Going into this school year, I had a feeling that fourth grade was going to be a marked step up from the previous term — at least academically.
I was preparing my 9 year-old son, Declan, to expect these changes, but little did I know that it was actually me who should have been steeling myself for the road ahead.
Fourth grade is hard.
This isn’t a charge being leveled by Declan. No; this is me sharing that, as a parent of a fourth grader, the learning curve on parental expectations and engagement has been steep.
On the upside, Declan seems to be having fun. When I pick him and his sister, Mara, up at dismissal, he’s upbeat and complimentary of the day he spent at school. I wish I could end that sentence with “and we passed the rest of the evening in a similarly upbeat and complimentary way. The end."
But that is not how a lot of the school nights have gone for us this past month.
Technology is not a parent’s friend. Barring all the obvious Internet pitfalls that can keep a modern parent up at night — social media and internet creepers/trolls — I now have 24/7 connectivity to all things school. Neat, right?
No, not neat.
The school asks the parents to open an account on a teacher/parent portal that comes with a handy app I downloaded onto my phone. This app notifies me when a teacher puts out a new post. These notifications can sometimes be several times a day. After all, this website is basically the teacher's sole means of communicating with their student's parents.
Why not just delete the app? I thought about it, but these notifications alert me to pieces of classroom business such as upcoming deadlines, home projects, lesson quizzes and chapter tests. It’s no major disaster if I don’t get the baby wipe request for the art room ASAP, but not getting the news that there are going to be five different subjects giving graded tests this coming Friday is information I don’t want to miss.
I’ve tried my hardest over the past 9 years to avoid being too much of a helicopter or lawnmower parent. However, this school year seems to be electronically compelling me to hover and attempt to clear the path for my son for the first time ever.
As a family, we are currently in a phase that has all four of us oozing with excitement each week when Friday rolls around because it means that — at least for a night or two — we can live life in a school-work-free zone.
Maybe one day — like next year when he’s in fifth grade and I can’t believe how easy we had it before — I will look back and see that my stumbles and missteps were just all part of the journey. Maybe in that future I can use the word “fun” instead of “journey,” but I’m not there yet.
For now I’m up to my neck in index review cards and reminder notifications.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.