Wednesday, 3 October 2007

School honours nights: parents' special hell

It’s a measure of the enormous pride I have in my children that I’m prepared to sit through four hours of other people’s little darlings filing up onto the stage to shake the Honoured Guest’s hand and receive their certificate, for the five seconds apiece during which my own two children hog the spotlight.

And I realise that the same applied to every other parent in the draughty, ill-lit hall at the school Honours Night tonight. They, too, had to sit on hard chairs, way too close to their neighbours, through the opening remarks, the headmaster’s address (and hoo-boy, did this one like the sound of his own voice – he orated for no less than 40 minutes), the report-back by the head of the PTA, the ‘special thanks’ (an alarmingly long list), and the choir’s remixed and distressingly lengthy rendition of (of all things) ‘I need a hero’. Those other parents also got a numb bum, cramps in their legs and a crick in their neck. They also, two hours into the proceedings, were thinking to themselves, If this doesn’t end soon, I’m going to scream and scream.

I’ve done this – attending honours nights, and damn my kids for being so bloody smart – faithfully for 11 years now. (I’ve also attended Christmas pageants, operettas, eisteddfods, ‘talent’ shows, debating contests, karate gradings, interhouse sports days, PTA summits, AGMs, parent-teacher conferences, fund-raising drives, and enough other meetings of various school committees to last me till kingdom come.)

My question about honours nights is: isn’t there a way to streamline the process? Surely, for instance, all the bumph that precedes the certificate presentation could be rendered on paper and sent out as a newsletter (which, admittedly, I would probably not read – the slag pile of paperwork that accompanies having schoolgoing children is staggering, and I usually put it in my ‘urgent: to do’ folder, which means, of course, that I never look at it again)? Surely the choir could sing at a more appropriate occasion – the Christmas pageant, say? Surely we don’t have to hear each and every child’s achievements, down to the last subject and mark, number of goals scored and lengths swum? And surely we don’t have to applaud each and every one – how about waiting until a whole grade’s worth of kids has been dubbed Sir or Lady Excellence, and then giving the group a nice big clap?

And what about having two separate occasions, one for sporting achievements and the other for academic? Let’s face it, rare is the all-rounder who will win the Googly Cup for outstanding performance on the pitch and also the Intelligentsia floating trophy for best marks in science. We whose kids favour brain over brawn would appreciate not having to sit through a further two hours of certificate-giving for track-and-field achievement, while I’m sure parents of sporting prodigies would be happy to forego having to watch all those brains get their just deserts.

In a bid never to attend another Honours Night, I’ve considered encouraging my kids to stop doing their homework, completing projects and studying for tests – but then they may never leave home. Rather, I suppose, an annual four-hour torment than a lifetime of high-school dropouts making it their special mission to keep the laundry basket full and the fridge empty.

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meggie said...

That is a curly one. The sheer boredom of it all takes a heavy toll. No matter how delighted you are, as a parent, for having your kids do well, nothing can prevent mind numbing boredom over OPKs. Other People's Kids.

angel said...

ha ha- a curly one!!! i just wonder why they can't do the different grades on different nights- much faster that way!

Muriel said...

Different grades on different nights would work well for moms of only kids -- but it would mean attending TWO functions for me -- double the torment, aaargghgh!