back to school night


For a charm of powerful trouble, 
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;        
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

~ The three witches, Macbeth

Spoiler alert: Pollyanna has been unceremoniously kicked to the curb

Am I the only one at back to school night who has an overwhelming urge to curl up in the corner and sob? My husband looks at me like I have three heads and pleads with me to tell him what’s wrong. My best Mom-friend sighs. She’s come to expect the sniffles. A fellow SPED parent winks at me from across the room. And I just want to run screaming from the building.

I don’t, of course. I sit dutifully listening to our principal as she outlines her vision of diversity and community. I think about what those two words have come to mean to me. Bubble.

I nod and smile as Luau’s co-PTO president stands at the podium talking about her memories of her adorable little girls starting kindergarten in these very halls. She reminisces about being overwhelmed with pride when her youngest one stepped onto the big, open field of elementary school. I remember being overwhelmed too, but not the same way. And it was two weeks ago. Bubble.

I step to the microphone to introduce myself as the liaison to the Special Education Parents Advisory Council. If I were a cartoon I’d be drawn as one big, raw, exposed nerve.  I speak without notes, flail slightly, forget two of my most pressing points. I look out at the sea of faces. Standing in front of a microphone, there is so much that I could say to these people. I want to plead with them to teach their children to respect each other. To implore them to lead by example. To beg them to talk to their kids about tolerance. To ask them to help me protect my baby from hurt. I don’t. I make my stilted announcements and step down. Bubble.

We file out of the auditorium and make our way to our children’s classrooms to meet their teachers. Kindergarten and second grade are meeting simultaneously. Luau says, ‘You go to whichever one you want. I’ll take the other.” I melodramatically tell him he’s asking me to make Sophie’s Choice. Bubble.

I choose Katie’s room. My thinking is that I have fairly regular contact with Brooke’s teacher, aide, inclusion facilitator and therapists.  I have access to them when I need them. We have meetings scheduled. I read reports every day about Brooke’s work.  Yes, Katie’s it is. Bubble.

I walk into Katie’s room and shuffle around for a minute with the other parents. Luau pops his head in en route to the kindergarten room. I haven’t yet melted down completely, so hey, that’s good. I tell him I’ve made a mistake. I need to be down in Brooke’s room. I ask him to take notes and I run out before he can answer. Katie tells me about what she does, I reason. I supervise her homework. We TALK about it. She can TELL me what she is doing in class. Her little sister CAN’T. Bubble.

I make it into Brooke’s classroom with plenty of time to spare. Parents are milling around a table upon which are laid various sign-up sheets. Library Duty 12pm, Guest Reader 9am, Room Parent, Art Assistant. Moms eagerly lap up the open slots. I bounce between the sheets aimlessly. All of these opportunities to volunteer are DURING THE DAY. WHILE. I. WORK. Friggin Bubble.

I write my name in on Katie’s birthday as a guest reader. I will take the day off. What the heck? This will be how we use my vacation days this year. Who can afford to travel anymore anyway? Luau runs into the room, quickly signs up for nearly everything left and then breezes back out to get back to the second grade. He doesn’t have to think twice about how he will ‘manage’ it. Bubble.

The teacher begins to present the curriculum. Funny to think about kindergarten HAVING a curriculum, but of course it does. She keeps mentioning the social aspects of the class. They are threaded throughout the presentation. “It is kindergarten after all.” She talks about the importance of building relationships, negotiating difficult situations in the classroom, remembering to use words. Bubble.

She keeps saying, “I’m sure you’re hearing about this.” and “Your child will likely mention that.” Bubble.

Now, mind you, there are good things too. Yes. Really good things.

Brooke’s teacher tells me that Brooke had a little posse of kids around her at choice time today. She was directing them.

“You would  say ___.”

“Now you say it quietly.” (whispering)

“Now it would be LOUD.” (shouting)

They complied. Happily. They were laughing.

This is largely how Brooke interacts with us at home. She tells us what to say. I always worried that the kids in school would bristle at being ordered around. She’s made it a game. She’s LEADING a group of FRIENDS.


The P.E. teacher stops me in the hall to tell me how well Brooke handled her class today. “There was a lot of yelling involved in the game we played. I asked [Atlas] before we started if she thought Brooke could handle it.”

I still hear her talking, but I am basking in the glow of “I asked [Atlas] before we started if she thought Brooke could handle it.”  The P.E. teacher took time to check with Brooke’s aide before proceeding with a game.


So yes, there were good things too. Very good things.

There were even drinks afterwards. Lychee juice, sake, grapefruit vodka yummy drinks. In pretty glasses. With funny people who laugh at dirty jokes.

But much as they tried, they couldn’t counterbalance the Bubbling. Pollyanna is cute. She’s got a lot of good things to say. But she can only stick around here for so long before she wears out her welcome. Quite frankly, she was beginning to grate on my nerves anyway.

9 thoughts on “back to school night

  1. jess, i can completely relate to the bubbling. it’s nice to know i’m not alone on that. i suspect that the bubbling is always going to be there no matter how old are children are. hugs. =)

  2. i realize that the ‘bubbles’ might be misleading (don’t worry, karla, not just you!).. i meant them in reference to the macbeth quote above the post .. feelings bubbling, cauldron close to boiling over.. though i love that it can be interpreted in other ways ..

    pay no attention to the chick behind the curtain . pls carry on

  3. Well, the timing couldn’t be better for me to see this… I’ll be at the other end of the table tomorrow night leading my own first back-to-school night at a new school. And how much I wish I could share your post with them! However, people at this school have “honored me of late, and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people, which would be worn now in their newest gloss, not cast aside so soon” (Macbeth, I.vii.35-38). And I might find myself kicked right off my soapbox if I start preaching to them on my first back-to-school night! Perhaps I should find subtler ways to share… well, you’ve got me thinking about something that’s obviously important… I’ll let you know what I come up with. (see? You’re not the only one who can quote Shakespeare :P)

  4. Oh my friend! I feel ya! If I do this with this child, I miss that with the other child. So hard to make Sophie’s Choice as you say. Made even worse by having one NT and one with different needs. UUUUGGGGGHHHH!

  5. Absolutely mesmerizing post today. So glad you listened to that little internal tug that told you to go to Brooke’s room, just in time to get all the HUGE news.

    It was Middle School Open House this evening, and I blew it off. I just couldn’t face the other parents with their “My son is so busy with track and tennis and the school newspaper and homework, I barely see him,” and their “My gifted and talented child is positively bored in her advanced math class” and their “why on Earth is your son chewing the cuff off of his sleeve?”

    Big bubble. *POP*

  6. I sincerely hope that someday, when you have time (haha), you publish a book on this journey. Sooooooo many parents like us can relate to the BUBBLE.

  7. I felt that Sophie’s Choice as well. And I saw your pot boiling over and wanted to give you a big hug. I don’t know what else to say, except tears are good, and I always have ears for you!!! Love you girl!!

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