Yes, the School Year Is Ending -- But Enough With the Parties!

One mom dares to ask whether we could end the school year with fewer class parties, recitals and field days.

Let's get one thing straight: Calling the last month and a half of the school year "school" because everyone is still showing up is like calling a Whopper a "salad" because it's got a single, sad leaf of iceberg lettuce on it. There seems to be a very clear message coming home with the tattered backpacks and a year's worth of artwork: "We are so done teaching your kids."

At my girls' elementary school, the countdown to summer started in May with individual class plays, not to be confused with the school-wide Chorus performance or the Variety/Talent Show, followed in short order by Open House, Science Night, Astronomy Night (which differs from Science Night because it’s outside), the Book Exchange, the Spring Sing and the Retiring Teachers’ Brunch. My friends with older kids had an additional half dozen graduation and sports' team to-dos on their calendars. Round it all out with back-to-back field trips, meticulously scheduled around Water Day and the obligatory End-of-Year Parties.

Call me a killjoy, but from the chatter I hear at drop off, I know I'm not the only one who is fed up with all the parent-attendance-mandated celebrations. I'm lucky that my freelance job means I can drive on every field trip and never miss a school shindig. I feel for the work-out-of-the-home parents who are forced to juggle their excuses and vacation time -- slipping out for a "lunch" to hit the music singalong, ducking in late after the poetry share, faking a doctor's appointment to attend the class party -- all in the name of supporting your kids and avoiding the judgy moms just waiting to finger you as a workaholic or slacker.

I know I should be grateful: Soon my kids will be older and I'll pine for the days when they actually wanted to have me and my husband at the class picnic. But I have to scale back or I am seriously going to lose it. So instead of rearranging two work meetings so I can show up at the second impromptu "Lunch with the Kids," I explained to my 8-year-old that I would have to miss it. I replied politely to the Volunteer Appreciation Party invite with a breezy "sorry I can't make it, thanks for including me!" I decided that my kids can celebrate some of these events with their pals, not their parents, and live to tell about it. 

Jenna McCarthy is an internationally published writer, TED speaker and the author of five books including If It Was Easy They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-so-handy Man You Married (Berkley Books, 2011). Find her at


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