Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Shot Down

“Come to the PTO meeting” said the paper my daughter brought home from school.

I hesitated.  Meetings really aren’t my bag.  I mean, I volunteered at school sometimes.  I’m not officer material, not interested in heading up large event committees.  I am conscious of not spreading myself too thin.  I served here and there, helped out in the classrooms a little, had even organized a small celebration for students who were named Good Citizens each quarter.  The Nerd Party, I secretly called it.  In the most loving way, of course.  My kids were sometimes two of the nerds who were celebrated.  I was always happy for those kids.  And honestly, if you have to throw a party for a large group of kids, you want the group to be comprised of ones who are being celebrated for good behavior.  You just do.

But I had never been to a PTO meeting.  It seemed painful – a bunch of parents and teachers sitting on uncomfortable chairs in the library, signing up for things like setting up and tearing down and serving punch.  The letter brought the guilt in a big way.  “You’re a slacker,” it should have said.  “You’re ruining your kids’ memories.  They will suffer because you were too lazy and selfish to get involved.”

So I went. 

As I sat in the student-sized chair that threatened to embarrass me by either tipping over or bending under my firmly adult weight, I signed my name to the attendance roster and shook the thoughts from my head that I didn’t really belong there.  I was a parent, after all.  I had as much of a say in what goes on in these meetings as any other person in the room.  Furthermore, I had ideas.  I was always gifted at brainstorming, and I would not volunteer for anything too big.  I could help, but I wouldn’t over-extend myself.

After I nodded my hellos to all faces familiar and unfamiliar, the meeting started.  Matters discussed first were previous events: how things went and if they were a success.  I listened to the positives and the negatives, and noted the complainers.  Why do people insist on complaining about things in the past, I wondered.  There are always people who have nothing good to say about anything.

Then, a call for new ideas on how to improve a time-honored event at the school – Grandparent’s Day.  Logistics were the topic at hand.  The previous year, grandparents complained that they didn’t have enough time to visit children, that parking was inadequate, they couldn’t take children out of school for lunch, they couldn’t eat lunch at school because the cafeteria was too small.  The parents and teachers argued about every detail – the teachers thought the time was too long, the parents thought the time was too short, everybody thought the parking was a mess.  And what to do about the students who don’t even have grandparents?  They are left out every year.  There were no viable solutions, only complaints and arguing.

What a mess, I thought.

You know that feeling you get in your chest when you have something important to say, that sort of tightness and fast heartbeat that indicate that you need to get it out or you will regret it later?  Yeah.  I need to ignore that feeling.

I raised my hand.

I cleared my throat as everyone quieted for me to speak.  “Um, it sounds as if there really aren’t any solutions to these problems.  Grandparents aren’t happy with the way their day is run, teachers aren’t happy because it’s a wasted school day, and parking is a real problem. We are wasting this meeting arguing about it.  Have we ever considered scrapping the whole idea?”

The looks on the faces of the parents in the room told me that nobody had considered scrapping any sort of PTO tradition EVER in the history of PTO traditions.

Suddenly one woman shot out, “Easy for YOU to say!  All of your kids’ grandparents live out of town!  They probably won't come anyway!”



* * *

Meetings really aren’t my bag.




28 comments:

  1. Hahahahaha! That's why I don't go to those meetings. They scare me. I can't handle being attacked like that. Are you going to be okay? Nice poster, by the way.

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    1. I'm glad you thought it was funny, because that was my reaction, too. I was totally okay with it. People get very serious about things. I knew right then that I would never fit into a setting like that.

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  2. I would have said the exact same thing.
    Which is why I plan to stay far, far away from PTOs forever.

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    1. Oh, you should go to one meeting, at least. The possibilities of what might happen are endless. :)

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  3. I also am not good at big meetings. That took great courage to speak up, and it was a great solution! If they have no solutions of their own, what gives them the right to shoot down yours?

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    1. I definitely felt brave speaking up, especially after I got my butt handed to me like that. I felt as if I survived something big.

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  4. HA! Well at least they all had something to agree about :) Meetings aren't really my thing either. I tried to join the PTO when my sone started kindergarten but it was so messy and disorganized I gave it up after a couple meetings.

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    1. Hee hee hee... yes, when you put it that way, at least no was arguing that I was out of my mind there for a minute. :)

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  5. Oh good glory... Yup, thank you for the clear confirmation of my decision to never attend a PTO (or is it 'A' now...I can't keep up with these things...??) meeting. And for the record, I would have seconded your motion. But I wasn't there...because, alas, I'll never do those meetings. But I commend your brave soul for trying!!!

    My 'kind' would definitely not be welcome at the meetings anyway... I have all kinds of stupid ideas like, let's stop throwing a party/celebration/special day for every.single.thing. we can think of...and maybe focus a bit on learning. I know, that's just crazy talk...

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    1. Oh, I am with you on the party thing. I'm pretty sure my children aren't going to be scarred for life just because they didn't eat cupcakes on Valentine's Day in school every year.

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  6. I never go to PTO meetings - I would have to tell way too many people to f#@*! off....

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    1. Honestly, I was too shocked to have any type of comeback at all. Typical.

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  7. Duh. The right thing to do was offer to craft a parking structure out of popsicle sticks, pool noodles, and Pinterest dreams.

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    1. That was my failure. Pinterest wasn't even a thing yet. Sigh. I wish I knew then what I know now. :)

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  8. What's the PTO? Kidding. Kind of. I stay very very far away.

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  9. I take the same approach. Volunteering now and then is great (and I love for the kids to know I'm around... watching... keeping tabs... ha), but I will not be an officer, plan events, or get overly involved with the inner workings. I have overheard those women discussing other parents and it's downright nasty. I'll have no part of it.

    Here's my latest way of getting out of things: I tell everyone, "I'm a writer, and you know how flaky artsy people are. You just can't rely on me to be in charge, but I'm happy for you to assign me a small task or two. Oh, and definitely email me a reminder, you know, in case I flake out."

    Works like magic. They leave me alone, and I can go back to happily shelving books in the library.

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    1. You've got it all figured out! I think I give off a flaky vibe, because they stopped calling me to help out. Or it could be that I don't offer to help. Unless it's something like shelving books - last year I leveled books for some teachers, and it was my very favorite volunteer job.

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  10. ha! The worst part is that I get that itchy feeling where I have to say something, but then when I do, I get all hot and bothered and red-faced..and my heart pounds.
    I'm the worst!

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    1. And do you trip over your words or forget what you wanted to say? That happens to me all the time. I'm so smooth and put together. :)

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  11. None of my kids grandparents have ever visited the school for grandparent's day either. And one of them lives IN town. But she works.

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    1. It is an exclusive club, the kids whose grandparents come to visit and wear the shirts that say "I'm so-and-so's Grandma!!" My son said one year he shared a grandparent with one of the kids in his class. I bet that wasn't weird at all.

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  12. Our school's solution to the parking is to have grandparent's week. Not everyone shows up the same day & the ones who come usually bring outside food for their kid to eat.

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    1. Maybe you should live in our district and share your very good ideas with our PTO. I don't even know how they do it these days.

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  13. My kids always have several grandparents there... Like, extras for the ones that don't have any. Somehow, their school makes it work though. You should just go back to being a slacker... Everyone will be happier, especially you. :D

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    1. Yes. I'm much happier being a slacker. That's sweet of your parents to be there for the loner kids (like mine). Hopefully they don't think it's weird.

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  14. Our school had an annual variety show and I suggested that it should be more inclusive of all kids and not just the popular ones that had a dance coach to choreograph a routine. You could hear a pin drop. That's when I knew it would never change and that I was way too feely for that bunch.

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    1. Too feely - ha! You do have a point, though - and personally, I find talent shows to be much more entertaining when the acts aren't nearly so polished.

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