Thursday, March 19, 2015


In most cities, there are waiting lists and strategies to get into the "best" kindergarten, which- of course- leads to the cherub getting into "THE" prep school before graduating from Harvard, Yale, or Ivy this 'n that and winning a Nobel Peace Prize. The parents can finally breath easy that they successfully lived vicariously through their children. 

Kindergarten is serious business.

When we lived in DC, more than one mother on the park bench talked to me about my one year old and that we were already behind the eight ball when it came to enrolling Leenie. I discovered that even preschools had a waiting list for the waiting list. There were people who were paid to help families write successful applications and train four year old children on the art of the interview.

Alpha parenting is intense.

Down South, here in Hometown, where skeeters and heat waves play with our nerves, and Alpha Parenting involves more monograms and bigger bows- we don't worry about getting into the "best" kindergarten when a positive pregnancy test reveals that life continues, rather we worry about Social partners and picking the best one for our child.


Oh- you must not be from around here. Social is something that goes back generations in Hometown teaching seventh, eighth, and ninth graders ballroom dancing. In tenth and eleventh grade our children have the opportunity to be in Cotillion and teach the next crop about the polka, waltz, and foxtrot. 

This is something my father did, my brother did, I did, and our children will do. Zealously. 

Social is where the Alpha Parents come to play. The monogrammed oversized bows are out and the gloves go on. White kid gloves, that is.

I thought mothers lined up partners a year before Social began with a quick phone call to a friend. Clearly I lack oversized bows and meeting the monogram quota. These things are discussed while strolling strollers. Betrothals are made. Dowries are laid down. Promises are kept. 

Fates are sealed. 

There are rules about the partner- the most important being that the son and the daughter go to the same school and be in the same grade. This is easier said than done sometimes. How can you lock down a First Round Draft Pick if you don't know who these kids are or are going to be? This is kindergarten.

This is kindergarten and half the class already has been paired up with their partner that they will need seven years from now. That's serious Alpha Parenting. Kindergarten is only five years away from conception. Stick it, Big City. We take Alpha Parenting to a new level. Now we are competing against competition. 

It's a commitment, too. What if this kid betrothed to your child turns into a bad seed? Or the girl outgrows the boy and she is two heads taller? Too late- you have committed to this person to learn to dance with your child. 

Polka is important. To be perfectly honest, it's actually a really fun dance. But, in seventh grade- it is important. In kindergarten, it is important, too. No man left behind. Or girl learning to curtsy. 

I have to admit, I stare wide-eyed at mothers as they talk about their child's social partner and wonder how they do it. Of course, when I was pregnant with Leenie- my social partner's wife was pregnant with their son and we joked that they would be future social partners. I mean, that's different- the parents were partners, so it only makes sense for the children to be partners, too. That's not Alpha Parenting- that is just good practice for tradition. 

Sadly, what was to be her future social partner will be in a grade below her. It really screws up our plans, but fortunately- my social partner and his wife are good people and we got our dowry back. He is now squared away with a partner- someone other than us- and that is okay, I guess... 

Please note the present tense of the term "social partner" -- we have not been paired in almost twenty years. But his picture is on my mantle and I am on his parent's fridge. Social partners are liked lemas, they partner for life. 

It is important too that you like the parents. Because the Spring Formal is long and the time to see your child dance is short. What happens if you have nothing in common? Or they are just different from you and your husband? Because don't think for a second that the dads are in on this partner business. They have no idea what goes into this or when it starts. 

Heaven forbid they work for XYZ pyramid scheme and spend the four hours of Spring Formal explaining the benefits of the miracle tea they hock out of their trunk. If it pays the Social tuition, I cannot argue with the success. But, what does Emily Post say about purchasing said Miracle Tea from the parent of the Social partner? Can you politely decline? Feign an allergy? Is it possible to feign an allergy when the ingredients are not listed? 

As I said, I stare wide-eyed at mothers as they plan for Social, but internally- I panic. Short, shallow breaths as I do not want my children to be left behind. Who do we ask? WHO DO WE ASK?! Why aren't we first draft picks? Why in the world am I panicking about this? I won't panic once we have a partner lined up.

You? You look nice. 

What about you? Leenie sits next to you as you learn to write your numbers and it seems that they are mostly shaped appropriately. You seem smart. But, do you have rhythm? 

Your dad can dance, but can you? Did you get your mother's rhythm? I went to college with your mother and she could not dance. She could drink, but dancing was not her strong suit. She could do other things, but- well, you'll never know about that.

You look like you come from tall stock. Perhaps you'll be taller than my daughter that comes from the short stock of her parents. What the Cagles lack in height, we make up in personality. 

Your parents seem like they are fun, but will I think so in six years after I really know them? What if they end up selling Miracle Tea?

Perhaps, you? Your parents are not from here, so they -hopefully- won't know about this business of squaring away partners before the child's name is dry on the birth certificate. But you are whiny. Will you be whiny in seven years? 

In the meantime, I like your parents- Nick. You're rowdy, but so is Bennie. I'm going to talk to your mom. We joke about arranging a Social partnership, but while I was laughing; I was, in fact dead serious. DEAD SERIOUS. Bennie will not be left hanging. You just thought we were joking. Nick's dad might be a lawyer, but I watch The Good Wife and know that a verbal contract is good in most states. 

Fuzzy is but seven weeks old and we have already laid the ground work for his dance partner being four days his senior. Men like cougars. Figuring I don't need to worry about his partner just yet, we laugh at those other Alpha Moms and know that both kids have an ace in the hole. 

But then, last night- I get a phone call from a friend asking me if Fuzzy has a dance partner. 

"Yes, yes he does."

I have my youngest two squared away- now, to get on the ball with the kid who "actually" needs a partner. 

Is this like a cattle sale? Do I need to present her pros to potential partners? Do I need to wait for someone to approach us? 

Perhaps potential partners should submit essays. 500 words as to why you -- who am I kidding... 750 words as to why your son and you as parents would make an excellent Social partner for my first born. Please submit the betrothal request in 12 point Times New Roman via electronic mail to me. Submissions put in after May 1 will not be accepted. An optional bottle of wine in recommended with the submission, but not required. Applications without wine will not win.

Whoever you are, Future Social Partner- let me tell you something. You and your family are getting a heck of a good partner in Leenie. She might not be the best ballroom dancer, but you don't want the best; you want the girl who is fun. You want the girl who is laid back. You want the girl who likes music and makes friends easily. You want the girl who is not bossy and won't hit you when you mess up the steps. You want a girl who is not going to be too tall and remembers to wear her gloves. You want my kid. Trust me. 

I have taken Social. I know these things.... now.


Anika said...

Love this post so much. Southern traditions are always so entertaining to learn about, especially when you write about them! Hope LMC finds a partner soon before she's just too old ;)

Family Snodgrass said...

Love it!