The Cold (Shoulder) Wars

My 6yo son is just finishing Kindergarten at a private school in the area. He's been at the preschool for three years now and he loves it. And for the most part, so do we. As he gets older though, the cost increases and we find we can no longer afford it. And I'm not just talking about tuition.

Now, I've met a lot of great women (and a few men) who are parents of my son's classmates and friends. We get along just fine and smile and nod when we pass one another in the parking lot. There are even one or two that I could call and just sit and chat with over coffee if I wanted or needed to. I like them just fine, but barring one or two of them, we have very little or nothing in common. So I don't.

And I have to admit that the politics of the "mom wars" are just enough to make me want to puke. They may not be as blatant when your child attends a public school; after all we are Christians so any attacks must be so passive aggressive that they may be unnoticeable to anyone but the recipient of said attack. There is an inherent snobbery to people who put their children in a private school. There's a "better than you" attitude that manifests in all aspects of interaction (directly or indirectly).

I'm not as great a mom because I don't volunteer in the classroom and I don't go on every field trip.

I don't send candy or other treats in for the class for every holiday (and in fact, I end up throwing at least half the crap that comes home with my child in the trash when he's not looking -- he never even misses it).

I don't buy expensive gifts for the teacher and her assistants.

And I don't have elaborate birthday parties for my child or even take my son to half the ones he's invited to. See, there's a rule (actually stated, if not in the school handbook) that if you're passing out invitations to a party, you invite everyone in the class (or at the very least, all of the kids of the same gender). And most of the parents extend this to all of the kids in his grade (both classes of Kindergarten in this case).

So... here's the exchange that my son and I had roughly a week or so ago regarding the party he's attending this afternoon:

Me: (noting the close to tears expression as he got off the bus and traipsed into the house) What's wrong, Buddy? Something happen in school today?

Him: I hurt Logan's feelings and now he won't be my friend.

Me: What happened?

Him: I told him I couldn't come to his birthday party.

Me: (confused and trying to remember an invitation coming home in his bag in the past couple days) What party?

Him: On the 8th of May.

Me: Do you have an invitation?

Him: (bursting into tears) No, I gave it back to him.

Me: Why did you tell him you couldn't go.

Him: I don't know... but now I want to go.

Me: Ok, you're going to apologize to Logan tomorrow at school, ask him if you can still have the invitation, and then we can talk about it when I can see the details.
So today, we were looking for a birthday present for a child that I know nothing about (except that on the one field trip I did help to chaperone this year, it was obvious that he was "that child" who was always in trouble). I know what my son likes, but I also know that my son's interests are very different from many of the boys in his school. And I felt the pressure of trying to make sure my son wasn't "the friend who gave me lame presents," and that I wasn't "the cheap mom."

He's 6 and already the pressure and the drama that I can't afford to deal with. And this is one of the many reasons that we are homeschooling him next year.


Aaron's Books in Lititz said...

Todd read a bit over my shoulder and ask "are you reading about yourself"... so tru four our experiences.. A has gone to one party this year.. the one NOT at a karate studio... I was the mom at the school on Friday with the outfit that cost less than $400 (mine was more the $29.99 price tag), and we're the parents that make him create his own cards and don't attach 3 kinds of candy to them for Valentines (we throw away half that crapola too). Our son is the one with holes in his jeans at his knees, cause he's a 7 year old boy that likes to play outside, it's going to happen and I'm not rushing to the mall to buy him a new pair of pants every week. :)

Rachel Hackenberg said...

Yes! Thanks for letting me know that I'm not the only parent out there who ditches candy and thinks that over-the-top parties for kids are, well, over-the-top but who still tries not to _obviously_ be the cheap parent when it comes to gift-giving and classroom treats. Drama indeed!

Anonymous said...

It's hard having different ideals than the rest of the people on the "block." I admire your ability to not get sucked into the mommy wars. Mine are still so young that I'm dreading the school days.

Though being as weird and different as we are and the fact that everyone is ALREADY talking about how weird we are, maybe we'll be ok by then. We'll have 6 years of practice. :P

I admire your knowledge of your son and your commitment to homeschooling him. Can't wait to hear your adventures in that arena.