Dress light, stay calm and go for frozen yogurt

The Parents' Survival Guide for making it through spring straining



As parents of elementary schoolchildren know, this is a magical time in the waning school year. Your child's school has planned many after-school events for your family's enjoyment, and you won't want to miss a single science fair or concert.

To help overwhelmed parents through this annual Spring Drill, we offer the following helpful survival guide:

1. The Other Murphy's Law

Named after a former and somewhat cranky principal, this Murphy's Law states that every after-school event will start precisely at dinner time. For example, if your family eats dinner at 7 p.m., the band concert will start at exactly 7 p.m. Families have attempted to subvert the law by eating at 5 p.m., only to discover the school has rescheduled your son's oboe solo for 5 p.m.

Suggestion: Eat a big breakfast.

2. Don't Sweat It

Events are always held in the school cafeteria. According to laws introduced in the first Continental Congress, a school's cafeteria is never to be air-conditioned. Fortunately, modern legislation does allow for two oscillating fans to be mounted over one (1) cafeteria doorway. This system effectively cools one (1) parent while the other 250 parents wait their turns to stand in the doorway.

Suggestion: Parents, wear your choice of handsome bathing attire to, say, Family Fun Night. But gentlemen, please, no thongs.

3. The After-After-School Event

After events at one Pinewood Elementary in Timonium, parents and children flock to the TCBY store on York Road, where, at 8: 52 p.m., horrified TCBY employees come face-to-face with the entire student body. Never before has the food industry experienced such sadism. (The school, mercifully, has taken to calling ahead to warn the TCBY.)

Suggestion: For the weak-hearted, it's best to stay in your minivan.

4. 'Tis the Night Before the Science Fair

Your daughter's project (re: the effects of spilled battery acid on human skin) is less than complete. In fact, you forgot to buy the poster board. You are upset. She is upset. The dog is upset. And your wife has taken a room at the Holiday Inn until the Science Fair is over.

Suggestion: Bag the fair. Instead, beat the crowd and take your daughter to TCBY.

5. Know Your Spring Events

With so many events scheduled for this time of year, many parents become confused over which after-school event is which. These explanations should help:

Spring Band Concert: Fathers might be surprised to learn that their son's school has a band and that their son is in the band. Further complicating matters is the fact that bands tend to meet in concert and perform. (After absorbing this information, many fathers will need to nap.) The school band will play a tasteful selection of modern classics from Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" to the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter."

Spring Chorus Concert (small group): Not ever to be confused with "Spring Chorus Concert (large, unruly group)," this concert features the smallest members of your elementary school -- including some tiny faculty members. Be advised that the Spring Chorus Concert involves singing.

Spring Orchestra Concert: These are the smart kids with the fancy violins and stuff.

Spring Chorus Band Orchestra Concert: Your school had one of these just last winter, but the spring concert is much different. Actual notes can now be discerned emanating from your son's saxophone. Parents will note the fifth-grade girls have grown six inches. Parents will also note the fifth-grade boys pretending not to note how the fifth-grade girls have grown. (Scheduling note: Since it's the last Spring Chorus Band Orchestra Concert of the school year, the concert will be over in just four short hours.)

Spring Play: Fathers might be surprised to learn their daughter's school has a drama club and that their daughter is in the club. Further complicating matters is the fact drama clubs tend to perform dramatic plays at dinner time in un-air-conditioned school cafeterias, as parents wallow in the collective perspiration of their fellow man. On the upside, it beats the Science Fair.

Suggestion: Finally, this one's for the schools. A little something you might do for all the parents who dutifully show up at your many after-school events. Just two simple words, two simple syllables.

Free beer.

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