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Friday, August 29, 2008

The things I cannot do

I missed the first PTA meeting. I missed Back to School Night. I missed the ice cream social. And I think it's all been logged into my permanent file.

It's one week in and I feel as if I've already been judged. And not in a your-such-a-great-parent way. No, this is about me not being like all those other well-groomed parents wearing sweater sets and wiping away tears as their kids walk into the classroom without looking back for one last reassuring smile. I'm not like those parents asking how they can help out and when they can start volunteering as the classroom parent. That would not describe me at all.

I would fall on the other side of the bell curve. I'm happy to only have one kid to take care of for five hours, five days a week now that R is in kindergarten. As a result, I'm just not able to jump enthusiastically into a new role as a school-helper-volunteer filled with responsibilities and expectations when what I really need--at least for a couple of weeks--is a respite. I need just a little bit of time to breathe after being the primary caretaker of two kids for five years.

I'm sure I'm approaching this whole education thing from the wrong point of view. And the wrong point of view--just to be clear--would be my point of view. My point of view that sees elementary school as a government-funded childcare center. One that provides a well-rounded curriculum without depleting my bank account. So I'm happy to have a break five days a week. I'm happy to not be paying several hundred dollars a month for preschool.

Yes, the more appropriate point of view would be the teacher's point of view and the school system's point of view. R doesn't really care that I'm not volunteering in his class or helping out with "arts in action." But from the school's point of view, where they are experiencing a budget shortfall and are at risk for losing art and music and physical education programs, they cannot wait for me to take a breather. They need me to offer up my energy and my time and my enthusiasm.

But it isn't going to happen today. In the meantime, I'll avoid one-on-one chats with R's teacher. I'll avoid the parents chattering over who's volunteering for what committee. Perhaps I'll look into filling other needs, like the request on the wall for antibacterial soap for the classroom. That I can handle.

8 comments:

  1. Amen! I hear you.

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  2. :^D This post had me a teeny bit worried at its title and then made me laugh by the end. You go right ahead and fill that antibacterial soap request! I have to say - I also find this a scary part of public school - how much time/energy the parents are made to feel like they have to directly contribute lest their child be permanently deprived/damaged, and it is a significant reason why princess #1 is in a private school kindergarten to the tune of $900+ per month.

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  3. I think that after everything you have been through - you deserve a break!

    At my daughter's school, almost 70% of the students live in poverty. So, in any given classroom, there are really only 3-5 parents who can possibly a) supply snack; b) buy school supplies; c) volunteer.

    I volunteer to give our teachers a sanity break from a really demanding high-poverty classroom situation.

    But in the process, I have fallen madly in love with some of these higher-needs kids. It's remarkable what a little love and one-on-one attention can achieve.

    I read *so* many blog posts making fun of those crazy PTA parents who volunteer. But truly, some of us are in high-poverty schools and are volunteering for the sole purpose of catching the kids who are falling through the cracks because they don't have enough to eat or a single book to read at home.

    Your school sounds very different than ours though - I think any kind of parental cliques or pressure would make me crazy! We don't have that.

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  4. too, too funny. don't skip the one on one chats with the teacher, but do keep them short and sweet. do skip the clique discussing who's volunteering for which committee. Then, on the days you really want to indulge, have a glass of wine while #2 naps!! ;-)
    -Brooke

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  5. I buy supplies and under-volunteer, too. There's only so much you can do in a day, and the folks who are giving are hopefully giving with joy.

    [I hope your first-day tears are drying, now. It's so scary to send our children out into the world before they're able to defend themselves against all comers, especially when some of what they have to defend against is internal.]

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  6. S-

    I can say as a mother of a 7 yr old (2x Kindergartener) They do make you feel very "outed" if you will for not being the parent involved in everything. Especially the PTA. I am a working mother and I do my best to contribute to the class with supplies and my time at the parties but it is our right to not participate and I think between the fundraisers and weekly school functions parents should get a break! Let those that have the time and want to VOLUNTEER!

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