A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Surviving School Open House

Here in Georgia, our kids go back to school ridiculously early.

Never thought I’d say that. But now that it is the last official day of summer for my kids, it feels like it’s all over too soon. We’ve just hit our stride! Was it really 78 days ago that I wrote this? Dang.

So this week I’ve had to attend not one, but two School Open Houses. And being that I’m such a giver, I wanted to share some survival tips with you for when your kids go back to school this fall. You can thank me later.

Let’s start on a positive note, shall we?

Do bathe your child and put them in clean clothes. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and nothing tells a teacher that you don’t give a shit like the “My MeeMaw Loves Me” t-shirt with holes in the pits and the chocolate (or is that blood?) stain on the front.

Do the same for yourself. 

Do wear something cute, but tasteful. This is not the time to introduce your child’s teacher to your cleavage or your coin slot.

Do find a babysitter for your other children if possible. It will be so much easier to focus on the task at hand if you are not yelling over the teacher’s shoulder: “BUCKET HEAD! Put. That. Down. So help me God if I have to come over there you will not get one more Skittle today.”

Do have your child make a handmade card for the teacher stating how excited she/he is about being in that teacher’s class. Insert a gift card or some cash. Teachers are totally underpaid for putting up with our spawn all day and studies show that teachers who receive bribes gifts are much more likely to be just a little more patient and kind to your obnoxious little Johnny McFunpants.

Do bring your favorite pen. You are going to be doing a LOT of form filling-out-ering. That’s always more pleasant if you can do it with your own best pen. (Or is that just weird weird me?)

Do remember to bring your checkbook so when you are raped and pillaged by the PTA you don’t have to further humiliate yourself with the same old “Oh shoot, I must have forgotten my checkbook!” line you use every year.

Do bring a copy of your emergency contacts if you don’t already have them programmed into your phone. No matter how many times you give that info, year after year after year, schools seem to take pleasure in asking you to rewrite it, over and over and over.

And now for the No-Nos:

Do NOT experiment with illegally obtained prescription speed the day of the Open House. Do NOT ask me how I know this. I just do. (That was a really bad year.)

Do NOT dress your boy child in anything smocked or embroidered. This is not an Easter Parade. If your boy child shows up at Open House in a sailor suit, anything seersucker, or anything considered a “jumper,” the teacher will (correctly) assume you are an asshole and your mama’s boy will be gang raped on the playground.

Do NOT over-dress yourself either. Even if your divorce was just finalized and your ex is a turd-burglar, Open House is not the time to troll for fresh meat. Focus, people. We’re here for the kids.

Do NOT be the first one to arrive. Open House is like a cocktail party without the cocktails (ahem, that means you, Brenda. Leave the flask at home next time.) Ever notice how the first people to show up at the party are usually the wet blankets of the night? Just sayin.’

Do NOT be the last one to arrive or you will be stuck with the “Herman Miller chair” on the teacher’s wish list or the worst class volunteer job like Hospitality Mom or Box Tops Redemption Mom.

Do NOT say anything negative about any previous teachers. Der.

Do NOT say anything negative about your child. Double der.

Do NOT say anything negative about the crappy Open House process, the crowded parking lot, the extreme heat, the blood-thirsty PTA, or the never-ending school supply list.

You know what, just keep your MF-ing trap shut, period. Just smile, give a firm hand shake, fill out the forms, and get the hell out of there as fast as you can.

Suck it up. Someday you’ll be under a hideous afghan, waiting by the phone for your Great Grandchildren to call, and wishing you had enjoyed being a parent more while you were in the trenches. At least that’s what those annoying old folks at the home keep telling me. Whatever. Where’s my flask?


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.


  1. AlexandraFunFit

    My youngest starts high school in a few weeks and I SO glad to be done with most of the back-to-school trauma. The forms seems to breed over the summer, but other than that, sending a chewed pencil, and pen that works only when it wants to, and some scraps of paper dug out of the recycle pile seem to suffice. And they dress themselves with their pants somewhere just below their skinny butts, yet above the gravity fault line, so who even cares if it’s clean? In a loving fashion, I now shout (as they drive away since I will not have to drive them anymore), “Make good choices. Don’t get anyone pregnant.”

  2. Julie

    Or you could do what I usually do. “Hmmm…I am going to be out of town that day can we meet some other time that is convenient for you?”
    Works fabulously for both you and your child’s stress level. and you get to meet a calm , relaxed teacher. Whether she/he remains that way once school gets started depends on what kids she/he ends up with.

  3. Liza Martz

    Sound advice, as usual. A friend once told me, “When you are up to your neck in sh*t, keep your mouth shut and breathe through your nose.” It works like a charm.

  4. Tiffany

    From a parent and a teacher, perfect advice!!!

  5. Sue from Livin In Duckville

    It’d be cool if someone bribed me (small, unmarked bills please)!! Dang, the downfalls of being in the Middle School…

    Does this mean I have to bribe myself since the Lego King will be in 6th grade with me? Mwaaahahhahahahaha!!!! It’s sad actually…. no more little ones in Elementary School…. *sigh, sniff, sniff*

    Enjoy your ‘free’ time… bwahhahahahaaa

  6. Jill

    I tell people that I homeschool because I believe in alternative education. It is really so I don’t have to deal with things like this. I don’t have back to school, I don’t have lunch menus, “child” projects (we all know parents end up way too involved in these things), hall passes or bus routes and my parent-teacher conference consists of some alone time with my husband and a bottle of wine.

  7. julia

    I think I love you 🙂 You are the best!

  8. Mads

    This was great! I especially liked the nickname “coin slot”. How attractive and elegant.
    We always bribed/gifted my elementary teachers, and I’d like to think they treated me a little better for it.

  9. Anne @ Domesblissity

    We’ll be going through this process come January Iris. I’ll be bookmarking it for sure. No one ever mentions how the parents should behave, just the kids. Coin slot? Love it! xx

  10. Katybeth

    I was hospitality mom once–I have chaired three auctions and hospitality mom was worse.
    Ok..so I clicked on one of those clutter links in your last post and I may have to hate you….Why are those of us that are already pretty good at de-cluttering and organizing addicted to more and more and more organizational tips and information?? Love you laundry system..labels to die for. . .)

    Kid in New Mexico with Grandparents..mom enjoying a 78 degree, sunny eveining on the patio with a glass of wine…(actually a root beer..but figured the wine would impress you more)..now we are even you hate me.

    School Open houses on your best friends Adderall could make an interesting post…

  11. Ann

    Got this idea from my sister who was a pre-school teacher at a Catholic church…send in a Back to School gift bag to the teacher. Fill it with chocolate, Tylenol or Advil – but only if that won’t get your 5 year old chased down the hall by a drug sniffing dog on the first day – bubble bath, a nice pen (I totally bring my own to open houses too), and a mini bottle of wine, vodka, or whatever spirits you have on hand. Remember, this was a Catholic pre-school.

    My kids are now in college and high school but this worked like a charm when they were younger! Now I just get the vodka and chocolate and have a little party as soon as they drive off for school.

    • Allysgrandma

      I never drank alcohol until I became Catholic at 31. They kept throwing parties and Passover dinners for us new converts with wine for everything. What was a person to do?

      I distinctly remember a picnic one year where the people sitting on the other side of the picnic table got up and the three of us on the other side tipped backwards and I did not spill one drop of my wine. Haha. Good times.

  12. Kara

    OH my GOD – Middle School open house INSANITY!
    Forgot a pen ~ Needed a shower when it was all over ~ DO not bother with the cute locker wallpaper needs to be trimmed ~ do I have scissors?? ~ who gets what supplies?? Next up Elem, maybe tomorrow will be better right?? PS – would love to guest post someday (period while traveling in the car for 15hrs?)

  13. Gina

    Ah the memories. ” Your son is NOT working to his potential/stares out the window/ sleeps during class/never does homework” . Now all that is left in the capable hands of my children. You know, the ones who drove me to drink and I prayed through high school? The son has 4 of his own. 3 in school. Today was the first day of school for them. They are a bit like daddy. And my always the pleaser daughter has 2 of her own. One is a pleaser. She starts school next week. It comes full circle Iris. Just wait. And you know what? Every kid in my grandson’s school got an iPad. No kidding.

  14. Allysgrandma

    I can appreciate the fact you even showed up, much less have a list of do’s and don’ts. My first day in South Carolina. Yeah my daughter left last night, no milk in the house after Ally’s breakfast. SIL’s first day back from 6 weeks of training. I have the almost 3-year-old, the car keys, a map to Walmart and thank GOD my disabled placard. Even so I felt like I was going to throw up from the heat while running around Walmart (we don’t even have one so I am not familiar with the layout), throwing things into my basket. Milk oh yeah it’s gotta be the Horizon organic, you’d think these kids grew up somewhere like Humboldt County….. then I threw in some grapes, bananas, a gallon of regular Walmart brand milk, which may I say tasted just fine to me, fish-shaped bread, ham and turkey lunch meat (Hormel Natural) and a Great Buy or whatever the Walmart brand is of sliced cheddar. I ran back to get boneless chicken thighs and a few bags of steam fresh broccoli with some Ore-Ida fries, forgetting no one uses their oven in the south in the hot days of summer. Luckily a few people took pity on me and directed me to certain areas. I really was afraid I was going to puke….but we made it home, where Ally carried the smallest bag and I made 2 trips in the 99 degree 100% humidity. I couldn’t believe the bag of corn syrup popsicles in a bag were still frozen.

    I spent the rest of the day folding no lie, at least 7 loads of laundry that were thrown in my daughter’s closet. All I have left are the socks….then we found another basket in the extra bedroom where we are putting the twin bed I am buying tomorrow. DSIL has to remove all his Afghanistan crap that he threw in there when he got home. Found some dirty laundry and other interesting stuff. I am hoping to surprise YD with a portable table for her sewing machine that I bought her.

    Oh I also took the greyhound for a “walk” and had to ask a neighbor kid who was outside what the procedure was. He told me about the pet area and bags, but I had already brought along walmart bags for clean-up. I’m exhausted. Took my prescribed Valium….notice I said prescribed….so what was it Ritalin or what?? And what in the hell were you thinking? I need extra energy today……dumb, dumb, dumb…..but entertaining as hell as usual!

  15. Lisa

    A brand new box of tissues works well in lieu of the handmade card. Teachers can never get enough of those and no one ever brings them to Open House! Little Johnny or Mary can even decorate the box to make it even more memorable. Puts a whole new spin on “sucking up” doesn’t it?!

  16. katetakes5

    Do NOT admit to only being able to sew when you’re stoned. There are better excuses for not getting involved in craft week.

  17. Meg

    Thanks for the tips! I will have to bookmark this post and come back to it down the road when my little one starts school.

  18. Momzie

    As an elementary teacher, you forgot one big tip for parents- Open House/Back to School Night is NOT, I repeat, NOT the time to unload on the teacher with all of your child’s unique needs. It is also NOT the time to tell the teacher in person that you are going through a divorce since you found your husband in bed with your best friend because he couldn’t stand your drinking anymore all while a long line of needy parents forms behind you. Seriously people, we really DO care about your kids, but we are not your best friend, (nor do we want to be), and we are not your marriage counselors or family therapists. Just a reminder!

    Don’t ask me why I use these examples! And the next time you are at a school function like the Spring Fair or the Skating Party and you wonder why the teachers never show up to these things, think of this!

  19. Dawn@LightenUp!

    Thank God I get home from work too late to attend these. Also iris? Your flask is here. You left it last wkend.

  20. Melissa

    That’s funny – my open house Do’s & Don’ts specifically includes making sure to leave my cash and check book at home 😉 especially when they have the annoying-ass book fair on the same night. Hell no I ain’t paying $12 for the same damn books I can buy in a few weeks for $2-$5 a pop in the book order form! 😛 “Sorry, honey. Mommy didn’t bring any money – I only have my card and they don’t have a card reader machine.”

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