Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The thrills of spying on your kid at school

One of the great delights of parenthood is spying on your child at school. This is because, as every parent knows, children tend to act like very different people there.

It's fascinating to see how angelic they are, giving you hope that someday they might act like that at home, too. It's fun to see how they interact with peers. It's inspiring (and a little maddening) to see them cleaning up after themselves with no nagging necessary. And with Max, we've gotten good intelligence on how independent he can be.

My mom used to serve lunch at my school when I was a kid, likely so she could spy. Sometimes I'd get embarrassed when she fawned over me, but mostly I was psyched because she would get me extra slices of pizza. Sabrina still appreciates my serving lunch at her school, even if I do hound her about eating a better balanced meal.  If I position myself in the right place, I can peer around a column and observe her chatting with her friends until one of her friends notices and rats me out.

Sabrina's teachers regularly comment on what a lovely girl she is. I even recently got an unsolicited email from a teacher saying what a pleasure it is to have Sabrina in her class. I was going to let Sabrina know, except she's been too busy wailing about not having enough "good" spring clothes to wear. "Do you behave like this at school?" I ask her, rhetorically. I'd similarly be glad to let Max know what a sweet guy his teacher thinks he is, except he growls at me when I ask him to turn off the fire truck YouTube videos.

Parents don't serve lunch at Max's school. But years ago, when Dave and I were still spoon-feeding him, I stopped by his classroom during lunchtime and was amazed to see him feeding himself. Same thing happened with toilet training; he was doing it at school well before he manned up at home. Teachers are familiar with the phenomenon, which boils down to kids getting codependent on parents who enable them. Guilty as charged.

Evidently, the independence effect holds up when Max is in other schools, because we went to Sabrina's for an event last week and before we knew it Max had taken off with Ben to give him a tour. (For the record, Ben behaves the same at school as he does at home: he smiles, he spits up and he refuses to nap.)

Last week was also one of the best school spy moments of all time. Dave had the honor. We'd forgotten to pack Max's iPad in his backpack in the morning, so Dave drove it over. He got there before Max's bus arrived and watched as Max disembarked. Then he watched Max greet everyone in his path. He smiled. He said "Hi!" He gave high-fives. "It was like he was the mayor!" Dave told me. I made him re-enact the scene, and we laughed and relished the pleasures of school spying.


  1. You're right about the phenomenon. Try reading Anthony Wolfs "The Secret of Parenting." It gives an in depth discussion of this psychological reasons for why kids act like this and why it's healthy.

  2. Ellen....
    This Blog post!! I have three words.... Crack. Me. Up!! ;-D
    "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn

  3. As a student, I can attest that this is true.

    1. Ellen....
      Can I add that when I was a kid in Sunday School at church--we homeschooled!!--I was probably even more bad, even more mischievous, even more trouble, even more pain in the ass than at our house? Ask my teachers.... Maybe I am just different? Or perhaps Sabrina and Max somehow secretly know when their parents are spying on them....? It is probably the first!! Ha!! ;-D
      "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn

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Thanks for sharing!

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