School carnival season is upon us. If they haven't already, your child's school is likely about to begin bombarding you (via your child) with requests for baked goods, candy, and, of course, volunteers. There will be e-mails about themes. There will be notes sent home about when you can pre-purchase tickets to avoid the ungodly lines on Carnival night. There will be stickers affixed to every piece of clothing. God help us if you miss one; you can't get that crap off for love or money.
My kids have always loved the school carnival. It's not the hokey games or cheap prizes. It's not the hot dogs and ice cream served up in the cafeteria. I think it's the idea of being in school, after hours, roaming the hallways with their friends. Even Ace gets bummed when he can't go back to his old stomping grounds and marvel about how LITTLE everything looks.
So get ready, parents... it's time to bust out the wallet and the pre-packaged brownies and put on your happy face so you're ready for the TEN KINDS OF PEOPLE YOU'LL MEET AT THE SCHOOL CARNIVAL.
1. THE OVERWORKED TEACHER: What time is it? Five? Seven? Have we reached midnight yet? The Overworked Teacher has no idea. Time has somehow stopped. It may be moving backwards. All they know is that they arrived at the building at 7:30am and have not left. Aside from the twenty minutes when he was able to shove a half scalding, half frozen microwave burrito down his throat and chase it with some leftover Sunny D, there hasn't been a moment of peace. But somehow, even after twelve hours, he has a smile plastered on his face as children hurl themselves in his direction, delighted over the idea that IT IS AFTER SCHOOL ON A FRIDAY AND THE TEACHER IS STILL HERE! The Overworked Teacher is a saint. Make a mental note to give them something extra special during Teacher Appreciation Week... because money says they'll work the next Carnival too. And the next... and the next... and the next....
2. THE FAMILY THAT HAS PLAYED (AND WON) THE CAKEWALK SIX TIMES NOW: Are you running a mission service out of your home? Are you rebuilding your kitchen and currently unable to cook? Does your family require a high sugar dosage every fifteen minutes or someone may keel over? No? Then why the HELL DO YOU KEEP PLAYING THE DAMNED CAKEWALK? You've got SIX TRAYS OF BROWNIES that you're balancing in your hands. Six. You have two children under the age of 8. I understand that your kids loooooooove the cake walk. That's fine. So does mine. So do the other 578 kids that are waiting in line. Teach them about sharing and go try the freaking Chuck a Puck.
3. THE MARAUDING GANG OF MIDDLE SCHOOLERS. Like, OMG, do you remember when we were THAT SMALL? Like LAST YEAR? OMG, no wai! WAI! 'Sup, y'all, we're back and we're in a large, adorably imposing gang, a gang with swagger and a fistfull of tickets. Ah, middle schoolers. Half of them have younger siblings still in attendance. The other half were dropped off at the front doors by their parents with admonishments to "behave". They've ganged up, and now these swirling hormonal masses are oozing down the hallways, loud and obnoxious and REALLY hoping that all of their former teachers can see how much BIGGER they are. If you can tolerate the pervasive cloud of AXE that hovers over them like toxic fallout you'll notice that, for as obnoxious and, well, stupid as they act... they're still just babies.
4. THE HIGH SCHOOLERS THAT ARE SOOOOOOO IN LOVE. They first met in kindergarten. She was playing Legos. He wanted the wheels, so he took them. She cried. It was magic. They drifted in and out of each other's lives like so many pencil shavings until one day.... it happened. Now they're sixteen, in love, and reliving the glory of those early years. They won't buy any tickets... they don't want to play the games or eat the food. They're just going to hold hands and stroll the halls, stopping to chat with old teachers and gaze in loving wonder into each other's eyes.... while taking a selfie in front of the Dr. Seuss mural in the third grade hall. Beautiful.
5. THE FAMILY WHOSE KIDS ARE ALL TOO YOUNG TO BE THERE: Look, Timmy! This is where you'll go to school in three years! No, the books aren't for you! No, you can't take all the toys! No, dioramas are not for eating! I give props to families who work hard to prep their kids for school and want to show them how much fun they'll have. There's actually a lot for the kids to do at a school carnival, even when you're not out of Pull Ups yet- the duck pond, face painting, coloring, the cakewalk (if you can get that DAMNED FAMILY TO GET OUT OF YOUR WAY... wait, is that... is that SEVEN trays of brownies? I will cut a bitch...). But you have to remember... the carnival is geared towards the kids who actually GO to the school. So no, there probably aren't a lot of toys appropriate for your two year old. And no, Timmy can't have forty seven more tries because he's three and can't throw the football into the hole but he really wants an inflatable bat. Trust the rest of us when we say you really don't want him to have that inflatable bat anyways.
6. THE BLIND EYES: Did your kid just smack me upside the head with an inflatable bat? Your NINE year old kid? And then did he just shove two first graders aside so he could get in line in front of them. Dude, did he just SPIT his hot dog at that girl? What do you mean "not my child"? Are you blind? Wait, sorry. Yes you are. Look, I hate to break this to you... but your kid is an asshole. While you were smiling contentedly and basking in your belief that Little Dearest is truly the greatest thing ever to happen to not only this school, but this community, he shoved down three kindergarteners to cut in line, stole five pieces of candy, and then shanked a grandma with his pencil prize. When people are repeatedly trying to use their "nice" voices and explaining that your demon spawn PROBABLY had something to do with the bleeding five year old, stop playing indignantly stupid and put a leash on that thing.
7. THE JUDGEMENTAL VOLUNTEER. You couldn't help out this year. Sometimes that's the way the ball bounces. Everyone else understands... except Judy. Judy raises an eyebrow when you walk into her game with your Sprout. "I thought you were "busy" tonight! How nice that you could make it!" Oh, she's good. When you explain that the other parent had other obligations so it's just you and Sprout for the evening, she'll nod and launch into a commiserating story about how Jim is brokering an international peace treaty so she just brought Junior and Junior Miss along with her... see how they're coloring in the corner until her shift is over? Despite the fact that you KNOW the other 99.9% of the PTA gets it, you'll still leave feeling the need to write a letter of apology for your slackerdom. Judy wins every time.
8. THE NEWLY DIVORCED PARENTS. Nothing rocks an elementary school like an unexpected split, and the school carnival is like feeding time at the zoo. Will both parents come and be cordial for the kids' sake? Are they really still friends? When those people show up, there's about two minutes of wonder and then it's just boring. They just blend into the crowd. It's when Mom brings the kids and Dad picks them up and he hisses that she shouldn't have bought so many tickets and he just wants to get out of there, and she hisses that he was supposed to be there twenty minutes ago and the kids were getting anxious so of COURSE she bought more tickets to occupy them, and the bystanders pretend to look in different directions.... it's then that you realize that we're all a bunch of bloodthirsty jackels and you get kind of embarrassed for yourself and everyone around you. Be the good guy and call the poor kids over and act like you didn't hear but just really wanted to tell them how awesome their artwork on the wall was.
9. THE LAST MINUTE, 8-7 PARENT. They're racing in the door, the kids ready to party, the parents looking like they need a good night's sleep AFTER a shot of something strong (and I'm not talking about the kool-aid). They stand out from the rest of the crowd because unlike those who got off work at a reasonable hour and had time to change into jeans and a comfortable sweatshirt espousing team spirit, they JUST got off work. Mom is still in her scrubs after a 7-7 at the hospital. Dad is rubbing his eyes and sporting some serious 7 o'clock shadow on his face. But they're there, and that's all that matters, even when the most they can muster is to sit in the cafeteria sipping watery lemonade and letting the kids endlessly enter the raffles. They made it like they promised... but don't judge if they take a little nap, okay? Please?
10. THE TEACHER STALKER. All night long her eyes are roving, and God help the teacher that falls into her sights. It doesn't matter that Mrs. Smith is running the ring toss... The Stalker is going to want to discuss, RIGHT THERE, Little Kathy's problems with long division and what Mrs. Smith can do to help. It doesn't matter that it's 7pm on a Friday night and Mr. Jones is off the clock and with his kids eating cotton candy, The Stalker wants to talk about Brian's 8th grade Science report and how he can bring his grade up. The Stalker doesn't want to hear about office hours and conferences. The Stalker has no regard for your personal life: when you signed up for that $32,000 a year, "summers off" racket, you gave away your right to personal time, Mister! Now, stop talking to your child and come tell me what you're going to do to help Melody make sure she keeps that 4.0!
So practice your toilet paper tossing and your paper chain making skills and get ready to have some fun... even if you don't score some brownies. It's all for a good cause.