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The Great Thing About Annoying Parents

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I always take my seat (in a teeny tiny chair) in the meetings at my kids’ schools and hope for the best. I hope the other parents don’t ask too many questions that make the meeting run on forever, and I hope the refreshments served afterward are not stale. Invariably, my hopes are dashed, not by crackers that expired during the Clinton administration, but by the other parents. You know, those hyper, anxious, type-A parents who have endless questions about the math curriculum at the kids’ play-based preschool.

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Am I seriously supposed to sit there unfazed when a mother raises her hand to tell the teacher that she “contacted the U.S. Department of Education and was told that children over the age of 3 must be exposed to 47 minutes of math every single day”?


It’s hard for me to see the upside of parents who seem so controlling and competitive about education for 4-year-olds. When they start grilling the teacher I feel uncomfortable, like I just walked into an interrogation room instead of a meeting about how a preschool teacher hopes to instruct our kids on how to play without hitting and how to eat snacks without spitting.

Without them, we have no way to assure ourselves that we are balanced individuals with reasonable expectations for our children.

It takes a lot of willpower to keep from rolling my eyes with contempt at the parent who gives a preschool teacher the third degree about how prepared the children will be for their SATs in 11 years. In fact, I don’t possess that degree of willpower.

But there is an upside to those parents. Actually, those pushy parents are vital to me having a successful school experience. We—the rest of us well-adjusted, normal parents—need those aggressive, my-kid-is-superior parents to make us feel good about ourselves. Without them, we have no way to assure ourselves that we are balanced individuals with reasonable expectations for our children.

And there are tremendous social benefits to being in a room where other parents are making asses of themselves. It gives the rest of us something to bond over. Those parents can serve as a focal point for a budding new relationship on the preschool campus. For example, at last school meeting, I looked around the room when the teacher interrogation was taking place and saw a couple roll their eyes at each other. I knew they were my people, because they were thinking what I was thinking: Why is that father haranguing the teacher about how and when the children are going to learn the quadratic equation?

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I waltzed up to them after the meeting and made a casual remark that “some people seem kind of intense,” and together, we rolled our eyes one more time. Then we strode to the snack table and enjoyed some fresh crackers and watered-down punch—it was the start of a great relationship.

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