by Maria Schulz
Did you get excited when you were a kid and you saw your mother walking into your school? My friends and I always did. The best part was, you were as excited for your friend as you were for yourself—because seeing someone’s mom come into school was like the best celebrity sighting EVER.
My mother would come through those doors, and it was better than seeing Elizabeth Taylor in person. Mom was prettier and smarter and way cooler, even if she wasn’t a Hollywood star.
Whether your mom was as gorgeous as Elizabeth Taylor or as handsome as Carey Grant, it didn’t matter. When Moms showed up, it meant something fun was in store. So whether Lillian’s mother came with a pan of lasagna, Marianne’s mom showed up with a cake for the bake sale, or my mom showed up to help the kids get ready for a school play, you knew the day was about to improve exponentially.
So, when I first became a parent, I looked into those little faces and thought longingly of certain things. One of those things, for me anyway, was how much fun my kids and I were going to have once they got into school.
This is where I have to stop you, non-parents, and give you a brief lesson on life as the parent of a school-aged child.
Did you ever watch The Twilight Zone? One of my favorite episodes was about a young woman who goes out horseback riding every afternoon, only to encounter a crazy, hair-blowing-in-the-wind, fist-shaking lunatic on a faraway hill, riding a big horse and screaming: “Don’t do it! DON’T DO IT!”
I think that woman must have been a class parent, President of the PTA, PTA Chairperson, Book Sale volunteer, or maybe she was just returning from parent/teacher conferences.
Before you embark on this very noble endeavor, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. These are not only for your benefit, but also for the other people who will be alongside you in the trench warfare known as parents helping out at their kids’ schools. So here are my:
QUESTIONS FOR PARENTS WHO WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN ALL SCHOOL-RELATED ACTIVITIES
1. Some people say that you are enthusiastic. What this means is you are a:
a) Stickler for the rules who gets the job done
b) Dyed-in-the-wool tyrant who enjoys imposing your irrational rules on others
c) Former brown-noser who will do anything to get on the teacher’s radar
d) Pollyanna who just wants to watch the kids have fun together
e) All of the above
2. As class parent, when faced with the ethical dilemma of choosing another parent for the class trip (when every parent wants to go), you immediately:
a) Call up your girlfriend and make plans to go together
b) Have the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse in to audit you while you pull names from a hat
c) Rule out anyone whose child isn’t a friend of your child’s
d) Pick someone who has never been chosen, but who just bribed you by saying she/he will do whatever chore you hate most for the rest of the year if you just please, please, PLEASE let them go
3. The teacher wants to have a party. She is the same teacher who thinks that every Wednesday is a good enough reason to throw one. Since there are enough parties to go around and tons of parents who want to participate, you immediately:
a) Call the same parents you always call to help out
b) Tell the parents who never get to come that they can come in your place so you can stay home and prepare for next week’s party (because as sure as the sun will shine, there will be another party)
c) Wonder how people who have jobs, families, pets and other commitments manage
d) Stay up for 48 straight hours baking cupcakes shaped like the Eiffel Tower so the kindergartners you are trying to impress will take their fingers out of their noses long enough to think you are the GREATEST MOM EVER
e) Ask the teacher if she can stop having parties every week
ANSWER: B, C & E, but you’ll probably do A & D
4. It’s the first Class Parent meeting of the year! You are the only one of three parents representing your class who actually shows up. On the advice of the seasoned Grade Rep, you agree to take the red folder with the job of “Teacher Advisor.” This allows you to talk to the teacher constantly, as opposed to being Class Coordinator and creating spreadsheets of parent names (blue folder) or being Treasurer and collecting money from your fellow parents (green folder). You should immediately:
a) Change your name and enter the Witness Protection Program, because when the other two parents find out, they will plan to kill you
b) Start practicing singing and dancing to West Side Story’s “There’s Gonna Be a Rumble Tonight”
c) Fireproof your home, because as sure as the sun will shine, the other two parents will arrive at your doorstep with flaming torches
d) Explain, in a rational and calm manner, that the Grade Rep told you that it was necessary for you to pick a folder immediately and that she suggested you take the red one
e) Start wearing brass knuckles
5. Today is Parent/Teacher Conference Day. As you jockey for space in the middle of the maddening crowd lined up and waiting to be allowed inside the school, you wonder:
a) If you will be killed in the stampede that’s sure to start once the bell rings
b) Why you never went to Spain for the running of the bulls, since that seems like a lot more fun than this
c) If you have the endurance to outrun that father you see, heading for the same Math teacher you want to get to first
d) Whether or not the teacher will have the slightest glimmer of recognition once you tell them who your child is
e) Why all parent teacher conferences aren’t held on the phone
6. You volunteer to help at the Pretzel Sale. The parent in charge has told you not to give pretzels to any children who didn’t plan ahead and bring a dollar. You see a small boy in the corner crying because he forgot his money. You:
a) Take him aside and explain that Mr. Pretzel Sale Organizer has made it very clear that slackers like him need to learn a lesson
b) Say helpful things like, “Plan ahead, EAT PRETZELS!”
c) Talk loudly to the teacher in order to drown out that kid’s annoying wailing
d) Tell your own kid to share his/her pretzel with the kid who forgot
e) Throw your own money into the till and give the kid the darn pretzel
ANSWER: E, possibly D, maybe A if the Pretzel Sale Organizer is with you
7. A beloved teacher is about to retire. You are asked to come up with a few words to say at the special dinner being held in his honor. You decide to:
a) Fire up the karaoke machine you bought for just this purpose and belt out “To Sir With Love”
b) Follow that up with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” with a special emphasis on the lyrics, “We Don’t Need No Education.”
c) Get a group of students on stage to read short dedications about why they will miss this pillar of the educational community
d) Swallow a few Long Island Iced Teas and tell the crowd that you never really liked him anyway and you’re glad he’s going
e) Ask yourself for the millionth time why you agreed to be the Retirement Party Chairperson
8. You are the chairperson for Field Day. Field Day is inevitably held on the hottest day of the year, on the part of the school grounds that have no trees for shade and therefore are approximately 2 million degrees hotter than the surface of the sun. Your job is to hand out water to thirsty children, parents and grandparents. This means you:
a) Should smile when 50 kids run up to your table and start knocking over all the water and screaming at you something like: “Chop, chop, lady! WE WANT WATER!”
b) Save a few gallons of water for yourself, because your head may burst into flames
c) Ask the grandparents not to steal the large gallon jugs for themselves and little Poindexter, since everyone needs water today
d) Suggest to the PTA president that the kids, parents and grandparents bring their own water
e) All of the above
9. Your daughter’s 3rd grade class play is today. As a class parent and PTA member, you will now be able to:
a) Provide enough refreshments for 300+ people
b) Do hair and makeup for 90 squirming girls in less than 10 minutes
c) Finish painting the scenery that stretches out farther than the Great Wall of China
d) Find enough fathers to help 92 boys squirm into their costumes
e) All of the above
10. Welcome to the Book Sale! Today, you will have to:
a) Give little Johnny a lesson entitled, “What Happens When We Shoplift”
b) Tell a first grader that you don’t think Twilight is the right book for them
c) Spend an hour with another mom who tells you, in great detail, why she’s a better mother than you
d) Sit and read “Where The Wild Things Are” about 500 times…and still love it after the 500th reading
e) Sell more erasers, pencils, bookmarks and junk jewelry than books
Answer: A, B, C, D & E
Now that you’ve taken my test, I just want you to know something. You may see me as being just like that crazy, hair-blowing-in-the-wind lady from The Twilight Zone (but don’t think of me on horseback…imagine me in a small sedan) who has been there, done that. But guess what? I would do it all again.
Why? Because for every parent who was a tyrant, I met three or four moms and dads who were there for all the right reasons. For every torch-bearing parent who initially wanted to kill me, I made 2 or 3 friends. For every rude kid, there were 3 or 4 who were really sweet and happy to see me there. Heck, that kid I gave a pretzel to still says hi to me.
And, like my mother before me, it felt really good to walk through that door and see my kids’ faces light up with joy because I was there to help.
I finally got to be the star of my own celebrity sighting.
Pretzels! There’s nothing more satisfying than a hot, soft pretzel. This recipe suggests adding a bit of sugar or cinnamon to the mix, for a sweet and salty sensation. Yum!
Here’s another recipe for your pretzel purists:
So Hungry Lifers…what’s your best memory of your mom coming up to the school to help? What have you learned as a PTA member or class parent? Would you do it all again? Please leave a comment and let us know. Thanks!