Newborns arrive as a blank slate, a tabula rasa, or as I call them, dummies. Kids have a whole lot of learning to do. Of course, not from me, because I also am a dummy. Luckily there are classes, activities, and, of course, school.
I really wasn’t prepared for the amount of classes offered to little children. When I was a kid, there was preschool and watching television. Now there are classes geared toward your fetus. For example, there is prenatal yoga. It’s a lot like a regular yoga, but it has the word prenatal before it.
Once your child is born, “classes” run the gamut from pointless to useless. Parents sit in a circle on the floor and sing horrible songs as the two-year-olds try to hit each other with musical instruments. Toddler soccer is like watching a political discussion on cable news. It starts off serious and ends in embarrassment for all involved. I had to pay to see my six-year- old twirl around the stage for five minutes dancing a routine she learned in a class I paid for her to attend. The experience was made complete when I opened a fundraising letter from the “school” the next week.
Eventually children start actual school. Your precious child will learn something, and you will be able to use the bathroom in peace. My only problem with school is when it starts and ends. Preschool boils down to a couple of hours a day for you to run errands. Elementary school starts at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. Given that a first grader can’t put on a T-shirt properly, they will need help at the even ungodlier hour of 7 a.m.
I love the preschools that my children have attended, but they are not really “schools.” They are either just a day care or a jail. That’s why I find it strange that they still hold parent-teacher conferences. The preschool parent-teacher conference always feels like a game of “serial killer or not serial killer?” Of course, you want to hear your kid is doing well and getting along with the other children, but unless your child is building bombs or purposely urinating in the Quiet Corner, the conference could easily be done over e-mail.
Even as your children get older, the parent-teacher conference is a strange experience. It’s supposed to be all about the child, but somehow it ends up with you feeling like you are getting a report card on your parenting. Because I am an actor and comedian, it seems that these conferences always lead back to my occupation. “Well your daughter/son is very dramatic and loves to talk, which I guess is no surprise, given your occupation.”
I’m not offended, but the implication that all improper behavior is the result of what I do for a living is rather absurd. As if a chatty five-year-old with a librarian mom would be a red flag. “We expected your child to just sit behind her desk and shush people. Maybe she needs Ritalin.”
Adapted from “DAD IS FAT” Copyright © 2013 by Jim Gaffigan. Published by Crown Archetype, a division of Random House, Inc. on May 7.
To find out what Jim’s kids really think about their dad’s literary pursuits, watch this video.