I’m not saying I’m this kind of mom, I’m just saying that when I read a column called the “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever,” I was desperate to talk to its author. She’s Jen Hatmaker , a mother of five in Texas, and a writer and speaker, and she nailed so many school-related parental shortcomings that her piece promptly hit all the modern markers of success: It went viral (her Web hosting service said it had been read something like 10 million times), she did the “Today” show, and reality-show producers are swarming.
Parents too tapped out to help their kids read, but not too tapped out to read a piece about how they’re too tapped to help their kids read, have been sharing the piece before they’ve even finished it themselves.
“You know the Beginning of School Enthusiasm?” it begins. “When the pencils are fresh and the notebooks are new and the kids’ backpacks don’t look like they lined the den of a pack of filthy hyenas? I am exactly still like that at the end of school, except the opposite.
“I haven’t checked homework folders in three weeks,” Hatmaker continues, “because, well, I just can’t. Cannot. Can. Not. . . . Is there homework in the folder? I don’t even know.”
Feeling she should have already crossed the finish line, Hatmaker confesses that doing the required reading has become too taxing. “Yesterday, Remy brought her books to me at bedtime . . . and chirped ‘We need to read for 20 minutes!’
“No, we don’t have to read tonight.”
“YES WE DO!!! MRS. BURKE SAID!!! WE HAAAAVE TO!!!”
“We already read,” Hatmaker tells her disbelieving daughter in the piece. “When I talk to you during the day, that’s like reading. . . . It’s called auditory reading. . . . I’ll write the minutes down in your log.”
Reached at home, where she was not helping any children with final projects, Hatmaker reflected on the piece’s popularity.
“I just feel like this parenting gig is hard, and it’s harder than it’s ever been. What’s expected now in terms of parents managing school is so overwhelming. I’m not even joking, I feel like this is my fourth time through third grade. I should have 100 degrees at this point.
“It could be my faulty memory,” she added, “but I can’t conjure an image of my parents laboring over projects. A lot of naysayers say, ‘don’t do the kids’ work,’ and that is true, but so many projects are so labor intensive they’re beyond the capability of kids to do alone. They can’t drive themselves to Walmart to get supplies for a science project.”
Oh, sorry. I’ve got to go, my son is calling from school: “Mom, I need a white shirt. The concert starts in 10 minutes.”
Oops.Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.