Susie O’Brien’s ‘half-arsed’ tips for school parents
My fantasy of being a perfect parent went out the window five minutes after my first son was born.
It was replaced with a pragmatic "she'll be right" attitude for child two, and a "lucky no one saw me do that" with child three.
I am a proud half-arsed parent.
Half-arsed parents are happy to be good enough and keep everyone sane by dropping their standards low enough so they succeed most of the time.
I've been known to skip pages of my kids' school readers on purpose so I can get them to bed faster and during homeschooling I sacked myself as my son's teacher by 9.30am on the first day.
As I describe in my new book, The Secret of Half-Arsed Parenting, parents like me think happiness is important.
We don't listen to people on social media who tell us that "failing is winning" or "inspire yourself by finding you".
We are more inspired by winning $20 million in the lottery and finding our son's lost soccer boots we paid $80 for.
Half-arsed parents get a shock when their kids hit school and they're thrown into a world of lunch boxes, school websites with passwords they'll never remember and the dreaded demands of homework.
So, here's a cheat sheet for parents with back-to-school blues.
HOMEWORK: IT'S FOR THE KIDS
Overprotective parents spend a lot of time doing their kids' homework, fuelled by the belief their kids won't do it well enough. No one can accuse me of doing my kids' homework for them. My youngest is in year 6 so he's way ahead of me already.
Half-arsed parents will not march proudly through the school gate carrying their child's science project for them. The assignment was one planet, but the parents have done all eight in a 3-D model that is so large it had to be ferried in a minibus. No thanks - they can do their own. If half-arsed parents have problems getting their kids to do homework, they ask them to help out around the house. It's amazing how kids suddenly remember they've got maths revision to do when you ask them to dry the dishes.
SCHOOL REPORTS GER A 'J' FOR JARGON
Half-arsed parents also don't like the complicated jargon used in many school reports. What does it mean for a seven-year-old to be "consolidating his mathematical principles"?
As a parent I need to know if my son can add and subtract. Can he multiply? And can he work out if he has enough pocket money left over at the end of the week to lend me some?
Deciphering report cards can be an education in itself.
They say: Your child is an enthusiastic and exuberant member of the class keen to share her knowledge with others.
They mean: She is an annoying, noisy know-it-all who won't shut up.
They say: He has a deep understanding of the topic and an excellent recall of facts.
They mean: I wish he'd stop correcting me in class.
They say: She can be strong-willed and passionate about her ideas.
They mean: She's the reason I'm retiring at the end of the year.
PARENT-TEACHER INTERVIEWS: SHARING THE BLAME
There's only one thing worse, and that's parent-teacher interviews, which are like speed-dating but with less chance of a happy ending.
You'll tell the teacher your kid is really enjoying their subject (hoping they don't ask for any evidence of this bald-faced lie). They'll tell you your kid is enjoyable to teach (hoping you can't tell they've already bribed the principal to make sure they don't get them next year).
By the time you get to the good stuff - usually the faults of other children - the bell rings and it's time to move on.
Half-arsed parents are happy not to believe everything the child says happens at school if the teacher doesn't believe everything the child says happens at home. As they say on The Simpsons: "Parent - Teacher Night. Let's Share the Blame."
THE DREADED SCHOOL GATE
Half-arsed parents don't sweat the scene at the school gate. They know the fanciest mums or dads in the schoolyard are probably as anxious as everyone else. You won't see half-arsed mums swanning around like Elle Macpherson in thigh-high gladiator sandals with real chandeliers as earrings at 9am.
They're much more likely to be wearing gym gear although they probably won't make it to the gym. They also don't preach, judge or guilt anyone else.
Half-arsed parents know that if your friends judge you for not baking cupcakes from scratch or wearing slippers to school pick-up, then it's time to get new friends (and slippers that look like shoes).
The Secret of Half-Arsed Parenting by Dr Susie O'Brien (Murdoch Books) is on sale now.
Originally published as Susie O'Brien's 'half-arsed' tips for school parents