So last November, I shared with you my issues with school lateness in my letter to the Late Slip Lady. You may be happy to know that The Late Slip Lady and I haven’t seen each other in a while. While I wish that I could say that I haven’t been late as frequently, the truth is, I’ve figured out a way to avoid her. G-Dog, who is in junior kindergarten and Z, who is in grade one use two different entrances at school and because of their ages the entry procedures are a little different. So with that in mind, this is how I have managed to steer clear of the Late Slip Lady…
The parents over at the kindergarten entrance work together to protect each other from the Late Slip Lady’s pursed lipped smile and the unforgiving comments from the big boss, aka THE PRINCIPAL!!! We sneakily hold the door open as parents call from down the block or across street “Wait! We’re coming!” It’s an unspoken rule, before letting the door close behind you, after saying good-bye to your kindy kid, you check the surroundings for harried looking parents and children running for the door.
After the rushed entry, we console each other when we share the guilt we feel for pulling on our five year old’s arm so hard that their feet hover above the ground as we take giant, quick steps toward the school doors. We watch as our little ones, just shoved through the door, try to wave good-bye before being whisked away by a teacher repeating, “Hurry up! Hurry up!” (You would think that experienced kindergarten teachers would know that begging children to hurry up impacts the speed at which they move not at all!) The scene at the Kindergarten doors is sad and perhaps unnecessarily dramatic, but it is significantly better than the scene by the school’s main doors just outside of the office.
It is clear, after all these months of being late for school, that the Late Slip Lady perches behind the tall counter in the office to protect herself from the mob scene of parents and children lined up to get a late slip. Let me remind you, I totally get being late. These days, with my many young ducklings, when it takes approximately three to five minutes per child to get out the door, being late is just part of our every day. And I know that like us, every family is fighting some battle or another in those precious minutes before the school bell. However, regardless of my understanding of lateness, even I am puzzled about why the line up to see the Late Slip Lady has grown so much since the beginning of the year. I realize now that while she shot me disapproving looks occasionally, the Late Slip Lady and the big boss were quite lenient with my family and me. When my kids and I scurried into the office out of breath five minutes after the bell, she sometimes just smiled and ushered us down the hall without marking us late. It was like a free pass. Without the unspoken grace period, we would have really been officially late every single day!
At some point, however, it was decided by the powers that be, that if students do not enter the school with their class when the bell goes, they would be marked late. Doors are locked immediately after the bell and students and parents have to be buzzed into the school in order to go to the office to get a late slip and connect face to face with the principal who escorts the late child, with loser parents who don’t have a good relationship with time, to their class. Eeeek! Parents walk out of the school with their heads hung low right into the arms of all of the other late parents.
The scene inside the school and just outside the main doors is ridiculous. Getting to school 2 minutes after the bell should not cause such stress! What is more ridiculous, however, is how I have chosen to deal with this situation. I’m a bit of a wimp and I, all too easily, lose my confidence when I feel that I have disappointed someone. One time, when I signed Z into school late, I was crying so hard from the guilt of making him late again, that I actually couldn’t say good-bye! He even tried to comfort me by saying, “Being on time, isn’t really important Mom.” Clearly, I have taught him well! So now, to avoid the whole dramatic scene, I kiss and hug Z by the car and send him through the main doors on his own to deal with the wrath of the Late Slip Lady and principal. The adults in charge know that my seven year old is not responsible for getting himself to school. It’s not his fault if he’s late. He’s really just a casualty in this late-for-school drama. Instead of looking at me with disgust and disappointment, the principal and Late Slip Lady probably just shake their heads with an apologetic smile. “Z, we are so sorry about your bad luck in the mom department. One day you will be old enough to walk yourself to school and you will have a chance to buzz about with your classmates, unpack your backpack and hear the national anthem – all the things that happen in the first ten minutes of the day that have no impact on your overall academic success.”
Listen, I’m not saying that it is not important for children to be on time and ready to learn when they are participating in the rigid system of public education. As a teacher, I appreciate when my students arrive all at once so that I have an opportunity to greet them and help them settle into the classroom. And I know that being on time and meeting deadlines is a life skill and certainly not a bad one to possess. I also know, however, that I have never once woken up and announced to the children that we were going to take our sweet ass time getting to school because rules are for losers and we’re too cool for that!
So to the Late Slip Lady & Big Boss Principal: We’re all just doin’ the best we can with the children and life circumstances we’ve got. I’ll support you, if you support me!
Now parents stop reading and get your kiddos to school!XO Late Mommy Ajike