Saturday, March 8, 2014


There are two things I remember clearly about Kindergarten Orientation. The first is skipping.

It was spring, and my now teenage daughter was in her final year of preschool (technically, pre-kindergarten). As usual, I picked her up at her daycare provider’s house when I returned in the evening from my office in Boston.

“What did you do in school today?” I asked her as we headed home.

“Skipping,” she told me.

“Cool. What else?”

“Nothing. Just skipping.”

After a few consecutive days of similar (and so succinct) reports, I asked her teacher about it. Turns out, the children were skipping considerably more than usual in preparation for Kindergarten Orientation. The year before, the teacher confided, many of the aspiring kindergarteners had failed. Skipping, that is, they failed skipping. So, this year, the school wasn’t taking any chances.

I nodded solemnly, and reflected on my tuition dollars at work.

The second thing I remember about Kindergarten Orientation was a fairly long form I had to fill out. It included my daughter’s medical history, education to date, family life, hobbies, napping and eating habits. The final question was this:

“Choose one word to describe your child.”

Tough. There were so many words I wanted to write down. Bright, beautiful, funny, sweet. But, the one word I finally chose was: compliant.

I figured they were looking for something remarkable about each student. More than any other child I knew, my daughter was a good listener. She followed directions. She was cooperative and obedient. In a word, at five years old, she was ... compliant.

You may ask “And now, at sixteen, is she still compliant?”

I may answer. But, I may not because I may (probably, certainly, definitely) be choking on my own laughter so hard that you’ll have to call the paramedics. Stat!

Here is a partial list of all the things that my darling daughter is not compliant about: bedtime, cleaning her room, writing thank-you notes, getting homework done, time limits on any technology device. Don’t get me wrong, all of these tasks are eventually completed. But, in terms of following a direction when said direction is given? Nada.

Actually, it’s particularly frustrating because our typical pattern goes as follows. I ask. She says “Okay.” She doesn’t follow through. I ask again. She says “Okay” again. She doesn’t follow through again. By the third or fourth (or seventeenth) time, she is rolling her eyes, audibly sighing and even responding with “I heard you already. Stop nagging me.”

Winning situation? Not.

Anyway, one would still hope that my once compliant little daughter would take authority figures other than her loving mother a little more seriously, right? Alas, no.

After the bomb scare at her school this week, an email was sent out from the principal, outlining some changes in protocol for the following days. Students were not permitted to bring backpacks or lunchboxes (the better to hide a bomb in, I guess). They had to bring all their supplies and belongings in a clear plastic bag. And, their cell phones were not to be used on school property all day. It was suggested that the kids leave their phones at home, but — since that was not going to happen in anyone’s wildest imagination — if they did bring them, the devices had to be out of sight and turned off for the duration. Otherwise, it would be confiscated and only released if and when a parent made an appointment to pick it up.

Many of my daughter’s classmates (and 52% of the high school’s students overall) chose not to go in the next day. My daughter made a fairly solid case for joining the army of truants, but I said I’d consider it only if she spent the entire day studying AP World History (no texting, no laptop, no Netflix). My goal, of course, was to convince her to go. To her credit, she complied.

Over breakfast (having packed her lunch in a clear plastic bag), I reiterated the no cell phone rule. “Keep your phone out of sight,” I reminded her. She nodded. We picked up a friend and I dropped them off at the front door of the school. “I’d say, ‘Keep me posted,’” I joked. “But, you can’t use your phone.” She nodded.

With very little traffic, I was back home in about five minutes. As I walked in the door, I received a text from her friend.

They took her phone. Call and pick it up.

Five minutes.

Of course, my first thought was to call the school. But, then I realized that there was no way I would have known my daughter’s phone was taken unless she or someone else contacted me, which they were not allowed to do. My call would basically implicate my daughter’s friend.

At my 2:35 pick-up that afternoon, I finally called and spoke to someone in the office. Sure enough, I would have to come in and meet with the principal if I wanted the phone back. “You’re coming with me,” I informed my daughter. “You’re going to have to apologize to him.”

“It’s not my fault,” she moaned to me. “So-and-so was supposed to be my lookout. Plus, school hadn’t technically started yet. I thought the rule was only for school hours.”

“Then why did you need a lookout?” I countered.

Ha! Busted.

The principal was surprisingly nice about it all. My daughter, he told me, had the distinction of being the first student caught that morning. He reminded her about the policy (which was going to continue until further notice even though backpacks were back). He told us to have a nice day.

On the way out, I think my daughter was waiting for some sort of lecture or punishment. I did tell her that I’d rather not be called into the principal’s office again. “Ever.” But otherwise, I was pretty chill.

Being the first to have her phone confiscated may have been a dubious honor.

But, at least I can say she was first.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

No comments:

Post a Comment