Q: I want to be involved with my first-grader’s school, but have very limited time. What’s one thing you recommend? Field trip chaperone, holiday party planner or class sitter?
Gather round, ladies, as Momma has some very important advice for you today. Are you listening closely? Because this is golden: Volunteering means working for free. For FREE. And once those volunteer extremists get ahold of you, you will be signed up as the PTA President before you can say “waist-high mom-jeans.”
School volunteer coordinators are like Scientologists and if you have ever seen a Mission Impossible movie, you know what Tom Cruise is capable of. Imagine the PTA meets Fight Club, but with more cussing, name calling and trendy three-inch cork wedges. That being said, if you do decide to swallow the red pill Mister Anderton, you better have a few things prepared. For starters: an alternate throwaway cell phone, a bug-out bag and friends in the witness protection program.
Really the key issue here is that you have very limited time. Now assuming we survive the impending 2012 Zombie Apocalypse, what you think of as just ‘helping with a holiday party’ will in fact turn out to take up no fewer than 17 hours of every day. And once you pass their rigorous screening process (of having a pulse), you will be class sitting, event planning, painting, cutting and pasting your way into giving up every ounce of your ‘me time’ (Pinterest time) which will, in turn, force you to double-up on your Welbutrin, and who could blame you? Cardboard turkey cutouts by the thousands and countless glue-gun burns… this will be your future.
Now, I will admit, it is not all bad (she says in a totally sarcastic and condescending tone meant to relay the fact that it is, in fact, all bad). Class sitting is probably the most tedious. Guarding a tiny room filled with a bunch of hyperactive tots is an awful lot of time in which you will have to focus very hard on not dropping the occasional swear word. Plus there is the added pressure of knowing that at any minute one of them might ask a question. A question that you cannot answer, like, “Why is fire sometimes blue? and “Do fish have to drink their own pee?” Of course these are trick questions meant to trip you up. Because they hate you.
Being a Party Planner is not bad if you get the right teacher. If she looks like she might have owned a papason chair at some point in her life, you are all good (a terrarium in her classroom is also another tip-off that you have an Earth mother who just wants harmony and to teach the kids to macrame.) If the teacher’s classroom is perfect and the kids are all neat and orderly with tidy book bags hung on assigned pegs, run for your life. These overachievers will drive you straight to the liquor cabinet. Having to return to the dollar store three of four times to make sure that all of the holiday paper partyware match is justifiable homicide I’m pretty sure, but I would not take any chances with this. Few of us can pull-off prison orange and I doubt they allow chunky animal-print belts to help that jumpsuit look. (Honestly, who can wear a jumpsuit without looking like Mr. GreenJeans?)
Chaperoning field trips is more like being a border collie and less like being closer to your child. A trip to the parish’s grain elevator might not be as riveting as promised, so pack a boat-load of mini liquor bottles for when your personal reserves of ‘paying attention’ have been depleted. Junior Mints are also good to have as bribes when you want someone to be a patsy in case you accidentally drop someone’s lunch down into the grain silo… candy equals gold in elementary school, remember that.
If pressed, I think the one volunteer position that I can say is tolerable on any level is volunteering in the office. You have very little interaction with any actual children, and there’s always lots of Diet Coke to go around. This is also a helpful position for you for two reasons: They get to know who you are and you get to know who to avoid—like those parents who come storming to the office demanding to see the principal about critical matters such as the injustice of the ban on curling iron use during recess. You also get to see first-hand who all the odd little kids are … which is just fun and makes you feel like somewhat of a competent mother. Although you can also have this feeling while watching Dance Moms, but this way you get the credit of having volunteered! You go, supermom. We’ll miss you on Facebook.