Adventures in Room Parenting….

“I’m sorry. I can’t hear you. I’ve been physically abused in the ear!” ~Billy Madison

Last school year, I volunteered to be a room parent in my son’s classroom.  For anyone who knows me, this is a rather large departure from type.

I’m the kind of mom who will donate money and supplies and muffins from a fancy bakery and tell everyone I made them, but I’m not the room-mom type; the type who can fundraise like nobody’s business and who can devise an art museum quality craft using nothing but a pipe cleaner, multi-colored pom-pom’s and a used tissue.

But, I had decided that I wanted to start coming from a place of saying YES to things I would have normally said, “No f’ing way.”  Just like Shonda Rimes.

Actually, no.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Sometimes my mouth just writes checks my ass can’t cash.  I have no idea why.

All I know, is that I found myself writing my name on the sign-up sheet outside the classroom on Back to School night, while the other, apparently wiser, moms pretended they didn’t see it.

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For the most part, I enjoyed my role as a room parent.  The job gave me the inside scoop about events and activities occurring both in the classroom and at the school in general.

I got some extra face time with my son’s teachers, who I came to truly adore and admire and we’ve developed a nice friendship.

I also made a mom friend in my co-room-parent, Martha Stewart, who is definitely a room-mom type.  If it weren’t for Martha, I might have, most definitely would have, lost my shit after the first classroom holiday party.

I also liked getting to know the kids.  They were a lot of fun….when they weren’t picking their noses and then asking to holding my hand….or, telling me all about how they had pooped “something green and frowed-up” that very morning, right before sneezing in my face.

What I did not enjoy, were most of their parents, who whined and complained and made shit hard….

All

Year

Long

Like:

  1.  The parent who said, “Can you send out a detailed accounting of what you spent our $1.00 donation on.  You know, just want to make sure you didn’t use it pay your mortgage.  LOL”

I’m not sure if the LOL was meant to make this person sound more or less like an asshole, but either way….

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It’s not that I had a problem sharing information about what was purchased with donated money.  In fact, Martha and I sent out an update after every event that generally went something like: “Thank you parents for your donations!  The money was used to make this thing out of popsicle sticks and bandaids and look how much fun the kids had!  See the attached 427 pictures we took!”

But a detailed Excel spreadsheet?  After we’d spent literally hours organizing and preparing and then helping to facilitate these activities?

Which by the way, almost always cost substantially more than the total requested?

No.  Not going to happen.

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Also, if I was devising a plan to embezzle money from other parents, I’d be asking for a lot more than $1 per kid.

With 22 kids in the class and a co-conspirator to pay off, $11 isn’t even enough to buy breakfast at Starbucks.

If I’m going to become embroiled in scandal, it’s going to be for something huge.  Like, perhaps, smacking a certain parent with a sack full of $22 in quarters.


2.  The “shouldn’t my tax dollars be paying for this?” parents. 

Honestly, these people irritate the hell out of me.  They are always the folks who take to the community Facebook page to post things like, “There is a dusting of snow on the road and I haven’t seen a plow truck yet this morning.  Aren’t our tax dollars paying for this?”

“It’s January 2nd and the Christmas lights and wreaths are still up in town square, don’t our tax dollars pay for someone to remove them?”  (True story….someone actually posted this last winter.)  #FirstWorldProblemsMuch

SHUT UP!

If you believe that our tax dollars aren’t being managed appropriately, go to a town budget meeting, or a school board budget meeting.  Or, better yet, run for a town political position.  DO SOMETHING, other than bitch about it.

Because, I don’t want to hear it.

I’m just a volunteer trying to gather enough beaded necklaces and plastic maracas from the dollar store to stuff into a taco shaped piñata I spent thirty dollars on….out of my own pocket….because apparently no one thought to add a line item for a Cinco de Mayo party to the school budget.

I guess they were just too focused on funding those three brand new schools with state of the art technology centers and athletic facilities….along with the gazillion enrichment programs our kids have access to, like foreign language classes beginning in Kindergarten and fully funded field trips.

We’re soooo unfortunate.

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3.  The, “I’d love to help out, but I have a job” parents.

Really?  Is this still a thing?  This whole, parent vs. parent battle where we attempt to one-up and out-martyr each other in the ultimate contest of who is the better parent?

I have been a full time, big corporate job having mom, a stay-at-home mom and a combination of the two.  And you know what?  It’s all hard AF.  For different reasons and similar reasons that are big and little and complicated and full of conflicted and messy feelings.

But, thank you.  Thank you for the unnecessary reminder that you are employed.

You are better than me.  You’re more important than me.  You win.

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4.  The “We’re saving for our next trip to Disney and trying to curb unnecessary spending” parents.

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So….was I to assume that these children would not be participating in the Valentine’s Day party?

Or….that I was expected to pay their share?

I’ll let you guess.


5.  The “Oops, I know it’s the morning of and I signed up to send in (insert everything from all the paper products and cutlery, to half the supplies needed for a project) but I forgot” parents.

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Want to know how easy it is to find Halloween decorations and jingle bells and yarn and sand castle picture frame kits at 6:00am?

Zero easy.


So, when I ran into the PTO Room Parent Coordinator at Target the other day, because of course I did, and she asked, “So, are you ready to be a first grade room parent?”

I didn’t hesitate a bit when I said, “Fuck no.”   (Ok, I didn’t actually say fuck, but it was implied).

Her:  Surely you can’t be serious?

Me:  I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.  (This didn’t happen either, I just wish it had)  #Airplane

But I did say no.

It’s a hard pass for me Karen, but let me know if you need any muffins, or money.

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Lay’d Off….

“I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.” ~White Snake

In November 2017, I was Lay’d off from my corporate job.  It was a moment I had been eagerly waiting for.  I know how that sounds, but allow me to explain.

Simply put, I was over it.

Over the grind, over the politics, over the mission statements and the core values and the pressure to “lean-in” and “have it all” and “explode through the glass ceiling” and blah, blah, blah.

I’d become disgruntled, dissatisfied, dis-enchanted, disengaged, dismayed….dis-everything.  And life is too short to be dis-everything.

It hadn’t always been that way though.  When I started my career, I had big goals for myself in corporate America and I sacrificed much of my twenties toward achieving them.

I regularly worked 80 hours a week and for the first five years of my career, I didn’t take a single vacation day, or sick day; time I wasn’t paid out for.  In other words, over a five year period, I worked an extra 15 weeks….for free.

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Of course, nobody made me do it, but I reasoned that corner offices and fancy titles don’t come cheap….and if I didn’t have both by the time I was in my thirties, well, life probably wasn’t worth living.

I had balls to bust and power suits to purchase and if it meant I had no social life, hobbies, or the time to eat more than twenty cups of coffee in the course of a day, so be it.  I’d have a life when I retired….assuming I didn’t stroke out first.

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But the universe had other plans for me and it would take a sucker punch to the gut before I realized it.

The lead up included meeting my husband, Clark Griswold, moving to a new state and taking a new job with Dunder Mifflin’s biggest competitor.

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Then Clark and I got married and I became a step-mom.

Right before our wedding, I took another new role at a Fortune 500 business captained by a female CEO ranked among the world’s most powerful women.

After a difficult upbringing, during which I’d been voted most likely to end up on an episode of Cops, I’d gotten a college degree (the first in my family), I was happily married with plans to add to our family and I was building a successful career.  What more could I want?

Then, in November, 2011, when I was twenty-two weeks pregnant with my son, I was diagnosed with stage 2, primary mediastinal large b-cell lymphoma.  A rare and sneaky form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Cancer.

Everything changed.

But it didn’t change all at once.  Instead, it was like a slow burn of all the things I’d thought were important to me.

Then, I picked up the pieces of what was left and started to put my life back together.

I realized that when it came to my career, I had been sprinting toward something I had wanted….because I thought it was what I was supposed to want.

So instead, I leaned into my health, my marriage, my faith, my family, my friends and motherhood.  I found that when I was doing all of the things that were supposed to leave me feeling trapped, unappreciated and uninspired, I didn’t.

I started saying no when I was supposed to be saying yes.  I made time for books and nature and exercise and other abandoned hobbies.  I was still.

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I stepped off the corporate ladder and watched my peers pass me by.  I knew it meant my career was dying, but I also knew that I would never come to regret it.

Because when I was diagnosed, and the possibility that my child and I would not survive the disease was discussed, I didn’t cry for the career goals I might never achieve.  I cried for the extended hours I spent in the office when I could have been at home having dinner with my family, or enjoying an uninterrupted vacation.

I cried for the books I hadn’t had a chance to read, hikes I never got a chance to take, places I never got a chance to see.

I cried for the baby I might never get a chance to meet and the little boy and the man he might never get a chance to become.

And I cried for all of the little things I had taken for granted; the millions of simple moments I’d let slip by, always believing there would be more.  That someday I would stop and smell the roses.  Someday, someday, someday….

It was in the midst of that grief, which was so raw and so painful I thought I might actually break into pieces, that I felt my son move for the first time.  It was a tiny flutter of life followed by a feeling of peace and calm that abruptly stopped my sobs.

I knew we would be OK.  And I knew that I would never be the same.

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Shortly after I completed my cancer treatment, I read an article about a book the New York Times had published called, “Picture Your Life After Cancer.”  

The book was a compilation of photos and stories submitted by cancer survivors in response to the question, “How is your life different after cancer?”  

A number of inspirational quotes and insights were used in the article, but one in particular resonated most with me:

“Scars may heal, blood counts may normalize, years may pass. But never again will the simple act of waking up to a normal, boring day as a healthy individual be taken for granted, nor go unappreciated.” – Allison A., Cairo, Egypt

So, very, true.

I don’t love every moment, but I try, every day, to say a prayer of gratitude for all of it.

I am keenly aware, always, of how fortunate I was to survive cancer and to come out the other side with a beautiful and healthy little boy.

I don’t have it all figured out though.  When the cloud lifted and there was nothing more to do than carry on, I knew only that I wanted my survival to matter.  That I wanted to do my best to live a life that felt good.  A life that, when it inevitably ends, I can look back on and say, “I made the most of this one wild and precious life.”  (nod to Mary Oliver)