reliable way. Chaos will say things like, "Hey mom. There's a dude coming to speak at the high school sometime and they said to make sure to tell you about it. He's an expert." Date? Time? Subject of Mr. Dude's talk? "I don't know, mom, that's all they said." I used to think that when Chaos said the words "at school they said..." that he was telling me about an announcement made at assembly or over the intercom. Knowing my child and his Calvinesque ways, I was not surprised that the pertinent facts were either garbled or completely absent.

I convinced myself that I had to make do with Chaos' paltry hints about middle school happenings. My options (as I saw them last year) were to use his vague, factless statements as diving off points for major research projects or (more often than not) miss events entirely. The middle road between those two extremes involved comparing rumors with Chaos' friends' mothers and seeing if we collaboratively could arrive at an idea of what was going on at the school. My saving grace was that the REALLY important stuff goes on the sign in front of the school which is on Main Street and hard to miss. (And er, well, you do receive a personal phone call from the Vice Principal when your son gets OSS.)

We are only three weeks into the new school year, but the tides, they are beginning to shift! The ratio of elementary schoolers to middle schoolers having gone from 3:1 last year to 1:3 this year means I have a new resource at my disposal: the Ninja Princessa.
Here is a sample of how the new system works. (Sidenote - the family rule is that they have to participate in ONE school-related extracurricular, be it a sports team for a season or a special interest club for the whole year.)

First Shot:
Me (the first week): So, what club did you decide on and when does it meet?
Chaos (age 14): I want to play paintball.
Me: Yes. And you can. But that is not an organized school activity. I repeat, what club did you decide on and when does it meet?
Chaos: I guess I'll join the Geography Club. They go out to eat.
Me: Ok. How often do they meet? When is the first meeting? Do they eat out every time? How much does that cost?
Chaos: I don't think it costs anything. They said at school that it would probably start meeting in September but it's during the day so we don't have to worry about it.
Me: What's during the day? The meetings? Well how do they go out to eat? How often do they meet?
Chaos: I don't know Mom! They just said it would start in a few weeks. I'm sure I'll find all that out at the meetings.
Me: (silent but with raised eyebrows)
Chaos: Ok, ok - don't spaz. I'll ask my homeroom teacher.

Next Victim:
Me (just a few minutes after the conversation with Chaos): So, what club did you decide on and when does it meet?
Mayhem (age 12) : Club? I have to join a club?
Me: Yes, remember we talked about this? A sport or a club - but something social at school.
Mayhem: Oh yeah right. I remember now. Ok. I'll join the Math Club. Math is awesome.
Me: Great. Math Club. You sure they HAVE a Math Club? Did they make any announcements about it? Did they give you any papers? When does it meet? How do you sign up?
Mayhem: I have no idea. No one has said anything about it. I KNOW they have one because my friend was in it last year. (Sidenote: anyone Mayhem has talked to once, even if it was for one second, he refers to as 'my friend'.)
Me: Your friend was in the Math Club at the elementary school last year? We need info on the middle school Math Club.
Mayhem: Mo-om. My friend is in the seventh grade. He's older than me. (Sidenote: my child is rolling his eyes at me.)
Me: Ok. So what else did he say about it? Or wait - really what we need is official info, buddy. Has your homeroom teacher said anything or passed out anything about sign ups?
Mayhem: Nobody has said anything except my friend. But I'll find out. Math is awesome.

Final Victim:
Me (just a few minutes after the conversation with Mayhem and one final sidenote: the Princessa and Mayhem are in the same homeroom): So, what club did you decide on and when does it meet?
Ninja Princessa (age 11): I want to join the Writing Club! It doesn't start until September 6th at 2:45 in Ms. Crawford's room but I want to start working on something before then. We meet twice a month - on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays, I think, I'll have to double check - but Heather and I were thinking that we could get together on the other Wednesdays and have a writing club of our own outside of school. What do you think about that? Oh! And here's the paper that our homeroom teacher gave us yesterday about all the clubs. I would have given it to you last night but I was copying it all into my planner. Oh! And here are two forms that don't have to be turned in until Friday, but we get extra credit if we bring them back tomorrow. Oh! And they made an announcement about the parent information website. It has a new address. I wrote it down for you. Here. Oh! And on that sheet - it says the sponsor for The Something Something Club is Ms. Soandso, but it's not really, it's Ms. Suchandsuch so if you ever need to call her be sure to use the right number and not mix them up. Can I go over to Rachel's?

My head almost exploded at this most unusual and unexpected influx of actual information.
I know my temper exploded. The Princessa and Mayhem are IN THE SAME HOMEROOM! They are exposed to the EXACT SAME information. The are given the EXACT SAME papers.
"I promise Mom. I've never seen that paper. I don't know where she got it!" Grrrrr. We're in the process of developing better systems so that everyone acquires some organizational skills - but the Ninja Princessa is certainly helpful in the checks and balances department! Also - I just have to add that the Geography Club does NOT meet during school, but after school just like every single other club does.

And then! (Tapioca warning - my apologies for letting the rancidness ooze twice in one week - but if you only knew how much I could say and don't!!!) My ex (Mr. Tapioca Head) has a fucking HISSY fit that I didn't tell him about the Open Houses!

Lucky for you I have just erased about 6 paragraphs but the gist of it is - I sent the man paper - hard copy - black and white notice! I handed him a bag full of papers including forms and calendars. I had gone out of my way to xerox standardized test scores (which I could have made him request directly from the school). I even put in two papers that I only had because my step-daughter (i.e. NOT a child he and I have in common!) gave them to me. I instructed the boys to be sure to show their dad the schedule in their agendas. (The school requires that the kids keep these planner/agenda thingies and write down all of their assignments. It's a fabulous tool and I check it all the time now. But honestly, it was a long shot that either boy would remember to show their dad the planner. It was only a layer, a side item, not the main dish.) Mr. Tapioca Head received not only but extra. Lastly, he has the exact same access to the sign on Main Street, the website, and teacher email that I do!

And what do I get from him? I get a completely sarcastic, vile email (that I could read but not respond to) saying he is done trying to work with me as a co-parent. He has found out about the open houses in spite of the fact that I did 'tell' him about them. When I do finally have a way to respond, I send the NICEST email possible. Not chummy - but very polite. Not apologetic - but rational, and calm- explaining that I did indeed 'tell' him. I mean it - my letter should be sent to the Nobel committee. What do I get back? A completely UNHINGED response. The most bizarre part of which is where he chides me about my opinion of the sexual orientation of one of our sons! Um - WTF???? (For the record, I have formed no 'opinions' as my boys don't seem to be much interested in girls or boys 'that way' and when they do get interested, I promise you I don't care which orientation they choose!!) The least bizarre thing the man said is that he's scheduling appointments with the principals of the schools (presumably to tell them what a terrible mother I am and how I am trying to keep him out of his sons' lives).

Being Calendar Mom is a difficult and unrewarding job. I think I'll put in for a transfer. Do you think there's an opening in the Rich, Bon-Bon Eating, Margarita-Drinking, Has Maid Service Mom department?

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