Once again, many of us parents and kids are staring down the first day of school. And in 2020, that’s no small feat. Some schools are opening in person, some are doing part-time, some are all virtual, and some are downsizing to a “pod” model in the interest of safety. But whether you’re starting school in person, at home, or a combo of both, one BTS tradition is likely still happening: back-to-school night (or day, or meet-the-teacher Zoom coffee, or some such event).
Every year, parents and teachers gather for this opportunity to meet your child’s teacher(s) and learn all about what’s in store for the year ahead. This year, back-to-school night is perhaps more important than ever, as you’re wanting to learn all the details about the school’s new processes and requirements regarding COVID-19 safety. At the same time, BTS night forces you to come face-to-face (even more literally if you’re doing it on Zoom — so many face squares!_ with the parents of your child’s classmates. This part, if we’re being honest, can be way more interesting than hearing about the curriculum and whether the teacher prefers kids to wear face shields or masks.
From tiger moms to interrogator dads, there’s no shortage of characters on this always-enlightening event. Take a look at some of the personalities you may bump into at BTS night, whether digital or IRL.
The New Parent
This is their first child, and they couldn’t be more attentive. They’re nodding like a bobblehead and taking notes faster than a court stenographer. They’ve had the school supplies, hand sanitizer, and a five-pack of child-sized face shields packed since late June. They stay up until 2 a.m. combing through Pinterest boards learning how to transform simple sandwiches into animal faces to prevent lunch fatigue. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s also going to be the #bestyearever!
The Veteran Parent
They’ve heard this song and dance four times before. They’re only here because it’s deliciously quiet compared to being wherever their kids are right now. You’ll recognize them immediately because they’re smiling at the right times but not listening to a word of this presentation.
The Pandemic “Expert”
They insist that they know, better than your children’s teacher / school administrators / the CDC, how to pack a pandemic-proof lunchbox, which kind of hand sanitizer really works to kill germs, and they want to tell you all about it while wearing their goggles, face shield, and N95 mask. On Zoom.
The Real Housewife/husband
This parent has, apparently, mistaken back-to-school night for a reality show casting call. They’ve got Botox, great (read: expensive) teeth, and they’re here to flaunt it all.
The Perrennial PTA President
Want to ensure your kid has a great year? Start by joining this parent’s virtual book fair / bake sale / insert-fundraiser here. You can try to sneak out of BTS night early in hopes of avoiding this parent, but oh no, they’ll find you. Short of hiring a hostage negotiator, there’s no way you’re signing offline until you’ve signed up to co-chair something.
The Academic Overachiever
School’s been in session for less than a week, but this parent wants to know why homework hasn’t been assigned yet. Zoom school is not quite as many hours as IRL school was, and this parent is suspicious. What are we, breeding a generation of underachievers here?! Though it’s the beginning of second grade, they would still appreciate at least a few SAT prep book recommendations. If you’re guessing that this is the family whose Tesla has the “Valedictorians aren’t born, they’re made!” bumper sticker, you’re right!
The Doesn’t-Want-to-Be-Here Parent
They’re still wearing a suit, they haven’t had dinner, and they’re bitter about it. They won’t ask a single question, but if they did, it would be, “Can’t you put all this in an email?”
The Shameless Braggart
This parent casually mentions that since pandemic restrictions didn’t allow them to summer in Europe as per usual this year, they were still able to charter a private plane to Aruba. Thank goodness.
The Green Parent
This environmentalist is here solely to remind you that you and your loved ones are killing the planet with your plastic sandwich bags and disposable water bottles. They’re asking that going forward, you wrap your child’s lunch in palm fronds and refrain from idling in the pick-up or drop-off lines while your child is getting their now-required daily temperature check. Thank you, and we’re doomed.
This parent is busy memorizing the class email list so they can contact you later and try to sell you essential oils — or better yet, rope you into selling them.
This parent is turning back-to-school night into a one-on-one parent-teacher conference and shares that their 7-year-old finished reading War and Peace by the Fourth of July, so how soon can we look into securing an accelerated Language Arts placement just for their kid?
The Newly Divorced Parent
You can spot them because they’re somehow both the most stressed and the best-groomed parent on the screen, and they may even work a mention of their upcoming triathlon into the conversation. Hey, you never know who you’re going to meet at one of these things. They’re just staying optimistic.
The Yoga Parent
Possibly while wearing stretch pants and/or mala beads, this parent is asking that you sign their Change.org petition to have mindfulness and Kundalini yoga replace P.E. or math or whatever. Though they’re attempting to exude high levels of chill, they’re cracking their neck like a prizefighter and you’re pretty sure they also flipped you off in the grocery store parking lot yesterday when they jaywalked in front of your car. You quickly realize it’s best to namaste out of their way.
The “I’m in the Middle of a Kitchen Reno” Parent
This Chip-and-Jo wannabe is 10 minutes late and coated in sheetrock dust. They apologize for interrupting but quickly point out that it’s their contractor’s fault and, boy, have they had a day trying to pick out pendant lighting! When the teacher asks if anyone has questions, they raise their hand and want to know if farmhouse sinks “are still a thing” and can someone explain the pros and cons of quartz vs. soapstone countertops? Because they still have some money leftover from their tax return / four 2020 vacations they had to cancel due to the pandemic.
The Special Ops Parent
This parent recommends that your child’s teacher be trained in Krav Maga or “mixed martial arts at the very least!” They’d like the principal to run through a lockdown drill after handing out copies of this school’s evacuation plans. Additionally, they’re requesting that the background checks performed on all support staff be made available through either the parent portal or Schoology.
This parent wants to know the teacher’s college GPA, her plans for pursuing a doctorate, and whether she has also acquired a nursing certification and is able to conduct COVID-19 testing on her own students. Has she been offered tenure, and if not, why? Is she married? Does she plan to get pregnant during the school year? If so, who’s her replacement?
The No-Fun Parent
Does this parent’s child really have immunity issues? Or are they just a wet blanket? We may never know. This parent is eager to remind everyone that no, their child will not be attending the one in-person school day per week offered due to them high-risk, allergic to precisely 237 different food items, and unable to be around Herman, the class turtle, due to the possibility of turtles transmitting COVID-19 through their shells. In fact, this parent advises that Herman be euthanized due to hygiene concerns in general. And don’t even think about sending home pencils or stickers to keep up morale. This parent’s son had had adverse reactions to both adhesive and lead.
Whether the teacher is explaining an upcoming science project or talking about their new online learning portal, this parent is here for none of it. This “We didn’t have any of this when I was in school!” parent will also spend the next few months instigating fights in community Facebook groups just for the sport of it.
Back-to-school night is enough to make you consider homeschooling — even in a normal year. This year, maybe you leave it recommitting to doing that virtual learning thing all on your own? Nah. Either way, don’t miss this opportunity to meet your child’s teacher and fellow parents, who are sure to provide more entertainment than your favorite Netflix series. Enjoy and best of luck!
A version of this story was originally published in August 2019.
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