Friday, February 05, 2010

Community NIght

BabyRat (BR) started at a DCPS on Capitol Hill this past Fall. I didn't really have time to write about it (or anything else) because the LittlestRat (LR) has been keeping us pretty busy. Work has been busier for me too, now that I'm back to working for a small company where I have to wear a couple of different hats. I've also been up to my ass in meetings, events, work days, celebrations, and "Community Nights" at BR's new school.

I don't know what's normal, but since BR started at DCPS I've probably averaged about one evening (or some kind of off the schedule daytime event) a week at her school. One of the recurring obligations is "Community Night."

Community Nights are run and sponsored by a local DC organization called Turning the Page a/k/a TTP. The first time TTP had a community night I looked at it as opportunity to go hang out at the school, meet some of the other parents, and soak up a free meal. They did a great job of marketing the event, we were contacted by a sponsor family that encouraged us to attend, they put a reminder sticker on the kids clothes that day, and we were made to feel very welcome.

I hadn't realized that after eating, the parents and the kids would separate and the parents were going to group sessions. During this session, we were given a book to take home and discussed the importance of reading to young children and some tips & techniques to engage kids in reading. It was good information, but nothing that I didn't already know and had been doing for a few years to boot.

So as the semester goes on they're having these Community Nights like every other week! Wanting to be an active and supportive parent, I attend the second community night despite the middling food and rudimentary child care lesson being delivered. The third community night is an author visit and reading, along with some samples of vegan food (the topic of the book). BabyRat is all hyped up because there is going to be a special guest so, again, I feel like I have to attend.

I know that being a parent isn't always easy or fun, I wanted to be a father and I took on these obligations and responsibilities of my own free will. So on one level I feel like I should just STFU and keep doing my part to be a responsible parent by attending every meeting or gathering where they'll have me at BR's school. At the same time, I can't help wondering if the resources being put into these community nights couldn't be being used more effectively.

I'm not writing this to denigrate or mock the efforts of the very earnest and fresh-faced (OK, maybe a little mocking) young volunteers. Quite the opposite, I think the concept is great but it could be executed a little better.

Last week we talked about nutrition, but we had a meal of store bought lasagna & mushy french fries for dinner that evening. So already there's a disconnect between what we're talking about and what we're actually doing. A demonstration where they showed how a hot breakfast of oatmeal (the real stuff, bought in bulk) with a piece of fruit compares with Pop Tarts economically and nutritionally or show how you can turn $10-15 worth of groceries (what you might spend on a fast food meal) into a nutritious dinner would be a better way to spend our time.

One of the things we (the parents & group leaders) talked about was how getting kids involved in cooking opened them up to trying new foods. Sometimes kids will surprise you, like BabyRat prefers the stalks of broccoli to the crowns. I would have never figured that out if I hadn't had BabyRat there with me while I was trimming the broccoli one night and she asked to taste the stalk.

I don't want this to turn into a critical rant, so I'll stop with the suggestions right here. Despite my misgivings, I'll continue to participate in Community Nights as long as they continue to have them because they are, on balance, a good thing.

1 comment:

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