By Tim Sullivan
I was invited to introduce an award winning author at the AJC Decatur Book Festival named Asha Dornfest. She recently wrote a book offering problem solving “parent hacks.” Kristen snickered, “are you sure you’re a good fit for that?” We were scheduled to be out of town that weekend so I had to pass anyway. But since the offer and the snickering I’ve been determined to come up with a few parenting hacks of my own.
Each time I walk Elliott to school I see fewer parents on the route, giving way to the independence that is bourgeoning in the 4th grade set. There’s talk of only needing us to go half-way with him soon. Kristen predicts we’re just a few weeks away from total banishment. Some parents celebrate this development but not me. I’ve petitioned nearby Agnes Scott College to go co-ed so I can keep on walking Elliott to class through 2029.
Parent Hack (Helicopter edition): When your child no longer wants you to walk them to school, just linger some 15 feet or so behind pretending to play Pokémon Go. (My smartphone is so old it has dementia and would probably melt if I actually downloaded Pokémon Go, but my kids don’t know this). I guess if you have a newer phone you could also actually play the game but people might think you’re pretty weird.
Margo is in 1st grade now and even hugs at drop-off are still totally cool. Not that she’s a softy by any measure. One kid remarked that her Chewbacca bag was a “boy’s backpack.” Margo wasn’t taking any guff; “What do you ‘spect me to have, My Pretty Pony?”
Parent Hack (Margo edition): If your daughter tells off some bratty kid at school, resist any urge to teach politeness. In fact, go buy her an entire Chewbacca outfit to wear to school the next day. You must escalate the situation. If no other adult intervenes, you have not taken things far enough.
Elliott’s class had something called a Math Pre-Test the first week of school. Parents were freaking out because everyone got everything wrong. But the teacher assured us not to worry. It was on material they hadn’t covered yet and this was just a measuring stick. We were relieved. I thought maybe he had lost some brain cells in the pool over the summer ala Ryan Lochte. And I don’t mean to brag but my kid actually did get the right answer for question 7, part D. Plus, it gave me a great idea:
Parent Hack (Coach’s edition): Spend the first basketball practice of the season assessing how well the kids can dunk because nobody likes overconfidence in a child. Then send notes home for the parents: Dear Mrs. Smith, Johnny is 5.5 feet shy of dunking. Please don’t worry too much about this. We do not expect him to be able to dunk yet but it wouldn’t hurt to put in a few extra minutes of practice at home. Thanks!
There have been reprimands lately about my school lunch preparation. I packed too much salami and too little cantaloupe. I pre-opened a small bag of chips for Margo because they explode when she opens them herself at home but as I learned, she’s “not a baby!” I gave Elliott both a chewy bar and cookies (Kristen edited – both desserts) and I got the string cheeses mixed up. Margo likes mozzarella but Elliott likes the Mozzarella and cheddar twist. Or is it the other way around? It doesn’t really matter because this ineptitude is actually the stuff of genius:
Parent Hack (Lunchbox edition): Go ahead and continue to screw up your kids’ lunches. They will eventually insist on making their own! You’ll have more time to pretend you’re playing Pokémon Go, work with your child on snappy comebacks and blog about your parenting prowess.
See? I can hack. I’m a total hacker! Maybe Ms. Dornfest can introduce me to her publisher?