Here We Go Again...


“Have a great day at school,” I shout in an overly cheery voice as I slow to a roll so the kids can exit the car. Their grumbling replies are lost as I pull away from the curb, crank up the radio and head off to relatively unfettered freedom. Thanks to hard work, dogged perseverance and creative thinking, they have all moved on to the next grade. While they get full credit for the academic component of moving on, I take credit for the real accomplishment of managing to get them registered for school.

Yep, every year as school is about to start, I’m giddy with the prospect of returning to the gym and unencumbered store runs. I’m thrilled that the soundtrack to my day will no longer be Fornite screams of anguish and triumph. The only looming hurdle that stands between me and freedom is the dreaded school registration. I get clammy palms and my heartbeat quickens when I contemplate the task of enrolling my children for the upcoming year. My default plan is to ignore the onslaught of cheerful emails outlining the seemingly simple steps I need to take and then at the 11th hour, sit down and actually click on the link to get started.  

Oh, how the process has changed over the years. I don’t remember my mom ever registering me for school, it seemed I just wandered down the street with the other kids and ended up in a classroom.  My parents were not concerned about what teacher I had, unlike today when parents will go to great lengths to get the teacher who will best prepare their child for an Ivy League school, treat them with love, respect and nurture their inner being. A teacher with the compassion of Mother Teresa, creativity of Mary Poppins and the moral compass of Atticus Finch. My parent’s attitude was, “They’re a teacher, right?  Stop complaining.”

When my kids started school years ago, registration was a pretty low tech affair.  I’d swing by the school and pick up their info packet, which was left on a table outside of the office with all the others. Heck, I could pick up a friends packet with no thought of identity theft or violation of privacy. We’d fill out our paperwork by hand, bring it to Walk Through Registration and pay for fees with a check or perhaps even cash.   

As time marched on, so did technology and with it school registration.  Gone was the drive by packet pick up and in its place a confusing 12 step online process requiring a password or login for half of the steps.  In an effort to “simplify and improve” the process, the system changes each year so even if you manage to figure it out once, you get to start over and figure it out again.  It’s like a Sisyphean task, only instead of a boulder, its school registration and once you figure it out, the rules will change and the rock will roll back down the hill. If you have kids at different schools, the process will be slightly different at each of those schools, just to make sure you’re paying attention.

This year I managed to register two of my kids with minimal struggle, however, I could not get the system to recognize the third child, who shall remain nameless. He was “associated with another email”and regardless of what email I used I could not get past this error message. I finally gave up and just made up another kid with same name, different birthdate. The system happily let me register my “fourth” child. Eventually this trickery may catch up with him, or me for that matter, but for the moment, he is enrolled and going to school.

Once you’ve remembered your passwords or given up and made all new accounts under yet another email, you can print out the coveted documents of approval that then allow you to go to Walk Through Registration.  At Walk Through, you will once again, for the 14th year need to prove that you are indeed a resident of the school district.  In order to do this you’ll need a utility bill such as water, garbage or power.  Of course, all of my payments are electronic and I have not actually received a paper bill in five years so I now need to log into my utility accounts and print a statement.  Surprisingly, I’ve no idea what my password is or even my user name because the last time I needed it was at last year’s registration.

Walk through registration is exactly what it sounds like, though “stand in line in an unairconditioned gym” registration might be closer to the truth.  This is where you prove your district citizenship, run the gauntlet of PTA, Spirit Wear, club sign ups, lunch payments and finally, finally get your child’s schedule.  Then and only then can you breathe a sigh of relief and start your 10 page letter to the Principal explaining in detail why your child needs a different teacher. Next up, school supplies!

Regina Stoops is a comedian, writer and Autism Mom living with her wife and three kids in the San Francisco Bay Area. Click here to subscribe to her Normal Notes blog.

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