My town has a lot of Facebook groups. There’s one for the moms, one for the dads, and one for parents who don’t want to be gender specific. There’s one for the Democrats, one for the Republicans, and one for the more progressive Democrats who don’t think the regular Democrats go far enough. There’s one for local businesses. But the one that’s driving me crazy these days is specific to my son’s graduating class: Parents of The Class of 2021.
It’s a weird year, and the parents feel bad about this. I get it. I feel bad too! We’ve had distance learning, hybrid learning, and multiple temporary closures when contact tracing required it. Last year’s seniors missed out on graduation festivities and parents are determined to do something special for this year’s seniors. An admirable sentiment, but I have to confess, they’re driving me crazy. And you’re probably going to think I’m a total asshole for my view on this.
We’re all busy. We’re all juggling our kids and our jobs and our anxiety and uncertainty. And in the middle of all this, one of the parents asked the question, “Are we all being slackers?” and posted a screenshot from a parents’ group from some other town where, in honor of the seniors of 2021, they’re delivering a gift on the 21st of each month, all year, to every single kid. I initially thought it was a joke post, since we’re all tapped out already and nobody needs more pressure, but nope! Within minutes, the parents were all chiming in to say, yes, we are slackers, and we should be doing more for our seniors.
Oh, and the class size in the post that was shared? Almost 500. That means almost 500 “senior surprises”—hot cocoa bombs, pizza kits, etc., all with little note cards attached—every month. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Who has time for that? And if I don’t, does that make me a jerk for not participating when other parents are doing the work? I suspect it does. They all jumped aboard this bandwagon and started thinking about what they could organize, buy, and distribute to our few hundred seniors on a regular basis.
One important factor here: My kid is not really into the whole senior year thing. He’s finishing high school on a high note, he got into the college and program he wants, and he’s not interested in the senior activities and events in general. So I likely have a skewed perspective, as someone with a rebel kid who isn’t feeling the sting of missing out on what is usually an over-the-top celebration of senior year. He didn’t even want a cap and gown, but I told him I bought it already and I can’t wait to see him in it. I’m thrilled we are going ahead with an outdoor graduation and I’m grateful to everyone who’s helping organize it.
But monthly gifts? More activities? Who has the time and money for this, especially when our kids are heading off to college? It’s not that I can’t afford a hot chocolate bomb, but I’m looking at money very differently these days. I’m a freelancer and it’s hard to get consistent work, so I’m thinking very carefully about where my dollars are going these days. As I explain to my tween who’s constantly asking me to replace things, “If you need something, I will happily get it for you. If you want me to buy you a replacement for something just because you can’t find it and don’t want to invest some serious time in looking for it, you’re out of luck.” We’re not broke, we’re not starving, but we don’t have extra money to throw around on gestures. The kid is heading to college, for goodness’ sake. We just paid the deposit on his tuition and housing. We’re thinking about what he’s going to need when he moves to the dorm, and how much of a weekly allowance he’ll need. This is why I’m squirreling away money, and it’s what I think of every time I get a new freelance job—or worse, don’t get one.
Can I contribute time? I don’t have that either. I’m juggling different clients for these jobs, along with my family and my own multiple side projects that will hopefully one day take off and turn into what I dream them to be, a source of bigger income and bigger professional joy. I’m working for my future and our kids’ future every single day. Who the hell has time for pizza kits and tiny note cards and ribbons? Who has time to drive around to 250 houses every month delivering them? Who has money to pay for disposable stuff for kids who, frankly, are already a lot richer than I am?
I do sound like an asshole. Probably there are a lot of kids who enjoy getting little treats on their doorsteps even though mine is pretty happy about how his year is going without it. But these posts are really stressing me out, because now I’m the neglectful parent AND the shitty community member who isn’t participating and whose immediate thought upon seeing the “are we slackers?” post was “Oh my god, are you insane?”
They are, a little. The post degenerated into arguments about activities, what was safe and what wasn’t, what should happen anyway and what shouldn’t, and what the school should be doing. It was all too much. Isn’t everybody exhausted? Isn’t having graduation and embarking on the next phase of their lives enough for the seniors? Do we really need to chip away at the little bits of time, money, and down time we might have so we can fret about bags and bows and gifts for kids who are, frankly, already pretty entitled?
I begrudge them nothing, but no, I don’t have the resources to make sure they get monthly gifts or drive around all day delivering them or even spare some brain space to think about them. I’m just trying to make a living and get through the day.