This morning Gary and I traveled to Hickville to cheer on Sunflower in her kindergarten class play. She played Mother Goose to the hilt, complete with gray hair and a long dress, and she introduced the crowd (mostly fellow elementary school students, thrilled to be out of class) to the upcoming recitals of nursery rhymes.
The morning was a mix of emotions. We were proud of Sunflower and happy to see her, and watching her light up and wave frantically when she spots her daddy always makes me smile.
Bear goes to the same school as Sunflower, so when his class filed in, his teacher said he could come sit with us. He climbed onto Gary’s lap and held onto his neck for most of the play.
Yet, looking around, I saw the kids’ lives through a different lens, and it wasn’t pleasant. I’ve never been inside Sunflower’s school, and it left me with severe concerns, to put it mildly. I hopped into the restroom on our way in, and I was horrified to see roaches crawling across the bathroom door. The bathroom itself looked like it had been a long, long time since it had seen disinfectant or the cleaning side of a sponge.
As the students entered the cafeteria to sit down for the play, there was no order, rhyme, or reason. During the play, the kids in the audience talked, fought, argued, and essentially ignored the play altogether, all with no intervention that I could see by their teachers. A beach ball tossed by a speaker in between plays (it was performed twice so all the grades could see it) ended up with a scuffle, grappling, and a little boy falling down and hitting his head on one of the folding lunch tables…again, with no teacher stepping in or even checking if he was okay, even when he started crying.
Our initial excitement of spotting Sunflower on the stage and waving back and forth faded to dismay as we watched all of this around us. This is where Sunflower and Bear spend their days, attempting to learn amid chaos and unprofessionalism. Sunflower’s teacher marched around in a tank top, and it was impossible to determine who the teachers even were, given their t-shirts, jeans, and sloppy outfits, and the fact that few of them interacted with the students once they herded them to the tables and plopped them down in their seats.
The parents and other guests who turned out for the play were no better, mostly overweight Kate-Gosselin-wannabes more concerned with who was watching them instead of paying attention to the play. I couldn’t help wondering, given the size of Sunflower’s class, why the number of parents and guests was so low. Hell, Gary and I traveled over 60 miles to be there; parents who live in Hickville didn’t show?
We were not even supposed to be there, another fact I couldn’t let slide as I looked around. It was essentially the first of the children’s events that Gary was informed of the entire school year, and even finding out exactly what time the play started required contacting Sunflower’s principal and teacher directly. I am not certain what thrill is obtained by refusing to allow the children to enjoy both parents at their events. Sunflower was so happy to see Gary there; why deny her that?
Watching the circus of shame unfold around us and realizing more fully what exactly the children are growing up with on a day-to-day basis, I am even more uncertain how the kids’ best interests are possibly at heart in a dirty, disorganized school with students and teachers who largely don’t give a damn, in a backward town of small-minded fools content to rot right where they are, no curiosity or ambition to drive them to seek anything beyond the run-down, white-trash town limits, dragging the children down with them.
There were a few, albeit rare, spots of hope: Sunflower’s principal is an enthusiastic, uplifting man, and in Bear’s own words, his teacher “doesn’t play”. Indeed, his class was the only one that walked in quietly and respectfully watched the play without competing to be the most dispruptive or the rudest. I hope individuals like these two are enough to help the kids rise above the standards of mediocrity that have plainly been set for them.
I was proud of Sunflower, and she was so excited that Gary was there. The fighting kids not paying attention in the audience were lost on her. She doesn’t know about the roaches in the bathroom. She didn’t worry about the tank tops and jeans and old, rumpled t-shirts the teachers slumped around in. And she shouldn’t have. Her head was full of her own performance, the fact that people who love her were there to see her, and the way she delivered her lines without a hitch, even when the microphone slipped.
Sunflower threw her arms around her daddy’s neck after her play and hugged him tight, and she was just happy. I wanted to leave with that the image of her smiling face in my mind, but I also still see the disgusting roaches, the bored, uninvolved teachers, the boy’s head bouncing off the table and not the first teacher responding.
As the grand finale, a quick peek later at my blog stats showed me that the BM was busy reading one of my blogs during the first performance of Sunflower’s play, about 20 minutes before wandering in for the second performance and putting on a show of her own.
We all have our priorities, I suppose. I simply wish the children were higher on everyone’s list.