Posted by: Hannah | 06/21/2013

cynicism, thy name is Hannah

Today was Ron’s preschool graduation. Again. Because he’s been in preschool for two years, he went through the same ceremony last year too. The kids all wore little blue mortarboards. They chanted a rhyme welcoming everyone to their graduation. Then they sang a couple of songs, got certificates and a book, and stuffed their faces with both cake AND ice creams bars at 9:30 in the morning.

My favourite part was seeing him with his four Very Best Friends. The five of them were like a shrunken Rat Pack, or something. Just adorable, all with collared shirts and earnest expressions. They’ve been inseparable all year, and starting in the fall the band will be broken up for a while… they’ll be going two different elementary schools, and one is moving halfway across the country this summer. I got a few good pictures, and I’m so happy that I did.

What I didn’t do was cry because my “baby” is moving on to big-kid school. First of all, he’s five years old, plays Little League, reads, talks, and rejects all cooked vegetables except peas. He is not a baby, and he’d be the first one to tell you that. I find it so patronizing when adults call their not-babies-anymore children babies. It drives me bonkers. And second of all, I’m not sad that preschool is finished. I’m happy for him! He had a great preschool experience and learned a lot. He’s excited for grade primary in the fall. Why would I cry?

I will miss the camaraderie of chatting with other parents twice a week at pick-up time, but otherwise, that chapter is behind us now (at least until George turns three) and that’s cool. There are so many good times to come!

Apparently I’m in the minority on that one, though, because all the other moms (and some of the dads, and most of the grandparents, and since when is finishing preschool such a Big Goddamn Deal anyway?) were conspicuously dabbing at their eyes.

***

Then after lunch I bundled up the younger boys and headed back out, to Harry’s school this time, for his class Open House. His class divided into four groups and learned short plays based on classic fairy tales. Harry’s group performed “The Little Red Hen”. He’s been stressing about it for weeks – “we aren’t going to be ready, Mom. I know my lines, but Girl A and Girl B aren’t taking it seriously! They won’t learn their lines! They don’t use any expression! GIRL A THREW A BOOT AT ME WHEN WE WERE PRACTICING TODAY!” and so on. I’m used to a certain amount of hyperbole from my eldest child, but in this case, he wasn’t kidding – he knew not only his part but everyone else’s too. Girl A in particular did not know any of her lines, making me wonder what her parents thought as they watched her smirk and say “um, line?” over and over again for ten minutes.

There were several cases of raging stage fright. Only one kid in each group spoke loudly enough to be heard. The room was overcrowded, and despite being told three times that it would start at 1:15, our arrival at 1:10 caused the teacher to say “oh, Harry’s mom is finally here”. Ron ended up standing on a table at the back of the room and George spent the hour in his stroller eating a steady stream of goldfish crackers to placate him.

Harry was cute in his part. He told me afterwards that he was scared, but he certainly didn’t appear frightened, and he did a fair bit of physical comedy that the audience responded well to. So that was fun.

ButbutBUT the teacher kept making little speeches about how restorative and wonderful the kids were for her. She told us all how she only has three cancer treatments left and then, I swear, paused for applause. She really did make it all about her, and I realize that at this point she would really have to do something spectacular to make me forget about all the issues we had with her this year, but it was so hard for me to keep from rolling my eyes.

Then when the plays were finished, they sang a song. This was unintentionally hilarious, because the kids – Harry included – were running around telling their parents: we’re going to sing a French song, and don’t laugh at me. All of us parents immediately looked concerned and replied “of course we won’t laugh at you! Why would we laugh at you?” I was honestly perplexed.

But then the class sang a song called “Don’t Laugh At Me”. It’s an overwrought country tune and the lyrics are as follows:

I’m a little boy with glasses
The one they call the geek
A little girl who never smiles
‘Cause I’ve got braces on my teeth
And I know how it feels
To cry myself to sleep

I’m that kid on every playground
Who’s always chosen last
A single teenage mother 
Tryin’ to overcome my past
You don’t have to be my friend
But is it too much to ask

Don’t laugh at me
Don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings
Don’t laugh at me

I’m the cripple on the corner
You’ve passed me on the street
And I wouldn’t be out here beggin’
If I had enough to eat
And don’t think I don’t notice
That our eyes never meet

I lost my wife and little boy when
Someone cross that yellow line
The day we laid them in the ground
Is the day I lost my mind
And right now I’m down to holdin’ 
This little cardboard sign…so

Don’t laugh at me
Don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings
Don’t laugh at me

I’m fat, I’m thin, I’m short, I’m tall
I’m deaf, I’m blind, hey, aren’t we all

Don’t laugh at me
Don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings
Don’t laugh at me

And because I am a) a cynic; b) a total jerk; c) pretty much an atheist but certainly not a Christian… well, all I wanted to do was laugh. Especially when Harry’s teacher said earnestly as they started singing “just listen to the lyrics!” and then cried through the whole twangy thing. And then she gave another little speech where she said they talked about bullying all year, but that none of the kids in her class were bullies, and I did have to turn a snort into a cough at that point, because two of them are. THEY ARE. There is a Prototypical Mean Girl and a Budding Jock in there, and they make life miserable for everyone else.

***

So needless to say, it was a long day. It was one of those days where I feel like a total asshole, because it seems like everyone around me is all caught up in the Magic and Wonder, and I just feel like I’m being punished for something because, frankly, I’m bored and I want to go home.

Does anyone else react this way to supposed-to-be-precious-and-beautiful stuff with their kids? Or is it just because I am, as Beck said in jest on Twitter today, COLD COLD STONE?

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Responses

  1. Oh JESUS those lyrics. I would have rolled my eyes so far back in my head they’d be looking at my ass.

    I’m with you, Hannah. My younger child finished preschool this month too, and I only cried at the graduation because the teacher does a slide show set to music and you could show me pictures of white bread and pickles and set it to music and I would cry.

    Having gone to the effort of making friends with moms at preschool for my first kid, and then having to do it again at kindergarten last year, I just couldn’t even be bothered to make any friends in son2’s preschool class. I have been phoning it in since about November. It’s an EFFORT for me to make friends! I’m not going to waste it on people I’m never going to see again!

    • The only reason I’m making the effort is because I’ll be seeing these moms again for years and years; all the students at the preschool live in the same district, and while it covers two elementary schools there is only one middle school and one high school. We’re in this for the long haul. This is better in some cases than in others.

  2. That is QUITE the song she choose. I have never been a huge fan of graduations for people who cannot legally drive, I much preferred our school’s celebration, a picnic with picnic games (held in an arena because of all the bloody rain) and a potluck.
    Fun, lowkey, and darn easy.

    • That sounds lovely. We used to have “Field Day” when I was in elementary school; the whole student body was divided into teams and we played a whole series of awesome games. For points! And the top three teams got ribbons and the rest of the teams got nothing. 🙂 We had steamed hot dogs and McDonald’s orange drink for lunch, and it was wonderful.

      Then the grade sixes would take on the teachers in a baseball game while the rest of the school watched. And the grade sixes lost every year.

      It would never happen now, which is a shame.

  3. wow, that is QUITE the song. Weird. Or is that just me? Seems very WEIRD for a group of 2nd graders to sing. I mean, “I’m the cripple on the corner” seems kind of wrong.

    I’m not even going to comment on the teacher herself. But I want to.

    My youngest would go ballistic if I referred to him as my baby.

    • Yup, it was weird. And she has spent quite a bit of time this year trying to “share her faith”, which I find incredibly obnoxious, because we are a secular household, and as a friend of mine said on Facebook, if we wanted our kids to go to a Christian school we’d send them to one.

  4. Oh my god, I’m afraid that my reaction to that song would also have been a nearly immediate, knee jerk desire to laugh, but then I don’t do forced sentimentality in public well. That just seems like a really strange song to have a group of 7 year olds sing.

    As I noted on Twitter, when oldest “graduated” from preschool they had a cute (short) ceremony and the only crying I did was out of joy that we would be reducing our childcare costs exponentially. I doubt I’ll get super misty when youngest graduates preschool next Summer either.

    Now, HS graduation will be a totally different animal. I am 8 years away from that with Oldest and already I can tell it’s going to leave me a wreck because although I’m certain Oldest’s teen years might do me in, I’ll still get emotional knowing he will be leaving home.

    • Oh hell, I cried at my *own* HS graduation, and at my university graduation I was a sobbing mess. That’s… different.

  5. That song? Is AWFUL. It’s sentimental tripe, for starters, and talking about things that are way, way over a 7-year-old’s head. Ugh. Also, the saccharine religiosity? More ugh.

    Crying at preschool ‘graduation’ seems a smidge over-the-top to me, and more than a little self-aggrandizing. If you cry at preschool ‘graduation’ (with mortarboards?! oh, honestly), what on earth are you going to do when they have a real, true life accomplishment?

    And also? It strikes me as a bit selfish to cloud your child’s excitement with your own ambivalence. Are they supposed to feel guilty for making you feel bad, guilty for growing up? My response to my children’s accomplishments is usually pride and happiness. Any tears I shed are of joy.

    So, if those parents were crying because the tots were just so damned cute, that’d be okay with me. Not that I’d be indulging in tears myself — for my emotional make-up, that response to PRESCHOOL borders on histrionic — but okay, cuteness, teary-ness, I get that. If they were crying because their ‘babies’ were ‘growing up’, nope, don’t get it at all. Lotta years ahead before they’re leaving home, mom and dad. Get a grip, now.

    I did get teary at my kids’ high school graduations, but NOT because “Mah Baybeeee was growing uuuup!”, but because of all the sweet hopeful excitement those kids had. It was freaking adorable. (And by ‘teary’, I mean ‘my eyes welled up’, not ‘crying great dripping buckets of snotty tears’.)

    I didn’t tear up at the eldest’s university graduation, as it happens. I was too excited and proud to cry. Will I cry at my youngest’s, she being the last one to leave the nest? Maybe. Or maybe I’ll be too busy gleefully turning her room into the long-delayed guest room to fret overmuch. I’m not sure…

    • Yeah, and you think it’s awful based on just reading the lyrics. I didn’t link to the YouTube video complete with twangy new-country singing and earnest children’s choir accompaniment. I saved you from that, Mary. BE GRATEFUL.

      And you hit the nail on the head with your comment better than I did. If you’re crying because your happy and cute hits you that way, fine. If you’re crying because your ‘baby’ is moving on, nope. It just seems so selfish to me, somehow.

  6. I admit, the fact that preschool (2s program) finished for the year does make me feel a bit wistful. He’s not really going to see some of these kids again and he had such a fun time. (He ran into one of them at the community centre last week and she hugged him. Can’t get much cuter than tiny kids hugging because they’re happy to see each other).

    I cry at anything cute. I have no idea why. So I hope my kid doesn’t think it’s anything to do with me being unhappy that he is growing up; I’m pretty excited about all the things that my son can now do. He’s really enjoying his new freedoms.

    I think for some people, so much of their life is caught up in their kids’ lives that it makes the natural progression of children’s lives so much more meaningful. For adults, our lives change very little from year to year, but our children move from one stage to the next quite quickly. I can see how for some people that would be difficult to process because parents forget to step back and see it as natural – it just feels really fast. For me, his first year of preschool felt really fast, but for my son, it was a long time. So moving on is an easier thing for him to do than it would be for me, if I had primarily identified myself as the mother of a preschooler.

    • This is a thoughtful comment. Thank you.

      I think getting a little-teary eyed at childhood accomplishments is something we’ve all done. I explained to my kiddos early on that sometimes we cry when we’re happy too! It was the parents at both of these events who were crying and acting sad that I wondered at. Like, wistful, sure, I get that. But saying things like “I wish they could just stay in preschool forever!” and “My baby isn’t ready for big school yet!” just seems weird to me.

      • True. Those seem like overly dramatic responses. They’re going to elementary school, not the other side of the world.

        I have to say that my initial reaction would be amusement. Because if you turned and said to them, “actually, your child doesn’t seem ready for big school”, they would not appreciate your agreement.

  7. I just wrote a comment, then erased it, because it was a rambling mess. I will sum it up for you thusly: Forced Sentimentality+Cramped Child-Sized Seating+Social Anxiety=Unhappy Me Who Didn’t Want To Be There. The kids had fun once the ceremony was over, and they moved everyone outside to the fenced-in play area for cake and assorted fruit. So…why didn’t they just do that? O_o

    • Mmm… cake and fruit…

      The preschool graduation was actually fine, because it was so short – the whole “sit still and be quiet” thing was done in less than fifteen minutes. The only part about that I found uncomfortable / eye rolling was the other adults. It was the 2nd grader’s thing that made me want to stab my brain with something.

      • In reality, it was probably fine. The ceremony itself was maybe 15 minutes long, but it seemed like for ever because strangers were in my personal space (which, granted, is larger than most), and the Boy kept trying to push strangers away with his tiny fist, for the crime of sitting near him.

      • Plus, I do find any kind of forced sentimentality like that a little nauseating. Little moments when my kids do the right thing on their own, and shows that they’re growing up, I will get tears of pride in my eyes. But when they ask each kid what they’re going to be when they grow up, and one kids says “A Daddy” and the whole room literally goes “AWWWWWW” I’m like, “can I go now? I’m clearly not the target audience, here.”

  8. We only do graduations for university here – and considering how stressful I’m finding the organisation for mine, I’m very glad! That song is very peculiar. Doesn’t anyone have to approve this stuff? Or are all of them a bit dippy and everyone thought it was suitable?

    • Good question re: approval. No, no one has to approve this stuff, because the teachers are given a fair bit of autonomy within their own classrooms as long as they meet the required curriculum targets. Sometimes this is good – Harry’s teacher is Acadian, so they do more French instruction than the curriculum requires because it’s her mother tongue and she enjoys it. Sometimes this is very bad, like when they sing treacly horrible songs about god and being nice to teenage mothers and cripples. (ACK).

  9. Holy shit – just you talking about the song on Twitter made me think of The Christmas Shoes song which makes me GAG, and the actual song is worse than I imagined. After I read Nicole’s comment, I had to go back and check that it actually says ‘the cripple on the corner’. SERIOUSLY? Did the teacher WRITE the song? Double GAG.

    I don’t really know what to say about people crying at preschool graduation, because I tend to both cry and not-cry at weird times, and I’d hate to have motives ascribed to that that aren’t there. I also do still think of Eve as my baby, although I don’t tend to call her that in public. We both know that you’re less sentimental than I am about a lot of stuff, and that’s okay.

    • The teacher did not write the song, although I did have to look it up when I got home just to be sure!

      And I am less sentimental than a lot of people, it’s true. I guess I just have to get comfortable with the notion that “less sentimental” does not mean “heartless bastard who can’t wait for her children to leave home”. 😉

  10. Well, yeah, because that does NOT flow trippingly off the tongue at all.

    I had to end my comment abruptly because Eve was desperate that we get there super-early for Monsters U. I think I had a brilliant summing-up part, but I’ve forgotten it. I agree that preschool graduations are a little silly – we just had a picnic day too, which I prefer. I felt a little wistful at Angus’s grade six graduation because it seemed like his eight years at a school I really loved had gone by really fast, but I didn’t cry. I’m sort of secretly hoping that you’ll be ninja-drop-kicked by emotion when George graduates from preschool and have to confess that you cried buckets at his graduation. I won’t hold my breath though. 🙂

  11. Umm, yeah. I would have been snickering at the song.

  12. When I hear about “graduations” for little kids, it makes me think of Mr Incredible in “The Incredibles” saying “It’s not a graduation! He’s going from the 4th grade, to the 5th grade.”
    Mrs Incredible: “It’s a ceremony!”
    Mr. Incredible: “It’s psychotic! They keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity!”

    • The same quote comes out here every time we go through these graduations. It’s painfully true.

      • At least the kids are cute. But I wish teachers wouldn’t make them sing. Untrained groups of kids singing are painful to hear.

        • Oh see, there I disagree. I love their little earnest out-of-tune voices. I just hate it when that innocence is channeled into utter shitty shlock.

          • I think one little out of tune voice is adorable. I think a chorus of them is like nails down a chalk board. But yeah. Sappy songs don’t teach them anything.

  13. My SK daughter and her class sang that horrendous song last week too, and I had to dig my nails into the palm of my hand to stop from either laughing maniacally or fleeing the gym. But my daughter absolutely *loved* singing it, and I catch her mouthing words from the song every so often now. I hope there are no lasting effects on her little psyche…

    • SENIOR KINDERGARTEN????

      Talk about inappropriate themes, good grief!

  14. I can’t decide which lyric is more inappropriate for young children “A single teenage mother; Tryin’ to overcome my past” or “I’m the cripple on the corner; You’ve passed me on the street; And I wouldn’t be out here beggin’; If I had enough to eat.” Probably the latter because who the fuck says “cripple” anymore.

    All I remember about my older son’s kindergarten graduation is that the girls ALL wore new dresses and none of the boys wore anything special. It was strange.

    • Yeah, it’s a toss-up for me. I love how The Absolute Worst Thing the lyricist can imagine is an unwed teenage mother. But yeah, I had a little talk with Harry about how the word “cripple” is a huge no-no.

      And the clothes at Ron’s graduation were the same, except for Ron, who by choice wore khaki pants, a belt, and an Oxford shirt, because that’s what he picked out. 😀


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