The Five Ways School Kids Love to Ambush Their Parents
posted by: gretchen
I suppose it’s only fair. When I was six years old, I invited all my neighborhood pals to a Goodbye Party at my house. We were moving across the state and I felt it was a great idea to say farewell with a bunch of cake and punch. The only trouble is I forgot to tell my mom. When another mom called to ask what time to send over her kids later in the day for the party, I was busted. Thankfully, my mom graciously went ahead with the party, even baking cupcakes to mark the occasion. She let me know I was never, ever, ever to do that again, but I’m still grateful she rolled with it.
It’s called the Parent Ambush and if you have school-aged children, you might have been a victim. There are several ways kids enjoy launching surprises on unsuspecting adults in their lives.
The Costume Ambush
This ambush strikes primarily in elementary school and never near Halloween. If it were near Halloween, you could easily go to a costume store or regular retail store and find what you need. Instead, the Costume Ambush hits in April and stores aren’t carrying capes and mustaches any more. This ambush is famous for happening at 9pm the night before it’s due. This is better than the morning it’s due, of course. It gives you time to reconnect with the Halloween costume bin in the corner of the basement.
Early one morning, my then-second grade son asked me if I could make a Frog Prince costume for school. I said sure, when do you need it? Today! Another time, he needed a costume that resembled a book character. No worries, mom. It will be easy. He needed a big black hat and a cow he could ride. In the first case, he had to settle for a green shirt and a paper crown. In the second, he borrowed a brown hat and took a stuffed cow. His teacher must have thought I was the world’s most untalented, uninspired costumer who ever lived. Instead, I had to work my magic with what was in his dresser and construction paper.
The Posterboard Ambush
“I need a posterboard for school tomorrow!” a child sleepily declares on her way to bed. “Can it wait?” you sigh loudly. “No, because I was supposed to bring one today.”
I’m convinced 90% of all posterboard sales in the United States are made between 8 and 10pm at night. Woe unto the mom on a posterboard hunt if it’s science fair season—especially if the kid needs a tri-fold board. If you see a child with a neon orange posterboard, don’t assume it’s because she loves neon orange. It’s because it was the only one left.
Finally, I learned that when I find myself buying a posterboard, I should buy five instead. Having a stack at home, stored behind our piano, has saved happiness and sanity many times.
The Snack Ambush
This particular ambush is popular in upper elementary grades or middle school. Usually, the child is finishing up a geography unit and the teacher decides to have a feast with foods from the country or region. This is an insidious ambush because the chance you have exotic ingredients lying around in your pantry are slim when your kid informs you they need you to make lamb in plum sauce for lunch tomorrow. For sixty. Hey, she shrugs, it’s for all the classes combined. The most exotic thing I made on the fly for school was a North African pastry stuffed with meats and I had a full day’s notice. I won the geography feast lottery.
When my high school aged-daughter did this to me, I pointed to the kitchen and saluted. She made hors d’oeuvres for her French class party all by her lonesome and did a great job.
To avoid this unwelcome surprise, tell your kids they should always sign up to bring the napkins.
The Photo Ambush
“Mom, could you print out photos of our family, all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, pets going back three generations? Thanks! We are making a family tree tomorrow!”
The reason I always keep photo paper isn’t so I can indulge a scrap-booking habit or print photos to fill albums to beautifully line our shelves. It’s so random children can have random photos printed on demand. Do I look like a little shack in a parking lot with a ONE-HOUR PHOTO sign above my head? Yes, I do.
Related: Always have extra printer ink cartridges handy. There is nothing more annoying than printing off a giant school project deep into an evening and seeing the error box rudely pop up, demanding you feed the printer monster his delicious, delicious ink. Burp!
The Permission Slip Ambush
This one is particularly embarrassing. After a chat with a teacher, you discover your child should have brought home a permission slip to spend a day at a farm. It was sent home two weeks ago. They are leaving tomorrow. Is your kid going? When you see your child, they say “Oh, yeah!” and pull a canary yellow wad of paper out of the front pocket of their backpack. You smoothe it out and read. Not only was it due a few days ago, they need $37.89 cents, cash only.
You check your wallet. There’s an unwrapped piece of cinnamon gum, a Canadian penny, a coupon for 50 cents off eggs (expired shortly after Easter) and a button.
I hope the school year is kind to parents everywhere! I hope you make it to the end with zero ambushes, but I can’t guarantee there won’t be few surprises.