A letter to my kids’ teachers explaining their condition

by Janelle Hanchett

To my kids’ teachers:

As summer comes to a close, I feel compelled to warn you: There’s a chance my kids are, at this point, completely feral.

I tried. I really did. But things went south about mid-July, and I had to make a choice: Fight the descent into madness or say “fuck it” and hope for the best.

I chose the latter, probably because I’m old.

Don’t think we didn’t learn things, though. We did. We took a vacation to Seattle and Port Townsend in Washington and in addition to observing the Space Needle and playing in that rad disco ball fountain, my kids learned the expression “fucking asshole,” which I muttered under my breath or perhaps over my breath after an unfortunate run-in with somebody. Can’t quite recall. I think maybe a ferry worker guy? Coulda been my teenager.

I AM KIDDING. There’s no way that was the first time my kids heard me say “fucking asshole.”

During the day, largely cooped up in the living room on account of the weather resembling what I imagine Satan’s armpit to feel like, and thick, unbreathable outside air due to wildfires, my kids engaged in all kinds of imaginative play, including, but not limited to:

  • Cutting their clothing with “safety” scissors
  • Covering themselves in toilet paper to “scare” each other
  • Dumping old fireplace ash on their heads
  • Ripping the wings off a dead dragonfly and placing them in a small jar (no, wait, neatly cutting them off because “that’s what normal people do.” That seems sane.)
  • Making “juice” by smashing all the fruit in the house into a bowl
  • Grabbing a cell phone and Facetiming some random contact
  • Naked porch dancing
  • Peeing only in the backyard

Other activities they enjoyed were wearing the same pajamas for two days straight (as in, not taking them off), riding their bikes in the house, seeing how long a man bun will last before it becomes a dread, and screaming at each other until I lose my mind and ban all imaginative play, demanding instead that they watch television like normal people.

But of course only learning shows, like “Nailed It,” for example, which is basically a documentary and heart-rendering story of human perseverance in the face of really sucking at something. Also, somehow “Liv & Maddie” made its way onto the television about 2,456 times a day, but when my 8-year-old said, “I don’t want to become a teenager. They have nice clothes but are boring,” I realized she learned how to not be a boring, self-absorbed teenager. Boom.

In the evenings, we would watch Queer Eye, as a family, so we could all weep together. This was obviously emotional development. We’re emotional and therefore we’re developing.

That’s how that works, right?

We went to Santa Cruz. We camped. My mother did a backyard campout with the cousins. We swam sometimes, I think. Or maybe that was just in my head. We went to the library five times.

No, that was definitely just in my head. It was a very productive summer in my head.

But alas, they are, in a word, quite weird right now and I’m pretty sure we didn’t officially keep up with all you taught them – although I did force them to read every single day before they could watch brain-dead television.

Or maybe it was twice. It was either every single day or twice all summer.

I’m 90% sure they can still read.

My point is, you really should get paid more, and before the first day of school, I am 100% sure they will snap back into their normal, adorable selves, as opposed to the ones who discovered their absolute favorite game was locking somebody in the bathroom and making them crawl out a window into the side yard and then locking the escapee out of the house, too.

A feral cat found us a few years ago. We started feeding her and giving her water on the porch and then she had kittens in our front bark. Now she’s ours.

Maybe try that.

Love you.


Remember that one time I yelled at my teenager, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON YOUR PHONE AGAIN?” and she said, “Reminding people in Michigan to vote in the primaries.” That was fun.


Want to feel like a better mother immediately?


But only if you have a pretty jacked up sense of humor, because, like, the joke I just made, it’s already pretty wrong.

Check on tour (it’s all local, except Vancouver, sorry!). 

10 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | August 16, 2018
  • Amy

    Oh, good, I thought it was just my kids! No, seriously, I think parenting gets weirder and weirder the longer the summer goes on.

  • Jill

    It’s 9:52am and my almost 8 year old is still sleeping. She went to bed at midnight. This is her summer sleep schedule… I am so screwed when school starts.

    • Nicole

      Nah. My twelve year old son has been staying up until 4am playing the PS4 and then sleeping until my husband or I gets off work in the afternoon. I console myself that he’s at least playing with other 12-year-olds, so I’m not the only “meh” parent out there.

      (And we do know the other kids he’s playing with. They’re definitely not 35 year olds living in the basement. Most of them aren’t, anyway.)

  • Monica Taft

    I’m a teacher who is also raising three grandkids, none of them did anything they “should” have this summer. I’m blaming the hairline fracture in my foot for lack of effort in anything at all. Sorry to my children’s teachers, I’ll try to do better next summer.

  • Jennifer Lemker

    I think this sounds like a fucking awesome summer. Love you.

  • Rachel

    I just bought your book and an tardy. I had wished that my mom or hubby would buy your book for me back when you were offering the free extra chapter. Alas. I really want that free extra chapter!

  • laura

    Thank you for another belly laugh on an, otherwise, shitty day! Love you, Janelle!

  • Tiffany

    I LOVE you! My kids also became feral this summer – or should I say they became even more feral than usual? Only my middle child and I read any books over the summer. I was slacking big time on keeping them engaged and out of danger from the dreaded summer slide. At any rate, we had lots of fun and I only came close to going insane a few dozen times! All is not lost though since they started school today. Teachers are angels and I am eternally grateful for all the hard work they put into my kids, helping to turn them into productive members of society, ’cause if it was left up to me alone I don’t know how they’d turn out! LOL!

  • Lindsay

    Thank you for this Janelle. My 7 yr old had 14 pages of math homework and a book report, in addition to daily reading. Do teachers think they will grow up to be illiterate if they don’t read for 8 weeks of the year? I think playing is more developmentally appropriate and I refuse to be the homework police over the summer.

  • Darsi

    Omg I just found you!!! Are you sure you’re not my real sister??!! Sounds just like my summers 🙂 The kids survived though lol 🙂 Thanks for the laughs