Is Labeling ever okay?

My six-year-old recently came home sporting a nicely designed label on his shirt. At first glance I thought that my kid had achieved some type of next level recognition in his class at the institute of higher learning…Grade One (to be exact).  With some squinting on my part (40-year-old something eyes) I was expecting to see the usual primary school accolades that regularly show up on these youngster’s homework. You know the ones:

"...see the usual primary school accolades ... You know the ones..."

“…see the usual primary school accolades … You know the ones…”

Great Job!”

“Well Done!”



“You ROCK!”

Instead …the label read “Please watch me…I bumped my head today!”WHAT????


Instead …the label read “Please watch me…I bumped my head today!”…WHAT????

Instead …the label read “Please watch me…I bumped my head today!”…WHAT????

I guess calls home from the school can be really reduced with the new label system. I might have been able to accept:

“Need special care have a small boo-boo”

“Be nice to me…I had a bad day”

“I fell and scraped my knee…I might need some TLC

“The school nurse checked me and I am fine but could use extra TLC”

Watch me I bumped my head 2But “watch me closely…I bumped my head”? Seriously….what are these people (the folks at the school) thinking??? The only saving grace about this label was that it was adhered on the child’s shirt as opposed to his forehead.(!!) I am wondering if the rest of the first aid container at school might include “Was unconscious earlier please watch me overnight” or “Unresponsive at school please return to sender” only to be out done with “Intellectually unresponsive please investigate!”

Then again that opens up an entire list of labels a parent might like to have for the teacher.

“Watch me my head is very sore…too much homework”

“If I can’t understand what you teach in school hours don’t think my parents can teach me in non-school hours.”

“Was dropped on my head…well…the rest is history!”

“My family calls me …ANIMAL!”

“Today is a bad day… someone kidnapped my imaginary friend”

“Be careful…I am ALMOST toilet-trained!”

Better yet might be the labels one could (perhaps should?) arm a high school teacher with:

“This kid need not come to school…ever again.”

“Return to sender…only resend once mouth is sealed with duct tape”

“If this is what your family has to offer the world for the future…hope you have a backup plan!”

This label thing could likely save all of us time and therefore money…oh the possibilities!

I as a parent might choose to wear (sometimes more than occasionally)

“I am currently having an out-of-body experience…stay tuned …take a number…it could take a while!”

“I did hear you…but no…I still DON’T care.”

“Possessed…again…by Aliens

“Whatever!! Duh!…(unless you are asking for the car)…then NO!”

“FYI…take cover I am in a VERY BAD MOOD!”

I guess when all is said and done, the label “Please watch me…I bumped my head today!” is definitely not anywhere near as scary as “Toe-tag required…please call the coroner.” Though it still leaves me wondering …are all students given the “bumped my head” label or are these labels only reserved for the children whose scholastic performance leaves something to be desired while the children perceived as having superior brilliance get a REAL call home (oh and then perhaps a label)??

Teacher says well done

A quick call to my local school regaling the receptionist with my take on the whole thing and she is horrified… “Oh I guess we FORGOT to call you and JUST gave him the label INSTEAD of calling. He is fine but really wanted a label. He did bump his head though earlier in the day but seemed okay.”  (???)

I think I will be in my corner designing labels we can all wear (and hand out) for everyday use. Can you imagine what one could “get away with” saying at work with just wearing a label??? Just saying….

Labeled “The Garden Goat”

Labeled  “The Garden Goat”

“The Garden Goat”



Okay…not sure about you but as a teenager I longed for a job. You know one of those things that get you legitimately out of your house (and away from some of the hourly expectations your parents had for you) with real, hard, cold cash in your pocket. Finally, I was old enough to have one. My boss was almost on the same level as God. What the manager lady said was law. I did not argue… I complied. Either I was raised to be more respectful than the current teenage crowd or perhaps it was that I was so anxious to be able to have money of my own to spend…I hassled no one. Either way, what the boss says goes.

After I moved out of home I was very determined to be on my own and totally independent. To this end I worked three jobs. One fulltime job and two-part time jobs simultaneously. Life was great. I was my own boss living on my own. Happy to be gainfully employed paying my own way in life. Thrilled to afford some of the finer things life had to offer like …new underwear, my own phone (this was before cell phones) and the odd cup of coffee. Truly by these standards one might wonder what my life was before now. I lived as one of four girls being raised by a single mom and yes, new underwear (especially if yours was still deemed wearable…only a little threadbare) was the ultimate. Since then my idea of the finer things has since been revised significantly.

Teenagers tired of being harassed by your parents act now get a job

“I am doing everything I can to get the “layabout” out of the house.”

Fast forward my life to today (an average goat with 9 kids and a “Nanny-Goat” to a grand-kid). I am now inundated with teenagers everywhere. Albeit some of them are my own, others are the friends of this age demographic. With many of these kids the notion of a “job” is akin to being told that incarceration or incineration (same difference) awaits them. Sort of a struggle cause they all “want” and “like” money. Just “work” seems to be a dirty word.

The excuses for those teenagers who do not want to find gainful employment include:

  • They won’t hire me… no one will. (No…really? Not if you do not apply they won’t!)
  • I know people that work there so I can’t. (Why? You will know everyone once you are hired.)
  • That job looks boring. (How would you know… really?)
  • Can’t work “there” no one has heard of that place. (I thought you wanted anonymity!)
  • I need a job that lets me text all day. (Is there such an environment out there?)
  • They only hire beautiful people. (Does that mean by definition…you are “not”?)

Finally in spite of it all…some company out there actually decides to hire the teenager in question. YIPPEE! Before everyone gets excited…it is only now the fun starts.

Because although someone separate to your personal being is the one employed it may as well be you. The worry that the teenager still buried in bed will and be late for their work shift within the hour somehow becomes your concern. (Note it is your forehead getting wrinkled not theirs.) The kid in question is literally oblivious as they languish around the house even though their appearance at this “job” is required within the next 30 minutes. You (not them) start freaking out (no amount of age defying night cream is gonna help you now).

Now there is a race to look for their uniform. “Mom did you wash my work stuff?” I yell back “what does that look like?” the answer from the basement is deafening “black pants, top and apron!” Well… let me stop and think…in the 60 loads I already wash every week…would I notice another item of black clothing? (Short answer NO) Ah… yes better watch the clean laundry for the defining “apron”…NOT. Even though you do not work at their job you are somehow responsible for locating the uniform and getting them to their place of employment ON TIME. That would almost be okay if they complied but instead you are literally doing all you can short of strangling the kid and taking the now-quieted comatose teenager to their place of employment. This scenario is exhausting (not to mention further wrinkle inducing).

When the delight of vicariously enjoying the responsibility of your teenager’s jobs involves more than one teenager…it will literally kill you. Why should I care that this kid shows up in the right dress code, at the right time with the right attitude? Too late for therapy… this responsibility is one of those things that got tucked into the blanket at the hospital when I was handed the child at birth! I am doing everything I can to get the “layabout” out of the house on time his  work… so, yah I am freaking out …mid-yell I get told to “JUST CHILL”-(??)

Goat motivating kid

I am doing everything I can to get the “layabout” out of the house on time his work… so, yah I am freaking out …mid-yell I get told to “JUST CHILL”-(??)

Beyond the “getting-the-kid-to-work-dressed-and-on-time” (not to mention the “hag-like” look you have developed from all the stress)…then there is the “other problem.” Work is scheduled and this creature you gave birth to informs you that he is taking a “sick” day. First of all, the types of employment open to kids of these ages are usually fast food, specialty stores, or part time hours in retail. Traditionally NONE of these employers offer a “sick day”-the part that kills me is I know people who have worked a solid 20 years fulltime and have yet to take a sick day. Why are today’s kids SO different? (Have they all watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as infants?)

(Have they all watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as infants?)

In the interests of good parenting the conversation goes something like this. YOU are sick? What is wrong…the sick one answers “Oh nothing.” What do you mean “nothing” you said you are calling in “SICK”? Response from the highschooler… “Yeah…I just don’t wanna work today”…Why not? “Well my friends are all hanging out later so I do not have time for work.” ARGHHH here we go again (visions of this child in his forties still living in my basement)!


“Well my friends are all hanging out later so I do not have time for work.”

The solution…I need headphones with great music and hourly applications of beautifying night cream to combat the facial ravages of my “FREAK OUT” …oh…and perhaps something more than “just” coffee in my cup. Could the teenager be right? Perhaps I should just somehow learn to “CHILL”…

Garden Goat just chilling over here….

goat in ice

Garden Goat just chilling over here….

A “hairy bird” goes back to school

Well…summer raced by as I played cook, nursemaid, parole officer (same difference) and supreme ruler of my universe to the multitudes in the absence of my husband (gone for about 12 weeks of medical care in another city following serious surgery to his ankle). There are certainly many freedoms in being the only one looking after the entire tribe. Basically it looked like this…my way…or else. (!!) On the flip side…12 weeks of being the only parent 24/7 to a tribe of 9 (8 months and up) is completely…exhausting! Oh..and yes the husband was doing helpful “things”  all along that I took for granted and discovered this truth in his absence.

Sadly it is now time for school and the summer has come to a close.

Sadly it is now time for school and the summer has come to a close. The majority of my offspring are NOT looking forward to joining the ranks of their peers on the yellow buses headed for “higher learning.” With one exception, a little boy who starts Grade One this year can’t wait to start school and be “gone” for the whole day. Wait until he finds out the truth about school. Yep…I can see me in about a month dragging the same child out from under the covers and trying to regale him with “fun” things about school. The sad reality is more often than not Grade One heralds the end of a carefree imagination and is replaced by doing things “the right way.” It will be a year where his imaginary friends will die mercilessly …slaughtered by the cold words of “cooler” kids on the playground. I won’t hear about how he has packed all his toys and together he and the toys have had adventures all over the world in one day. Some other realist out there will be sure to let my son know this is also IMPOSSIBLE to do. I hope that after a year of Grade One he still believes in the IMPOSSIBLE. As belief in the impossible is the only way I can get through a moment (never mind one FULL day).

“Back to school” would not be complete without back to school shopping (very last-minute over here). This is truly very overrated. A national school supply chain heralds this season as “The most wonderful time of the year.” (See you tube ad at bottom of post.) Nothing could be further from the truth!

The younger crowd does not care about any school supplies other than having a “cool” back pack/lunch kit. The older kids would prefer NO lunch kit…as this is so “lame.” (??) Apparently to show up in school with a plastic bag in a world conscious of green decisions to protect the environment is somehow NOT lame (?). This is because “everyone else is doing it.” If I hear the rationale just one more time that “everyone else does this…” I will have a bird (Not to worry my kids and their friends really want to see this). This is just the shopping for the mundane luggage to cart one’s lunch and paraphernalia around in. It gets better!

Then we get to school supplies. When I went to school mostly everything was provided and it was a public school system (although throughout life I have been a connoisseur of private, and public and homeschooling). I used to be so excited for the new coloured pencils and crayons. Well that has all changed. Some schools want everything provided from the paper and pens, through glue sticks, rulers and scissors and on to calculators, tennis balls (for the feet on your kid’s chair) and then (let us not ever forget) huge amounts of KLEENEX. With the numbers I deal with… to be providing 6 boxes of tissues per child is way more than this crowd will ever use (or want to use…sadly) in a year. I got to wonder if the excess supplies are to stock the yearly school garage sale for future fundraising. No, perhaps the secret behind the copious amount of tissues required is the teachers are in dire need of Kleenex  themselves as they have to deal with a cross-section of humanity in dwarf sizes and varying degrees of maturity.

The older crowd are busy regaling me with the need that not only do they need calculators but now most of their buddies have their own laptops. So what? Then it is time for the (newly) teenager-daughter to pipe up that she CAN’T go to school without a cell phone in her possession. When I point out the fact that this child rides the bus to and fro school and is supposed to be in school learning … so “like” what would you need a cell for (?). The answer slays me. It is so that she can “text” her buddies…the ones sitting in class with her (you know the ones less than an arm’s length distance away)…oh and also to be sure she not ostracized for being not “cool” as she MUST be (at least) “seen” with a cell phone. “Mom a cell phone is a basic necessity!“ The phone is mostly for show, taking pictures, texting and in short a distraction to any school work that actually might occasionally occur. So, nah… a BIG NO when it comes to a cell phone for this kid. I am real popular at this point.

One a side note I love the “MUST-HAVES” list no one seems to care how all of this will be funded or afforded. I have learned in the eons of years I have been at this game that most of the requested school supplies are “nice to haves.” If I miss something critical you may be sure the teacher will let me know (in addition to many reminders from the child in question).

Chalkboard with lines only spend what I need

One a side note I love the “MUST-HAVES” list no one seems to care how all of this will be funded or afforded!

Moving on to the clothing (or lack thereof)…the little kids are fairly easy to please. A pair or two of shoes, some shirts and jeans (hand-me-downs) and everything is fine. The older kids…not so much. “Oh I can’t wear that”, “too lame”, “I look too fat” (child who is less than average weight), “I am too old for Disney” (did not think ANYONE was ever TOO old for Disney). The comments continue “I am not a nun…I am not wearing that!” The latest, “I need clothes that cover my hairy legs mom because you won’t let me shave!” (This kid is barely ten and I cannot locate “peach fuzz” on her…even with a magnifying glass!). Course then “the-who-is-allowed-to-shave” becomes the topic of conversation as we move on to the next store. Finally I offer to supply the new teenager with a disposable razor. Well the lip is curled up (Duh…Mom goofed again) “when I said shave I was sure you would take me to a spa and have my legs waxed like so-and-so’s mom does!” Again…a definite “NO” at my end. Disposable razor…take it or leave it. I know people older than I who t have worked all their lives and never been to a spa. Since when did “waxing” at a “spa” become the norm for a kid still in grade school?

Morale of the story …more is less. My kids have rulers, some paper, new shoes all bundled into existing backpacks (ones that weren`t overgrown with too much lunch mould from last year) and a few lunch kits and are now ready for school.  Decided to keep the bulk of the tissues here to mop up the tears from those disappointed from not getting “the basics” on this shopping trip.

No longer need to threaten to have a hairy bird…apparently one lives with me already!

Goat scrubbing bathtub spa

Have yet to find a SPA that accepts goats!

The Garden Goat

(Have yet to find a SPA that accepts goats!)

Fish Don’t Matter

On the way to drop my 17-year old at his part-time job, in one of those conversations where the parent feels a real connection with the kid (i.e. in the absence of the usual grunts and guttural sounds barely indicating positive or negative answers to any question posed by the parental management team) a list of endless activities were being recited when tucked in between school work and sleep was an odd errand. “I need to buy a fish.” Okay, I did not think this child was still in biology…oh I get it…Halloween. Hmm, this nice kid of mine must be planning some horrible prank in which one of his lesser peers will be forced to likely swallow the fish whole.(!!) Or worse…just the skeletal remains of the creature. Or some other poor classmate find it in their lunch at school, or perhaps this fish was destined for greatness as some unsuspecting teacher might find it at the bottom of their morning cup of coffee…(icky just the thought).

Since the 17-year old feels like chatting as I drive this kid to the gym I remind him that I do not want any more pets at my house beyond his brothers and sisters. Broad grin from this kid, “no Mom, I need it as a pet but not at home.” Sure. This child has a complete other life he keeps secret as with eight siblings he dare not say anything that he does not want made public as three of his siblings attend the same high school. A fish-pet, but not for enjoyment at our house…what is the point? “Well…is there something you want to tell me?” I ask this boy in the hopes that the confused look on my face will help to elicit more information. “Is this pet a replacement for some evil ritual killing I knew nothing about?” Posing this question has its risks should the young man decide to let me know more than I really need to know about his personal life. “No mom, I just need to have a fish.” Great… “need” whatever could one NEED a fish for?

Okay, I ask what kind of fish is required. All of a sudden too many questions…this lad of mine answers with “I just need a fish…oh and maybe a fishbowl”-Well I am now completely relieved because purchasing a fish and bowl seems almost normal. No ritual sacrifices, no plans to intimidate peers, no evidence that it will be used to torture the siblings…then again this fish will not be “living at home.”

Where do you plan to keep the fish? Thinking to myself that the boy only has his room (which is ruled out if the fish is not for home), his gym bag and occasionally borrows our car. The answer “in my locker”-what complete with water bowl and food I ask? I thought the school had rules about that. Answer back “they won’t know.” I thought you shared a locker with some girl. “I do.” Nice – the lovely couple is going to raise a fish in a high school locker. (??) What happens when it smells because you did not change it or feed it and then the vice-principal calls me…again?  “I will get another Japanese Fighting Fish and it can dine on the rotting fish.” No…really? What is the point in that I query the now-quiet-teenager for even more info. “Well, we are not allowed to fight at the school so fish fights in my locker are an alternative attraction…and the girl I share the locker with is “up” for it.”-Gold fish do matter and don't belong in school lockers

Next I launch into a rant about how unfair it is to keep a fish in a locker period. Never mind organizing fish fights for peer entertainment or to raise oneself socially in school. It is UNFAIR to the fish. We are now at the gym, the 17-year-old is back to totally ignoring me…as he steps out of my car I ask “why?” this kid answers “You don’t get it Mom…it’s because fish don’t matter!”

As I pull out of the parking lot I am much more disturbed than I was when set out to take this child on his errands. How did I raise someone who honestly believes…”fish don’t matter”! In an attempt to get an honest night’s sleep I put it down to something I cannot ever change…inherited insensitivity from the father’s genes.  Memo to self…make sure the other children value life…even if it belongs to a humble fish.

The Garden Goat

Pajama Day around the world should be forever cancelled

“You know it is Pajama Day tomorrow…right?” has to be the most dreaded thing a child under ten can possibly hope to tell you as you put the final touches on dinner.  Far from being an easy morning the next day for you and a laid back comfy day of playful relaxation among peers for their teacher…it is actually a nightmare.

First of all it supposes that each child out there wears (or even has) pajamas in the first place. I don’t know about you but various members of my family sleep in t-shirts (I being one of them). So if you have more than one child attending the school in question (and I do) there is now a panic. “Everybody is wearing Pajamas tomorrow…can we go to the store and buy some?”-No, why should the imagination of a teacher fresh out of university (and obviously childless)  cause me to part with the better part of $50 to clothe two children in “pajamas” they do not normally wear so that they can fully partake in “pajama day”?

OK…get past that…find the extra fifty bucks (forget having the dog groomed this month). The child conveying the message regarding the expected attire for the following morning has no clue that since it is now supper time any shopping for this night attire needs to happen immediately. So forget the other activities for the evening, mundane as they were (cleaning out the fridge and gathering garbage as “Garbage Pickup Day” is the same as “Pajama Day”). Hurriedly gulp down dinner so as to be able to cram this last-minute shopping spree in before bath time and bed.

You would think any pair of Pajamas would be fine for the pajama-less crowd. Not so. The store sales attendant is losing her mind trying to come up with sizes and colours so that your two offspring will actually “like” the pajamas enough to wear regularly at night so as to better justify this surprise expense.

All the way home you listen to who has the better pajamas…you are thinking that if it was not for the school these kids would already be home in bed asleep and you would have the fridge cleaned by now. Finally, the kids are washed and now in bed but not yet wearing the new pajamas as they have to be washed first. (!!)

Next morning arrives and everyone is excited to wear the new pajamas except you forgot to dry them and they are still in the washer. (!!) After putting the coveted sleepwear into to dryer you start breakfast and making lunches for the little darlings. Only to have your kid show up in the kitchen and tell you their teacher ALSO said to bring a pillow, plus their favourite toy and they are to wear slippers! Of course the teacher did. Up until now you have thought kindly of the woman who teaches this kid…who knew she could be so diabolical? Your children do not have slippers because they detest them. You point this out. Your beautiful child explains how all the other kids are going to make fun of them because they do not have slippers are NOT allowed to wear shoes on “Pajama day.”

At this point you realize that you are going to miss the school bus and agree to drive your offspring to school. Ah, yes not before the children race through the house and gather their pillows from their beds and their stuffed animals. Somebody’ stuffed animal is leaking his innards. You are asked to sew this before school.(!!) You mutter something (likely not repeatable) under your breath and decide to just put everyone in the car including the animal patient, the sewing kit, two pillows and another stuffed animal and back out of the driveway. Wait a minute…in seeing the cuddle stuff all got to the car you forgot the children’s lunches on the kitchen counter…race back in the driveway and run for the lunches. While navigating your neighborhood streets you are relishing the number of mandatory stops behind school busses and for stop signs as this affords you the precious moments to thread the needle and sew up the critter whose stuffing was falling out (there are only laws in place for cell phones and texting while driving….sewing that is definitely not the same).

Make a quick stop at the local discount store and grab two pairs of slippers socks that hopefully will fit the bill bringing the “Pajama Day’s” expense now up to well over $75 in total. Now at the school send the little ones in wishing them a “happy Pajama Day”-and torque off down the street heading in late to work.

You catch up with the small fry after school only to hear who had matching pajamas and who did not like your kids’ choice in pajamas. You are dying to ask what the teacher wore as pajamas but then gain…not unless the children volunteer.

Another day is over, suppertime finished, and a little voice says “I love my pajamas…can I sleep in them tonight…PLEASE?” NO…as bedtime is now very late because sitting on the school floor means these pajamas and pillows need to be washed and dried before bedtime. As you untangle the last pillow out of the wringer in the washer your eyes are green with envy as you imagine the teacher who decided on “Pajama Day” sitting in a bubble bath, sipping wine listening to music to unwind from the “fun” day she planned for your children.

No teacher should be ever allowed to declare a day “Pajama Day” unless she is responsible for offspring of her own and has suffered “Pajama Day” at least once herself…then again…if she has chances are there will be no such thing as “Pajama Day” on her watch.

The “pajama-less” Garden Goat