Household Word: Excuuuuuse Me!

As a mother of three, I’ve discovered that the position doesn’t come with much power. Sure, I get to dictate bedtimes (theoretically), restrict screen time (hypothetically) and dole out snacks (continually), but the only real power I wield is with my pen. I’m not talking about this column, I’m talking about the notes I write to my children’s teachers.

My notes let my kid with the plantar’s wart skip gym, verify that the mediocre report card made it home and grant the budding thespian permission to participate in the elementary school play. My oldest son may have his drivers’ license, but he can’t go to the sewage treatment plant with his high school biology class – unless I say it’s OK. In writing. A note from me can create a bona fide illness out of the blahs or provide a credible alibi for a late English assignment.

Junior was unable to hand in his book report on Friday because of a family emergency.
Carol Band

That’s it. He’s off the hook. OK, the printer cartridge was out of ink, but in our house, that’s a family emergency.

I take my role of home-front correspondent seriously, maybe because I know my notes are all that stand between my kids and permanent detention.

Please excuse my child for the “stink bomb” in the lunch room yesterday. In the future, his sandwiches will contain a less pungent cheese.
Mrs. Band

Sure, the power is intoxicating, but writing to a teacher is intimidating, too. I imagine my own fourth-grade teacher, Olive “Red Pen” O’Riley, as the recipient of each of my notes. She was a stickler for punctuation and she adhered to the philosophy that neatness counts. She wouldn’t appreciate the notes I’ve scrawled on the back of last month’s school lunch menu. But sometimes, in the chaos of the school-day morning, I can’t find a functioning pen or a piece of paper that isn’t covered with drawings of ninjas or coffee stains. More than once I’ve reached for my daughter’s fruit-scented markers and Hello Kitty! stationery, which is fine for correspondence with a kindergarten teacher, but all wrong for writing to a department head at the high school.

When composing my communiques, I fret over my penmanship and worry that the teacher will send my notes back, with red ink corrections and a sticker that says “This explains everything!”

I imagine that my child’s note will be sent to the school psychologist who will analyze the handwriting for genetically-transmitted criminal tendencies or worse, that a teacher will someday want details about our “family emergencies.” That’s why (on paper, at least) I try to project an inscrutable image – kind of like a combination of Mrs. Fields, Marilyn vos Savant and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. You wouldn’t mess with her grammar or her diagnosis.

Please excuse Lewis. He was out yesterday with a stomachache.

Brilliant. Maybe not Pulitzer material, but to the point and legible.

“Why do you always say I had a stomachache?” Lewis asks as he jams the note into his backpack.

“Because she can’t spell diarrhea,” my daughter chimes in as she hands me a fistful of permission slips to sign. “I also need a note so that I can see The Wonder of Life in health class,” she says.

I feel the familiar surge of power rush to my right hand and I grab a scented marker and write:

Dear Dr. Kinsey,
My daughter has permission to view “The Wonder of Life.” Although I appreciate the school tackling this delicate subject matter, I hope that the health curriculum will also touch on the considerable risks of a messy bedroom.
Carol Band

“Mom ... can’t you just write a regular note?” my daughter pleads. “This one is embarrassing.”

“Just be glad I can’t spell diarrhea,” I say, as I rip the final sheet off of the Hello Kitty notepad.

My daughter can see the movie.
- C. Band.

“Better?” I ask.

“Yes,” she sniffs my strawberry signature and then stuffs the note into her pocket.

Whew! The power was starting to go to my head – or maybe it was just the scented markers.

Please excuse Carol from doing any housework this month. She has a stomachache. Write to her at To read more of Carol’s award-winning Household Word columns, check out

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