I find this back-to-school time of year particularly stressful. After months of flexible summer days and relaxing evenings, I’ve got to get organized and back into some semblance of routine. My mornings are frantic between getting the kids ready for school, preparing lunches and finishing off that homework we just couldn’t seem to finish. I’m hit with a barrage of back-to-school events scheduled day and night. The clothes come of out of storage to pass down to the next kid, and I have to stock up on cold-weather clothes for the older one so that we’re prepared when the weather snaps unexpectedly.
Then there are the countless forms I find myself completing for each child. Fill out these forms so your child can go on field trips. Sign here to allow your child to be photographed for promotional materials. Do you want your preschooler to participate in the lunch program? Which school photo package would you like to purchase? Please identify all the ways in which you can participate in the PTA. Some of the after school activities require forms as well.
My least favorite forms are the Emergency and medical forms. They make me shvitz a little (shvitz meaning perspire from either heat or angst). In this instance, it’s all about the angst. I should preface the following comments with the fact that it doesn’t take much for me to start angst-shvitzing. I’m high strung. That said, I’m sure there is a significant population that can empathize. Each child’s school requires that I complete form after form identifying our insurance carrier, allergy and medical information and emergency contacts. Elementary schools require two emergency cards per child. Certainly, there is some reason for duplication, but I don’t see why we can’t provide the information on a website somewhere allowing whichever school or Department of Medical Catastrophe of to access it.
Then there’s the matter of the emergency contacts. Who should they be? They are not necessarily the parents of your child’s best friend. Nor are they your friend if your friend works during the day. I need to identify someone my kid knows well enough to trust during an emergency, someone who is available during school hours, someone preferably within our school system and someone who is willing to be my emergency contact. Then, I need to find another one because the forms ask for at least two. When I asked my neighbor if she would be my Emergency Contact, I felt like I was asking her to go steady. “It’s a big step in our relationship, isn’t it?” I asked her only half-joking. She giggled and asked me to be an emergency contact for her, too. I wondered briefly if she was asking me just to be nice. It’s possible she would have felt awkward admitting that she already had an army of friends who volunteered to drop everything at any time of day to rescue her children from crises. I dismissed the thought when she asked for my cell phone number. I decided she needed me after all.
If scraping up emergency contacts weren’t difficult enough, there is also the reminder that New Jersey does not always recognize my family when I have to cross out Father’s name on the card. Slowly, institutions and companies are getting with the program. There are many forms that require information from the Parent/Guardian as opposed to the Mother and Father. I can’t help but wonder what it would take for everyone to follow suit. It may be an administrative inconvenience, but the cost of alienating our families is surely greater than the cost of reprinting forms, isn’t it?