Sunday, 2 December 2007

End of Year

I’m sure there are many parents who find the end of the year flurry of prize givings and drama productions an exhilarating time. The prospect of rushing straight from work through peak hour traffic to school is immensely rewarding because once you get there and discover there are no seats in the hall, you can stand at the back for three hours immersing yourself in the creative and intellectual endeavours of several hundred children.
I’m not one of those parents. I’ve been doing end of year stuff for the past 16 years and every time I sit in the hot, stifling, overcrowded hall for three hours, my pampered bottom hurling abuse at me because of the harsh reality of wooden form seats, I tell myself never again. Because the only part of those achingly boring hours I would ever want back is the 75 seconds it took my child to receive an award, flit across the stage dressed as a sunburst, or swing a poi. I’d gladly keep that 75 seconds of pride wrapped up in ribbons in my mind forever. And I’m sure my child quite liked me being there. The other two hours, 58 minutes and 45 seconds I add to the ever increasing pile I like to call “Time which could have been used to cure cancer or at least read a book.”
This is the time you spend in waiting rooms, at bus stops, in queues when you come to understand why God put the backs of heads where he did so we would have something to look at when we get bored to the point of screaming. Is that nits or dandruff? Dyed or natural? Air dried of blow dried?
This isn’t restful time such as sitting on a beach and breathing deeply while de-stressing. This is time where you are locked in conflict with your brain arguing that a) you cannot simply get up and walk out, much as all your senses are screaming that you do so b) just because Helen Clark did it with the Queen, doesn’t mean you can start sending texts and c) yes we still have two hours, 58 minutes and 45 seconds to go.
I’ve always been really happy that my children go to a school full of talented children. I know that, I don’t need to see them play the flute, twirl pieces of ribbon, sing, and give speeches. I have no connection with 99 percent of these children, I will never see them again and I don’t think the kids themselves are really worried who is watching them, as long as they can do that weird half smile and fluttery semi-wave to Mum and Dad just before they go on.
Nor will I find myself lacking if I never hear another school principal bemoan lack of funding, NCEA drawbacks or in one rare case a treatise on the changing values of society since he was a nipper. (Turned out things hadn’t got any better.)
The end of year gathering is also a form of elder abuse as grandparents are expected to join the stifling, heaving, uncomfortable throng. There is a real possibility they are actually enjoying the interpretative dance solo set to the theme from Star Wars, but they are old. Which means their arses are screaming louder than yours and they are unlikely to be able to pick out their grandchild from the back in the hall for the required 75 seconds. The last time I put my parents through an end of year torture session, my mother was convinced my daughter was the pumpkin when in fact she was the tomato for the entire three hours. On discovering her mistake there was a palpable sense of loss in the air at having devoted so much reflected pride to a stranger’s child. I haven’t encouraged her to attend again and my husband later confessed he thought our daughter was the banana.
And I never, ever leave an end of year event without feeling enormously grateful that there are people on this earth who are prepared to be teachers. Because they rally, cajole and organise the very children who have tortured them throughout the year.
The only consolation left is that even if the space-time continuum is shattered or I fall through a wormhole into an alternative universe, sooner or later – well, later – the torture will come to an end. I can even tell you when – in exactly two hours, 58 minutes and 45 seconds.

Image by Anthony Ellison

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