I survived teacher appreciation week (and then wrote this essay about it)


Just the other day at 5:30 a.m., before work, I found myself making an egg strata and getting together orange juice, bagels, cream cheese and a fruit salad. This was not a breakfast for my son, Sam, or my husband, Nat. (They were stuck with frozen waffles.) It was for my son’s daycare teachers, for a little something called Teacher Appreciation Week.

For the uninitiated (including me, as of two weeks ago), Teacher Appreciation Week involves parents expressing appreciation through gifts, food and flowers for everything teachers do. An email is sent out to the parents of the kid’s class asking if they can take on bringing in a lunch or a breakfast or other nice treats. All voluntary, of course. (Of course!) And yes, while I very much appreciate everything my son’s teachers do to keep him safe, happy and engaged, I guess I figured the monster check I write them every month shows just how much I love and honor them. But, well, no. Not the case.

So, while I was groggily trying to assemble a breakfast-to-go for six, I couldn’t help but think about how all the school stuff falls on the Mom. Always, always, always. Look, this complaint is as old as time, I know. But even I feel this, and I’m married to man who takes on the lion’s share of the child-rearing. Still, when it comes to the organizational stuff of family life — Sam’s schedule, schooling, keeping track of teacher meetings, extracurricular activities, packing his lunch, making sure his cubby is restocked with the essentials, and etc. — it’s on me.

I’m writing this knowing full well that if I told my husband that he would have to do one of these chores, he would take it on without hesitation. He is a magical husband and father and is always agreeable. But for some reason, I never have. I guess I just figure me handling it is just easier than me checking up on Nat to make sure he’s handled it. Because maybe, just maybe, we’ve had a few conversations that go like this:

Dorothy: We need to make sure Sam is wearing a solid red shirt today for school.
Nat: Really? Why?
Dorothy: It’s “Rainbow Day”, and they are to be dressed in colors of the rainbow.
Nat: Really? Who told you this?
Dorothy: It’s in the email they sent from school.
Nat: Really?
Dorothy: [Lighting herself on fire and walking out a window]

I don’t want to have these conversations — mainly, because I don’t want to be a nag, but also because I somehow feel like if we don’t talk about this out loud, it’s almost as if our life isn’t now consumed by the insane minutiae and chores that come with raising a 3-year-old. When Lord Alfred Douglas wrote the poem “Two Loves” he coined the immortal line: “The love that dare not speak its name,” which, at the time, was a euphemism for homosexuality. But for me, it’s a line that courses through my head when I’m writing “S-A-M” in large letters on all of the diapers we send into day care. Like, if we don’t acknowledge the fact we spend so much time being totally immersed in the boring day-to-day tasks that come with the territory of being a parent, it won’t exist. I’m still “cool” and not a stereotypical suburban mom robot who spends her mornings sticking labels onto her son’s sippy cups. I guess I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that growing up, I was told “little girls can do anything” — which, of course, we can — but no one ever told us that “everything” also includes making sure you always have enough baby wipes on hand.

But I digress. I’m sure you are anxiously awaiting the epic story of That Time Dorothy Made An Egg Casserole And Then Complained About It for Weeks Afterward. So here it is: I was making said egg casserole because if I told Nat, “Hey, I need you to make an egg strata tomorrow for Teacher Appreciation Week, as I said we would bring in breakfast,” he would say, “What? That’s crazy. I’ll just go to Dunkin Donuts and pick up some donuts. Everyone loves donuts.” Which is unacceptable. Because — if I may let my suburban Yuppie flag fly for a minute — I wanted the teachers to have something healthier to eat than deep-fried dough, even though I know full-well they would like donuts way more.

No one said being a total suburban mom robot was easy.

So, in a major accomplishment — stacked right up there with graduating from college, getting married, and giving birth — I rose hours before the sun and got together the bagels and cream cheese and orange juice and the strata. I packed up the car with my son and was able to carry it in while making sure my son didn’t get hit by a car in the parking lot. Some of the teachers said, “Hey, Mom. Thanks!” (The teachers call the moms “Mom”, as they they don’t know our names … or at least not mine). And then at the end of the week, another e-mail went out the parents, specifically singling out the families who participated in Teacher Appreciation Week.

When I saw our name, I instinctively raised my fist in celebration. I did it! I looked good to the three people in the email chain who actually know who “Sam’s parents” actually are. (Dorothy. My name is Dorothy. I write you that monster check every month.) It was a minor victory. I felt good, and also like I was an adequate parent. I even remembered to get my dishes back from the teachers. This whole “adult” thing —  I am getting it. And now that I’ve proven I can swing a strata, there’s no doubt in my mind: Next time, we’re going full-on donuts. Like, donuts that stretch as far as the eye can see. Because Nat is correct: Everyone (including ol’ suburban mom robot me) loves donuts — especially when the dad goes and gets them.

After a little prodding by me, of course.

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