Annoying parent strikes again

[The following is part of our monthlong series on race, school and education.]

written by Anti-Racist Parent contributor Liana; originally posted at Welcome to the Dollhouse

I think I’m in danger of getting my daughter kicked out of her daycare center for being that mom. And considering it’s a pretty amazing daycare center that she attends, that would be a really sad thing to have happen. But unfortunately I’m just one of those people who can’t seem to let things go. I am Annoying Parent. I wear my cape with pride uncomfortably.

My transformation into Annoying Parent started during her first month at the center with Formulagate, back when she was an infant. Formulagate occurred when I discovered that the center had some wacky (in my opinion) rule about what to do with formula left over from a feeding. Their position was that they would offer her bottle to her twice in a feeding session and if she didn’t drink everything that was in the bottle within that 20-minute interval, they would throw out the remaining formula. Now considering how expensive formula is, I was none too pleased about that rule. Why couldn’t they just put the bottle back into the fridge, I asked, instead of throwing away that which she hadn’t consumed? The answer was something about how the used nipple would contaminate the other bottles in the fridge, to which I was like WTF? That makes no sense! Put the lid back on the bottle and there will be no drama.

“Couldn’t we make an exception here?” I asked sweetly (well as sweetly as Annoying Parent can).

The teachers in the room were willing to make the exception. Yet later that day, the head of the infant section gave me a call at my office. (Little did I realize that my Annoying Parent cape was being shipped at that very moment.) She explained that my request would go against NAEYC regulations and that would not be proper as they are a fully NAEYC accredited center. Yet after I conveyed this message to AdoringHusband, his fingers flew immediately to find the NAEYC regulations online which, in fact, did not show any proscription against saving unconsumed formula in the refrigerator. Of course the Head Teacher gave us the tight jawed smile (more accurately described as a rictus) when we pointed this out to her. Part of my brain said that I should just let the damn formula be thrown down the sink, but I’m just not down with the utter wastefulness of such an action, especially when the rule didn’t make sense. Finally (as I am certain they are used to dealing with parents even more annoying that we two) they were able to propose a compromise where they would pour the unconsumed formula from the bottle that she didn’t finish into a closed container that we brought in daily and took home with us at the end of the day. Formula not wasted and parental drama solved. Annoying Parent took off her cape for a good while.

Then, over a year and a half later, there occurred the another opportunity for an Annoying Parent intervention. In truth, I confess that I had missed the notice on the monthly calendar of activities. But when another parent approached me on the company’s IM system asking if he could run something by me, my Annoying Parent senses had started tingling.

“Did you happen to see this month’s calendar?” he asked, cautiously.

“I think I glanced at it. Why? What’s up?”

“There’s a noon talk at the center scheduled next Tuesday that has me a little concerned. It’s called ‘Chiropracty for Children.”

“Excuse me? Say what now?” I asked, a bit dumbfounded.

“They are bringing a chiropractor in to do a talk about using chiropracty in children and that has me a little concerned. What do you think as a pediatrician?”

“I think that I’ve never seen any data showing that any manipulations are safe in infants and toddlers. You want to take a 10-year-old to a chiropractor, that’s one thing, but babies and toddlers?”

“I’ve tried to talk to the center director about it but since my PhD is in Computer Science, she kinda pats me on the head and assures me that it will be fine. What’s even worse? You should look at the woman’s website.”

“Why? Is it filled with ‘woo?’” I chuckled.

“She’s anti-vaccine,” he whispered.

“Say what?! Um, don’t we develop and manufacture vaccines here?” I was dumbfounded, trying to sort out how a daycare center affiliated with a scientific company that develops and manufactures vaccines, financially supported by that scientific company, whose tuition-paying parents all work for that scientific company, would think that bringing somebody whose position is anti-vaccination in to talk about chiropracty in infants and toddlers is appropriate? Somehow that’s akin to my bringing a giant smoked pig to a Muslim picnic. Something’s just not right about that. Looks like another job for Annoying Parent.

Of course I wanted to handle this in a tactful way and not call up the center director asking, have you lost your natural mind?! Instead, I wrote a very sweet note to the head of the center expressing my concern as a pediatrician about the discussion of chiropracty in infants and toddlers when there really was no scientific literature to support its safety in this age group. I also linked to the anti-vaccine literature on her website expressing my feelings, such as they were, that having someone who represents an anti-vaccine position come speak at our center when, for many of us, much of our time is spent combating anti-vax misinformation, it felt a little like a slap in the face. Sure, I respect their right to invite whomever they see fit to invite to give presentations, but it did feel a bit odd.

Not surprisingly, the nice lady (as my kid likes to call women she doesn’t know) center director gave me a call later that date to discuss my note. The first thing she said was that the title of the talk as listed in the calendar was incorrect. The plan was for her to come and talk about healthy lifestyles for babies and toddlers and not chiropracty. “Cool,” I said pleasantly,”that’s right up my alley as a pediatrician.” I let her know that I did plan to attend to hear what she had to say on the subject and, as they say in my current biz, to provide the balance in the remote possibility of any dissent that might come up based on the differences in our training and experience. I assured her that there was not going to be any mud wrestling or smack down at the daycare center. I’m too classy for that. But I would be present, especially since the first and subsequently a few other parents had requested that I attend.

By now the center director realized that Annoying Parent was front and center, green cape flying. But I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that this woman has a PhD in the management of PITA parents. Immediately she thanked me for planning to attend and welcomed my taking time out of my day to do so. Also, she admitted that she hadn’t thought much about the anti-vax position the woman espouses since she had asked her not to address vaccination at all and felt that would be enough. Oookaaay, I thought. I’m cool. No worries. I’ll just bring a nice lunchy-lunch, take a seat in the back, and keep my mouth shut unless confronted with a) a dangerous assertion or b) burning ridiculosity (as was seen on her website).

The day before the Thrilla in Manilla talk, all the parents got a sad little e-mail: the chiropractor had a scheduling conflict and had to cancel the talk. The talk was to be rescheduled later. Yet later has yet to materialize. That would be number two for Annoying Parent.

So then we get to last week. This week has been horrible professionally, personally, and mental health wise. You know those weeks where you think to yourself, if one more thing happens, I’m going to slowly stab myself with this dull letter opener. (You mean, you don’t have weeks where you think about impaling yourself on your letter opener?)

I’m in my office just trying to catch up on my e-mail when I get the weekly center music newsletter that generally barely even registers in my consciousness. Miss Judy, the contracted music teacher they bring in, sends out a nice little note about what the kids have been working on in song/dance. I normally read about 10 words, say how nice, this is so sweet, and move on. This time, however, something got my Annoying Parent senses tingling again. Uh-oh.

Dear Parents,

Our summer “Hello” song starts with the lyrics “Let’s take a trip around the world….” and we have done just that with our summer music classes. We ‘visited’ Germany, Japan, Mexico, England and now Africa. We have learned how children just our age might dress for school, or what type of foods they may eat, or what animals may live around them – all within the songs we have learned. We have also danced some fun and crazy dances from those countries, and learned about interesting instruments they may play that may be similar to our own.

Now why did Miss Judy have to go and pluck my last nerve? How did she know that by violating a peeve so significant to me that I cannot call it a pet peeve, she would call out the forces of Annoying Parent?!

Miss Judy, England, Mexico, Japan and Germany are countries but goddammit to hell, Africa is a freaking continent! Jesus wept! A continent made up of many diverse countries! Why don’t you know that?!

I get so sick of people treating Africa not only as if it is a country and not a continent, but also as if it is one monolithic entity filled with half-naked brown people living in huts in the jungle, carrying spears with bones through their noses. Like that egregiously wrong episode of X-Men Evolution that AdoringHusband was watching the other day.

The upshot of the episode is that Storm was accidentally going to destroy her beloved Africa after being fooled by a shaman…and of course Africa is depicted as huts in the jungle with half-naked brown people running around nearly drowning, thanks to Storm. And all I kept shrieking while watching this madness was, “This is supposed to represent the continent of Africa?!!” Maybe it’s that little country called Africa where the brown, half-naked people live in huts with spears and bones through their noses. Maybe.

Despite my extreme pique, I did have about 5 seconds of internal debate. Should Annoying Parent put on her cape once again or should she let this one go? Is it worth it to give some feedback to Miss Judy through the center director?

As the song says, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now…” I put on my cape. My return e-mail message:

Dear {Center Director}:

Please don’t take this the wrong way and I swear I’m not one of those people who complains about everything, but do you notice that in the music letter this week, all the places that were visited previously were countries while Africa is a continent composed of a diverse group of countries? What dress, food, etc. is supposed to represent all of the continent of Africa? If countries in Europe, North America, and Asia are being separated out, why is Africa treated as one entity? It is no wonder so many Americans think that Africa is a country and not a continent.

Okay, I’ll stop my mini rant now. Thanks for indulging me by reading.

Signed,

The Annoying Parent

I am glad that I couldn’t see the look of dismay and despair that probably came over her face when she noticed that she received another e-mail from me. By now I am totally convinced that the poor lady probably has some Valium, Xanax or a single malt scotch in her desk drawer at work as rescue therapy for attitude adjustment after contact with Annoying Parents. She did, however, reply very sweetly:

Dear Annoying Parent:

Don’t ever hesitate in bringing any concerns to me. Honestly I’m so used to forwarding Miss Judy’s e-mails that I didn’t look at this one very carefully. You’ve pointed out something important. Do you mind if I share your thoughts with her because I think she would appreciate the feedback?

I told her to absolutely feel free. ’Cause if Miss Judy is teaching the kids that Africa is equivalent to England or Japan, I am fearful that my dear Zara is going to end up believing that she can see Russia from her bedroom window. We can’t have that, not when I have an Ivy League education planned for her, of course.

The Annoying Parent’s job is never done.

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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