Just Saying No

To paraphrase Mr. T, pity the introvert who signs up to be room parent. It’s that time of year again — read on to find out how the Moms handle those nonstop requests to volunteer at school.

KathyOn Monday afternoon I was chatting with another mom on the playground. “Are you going to be room parent again?” she innocently asked me. “You did such a good job last year.”

I’m pleased to report I did not run away screaming.

Here I must note that TEACHERS ARE AWESOME. I’m a teacher’s kid, and I absolutely understand how much time, work, and love the job requires. I want to support Doodlebug’s teachers and her school, and I have the flexibility in my schedule to do so. I like getting to know her classroom, the other kids, and her teachers.

But. But but but.

I learned last year that being room parent is a terrible fit for me and my personality. Doodlebug’s class actually had three room parents, but I ended up being the lead, which meant I:

  • Attended several PTA meetings.

  • Sent countless emails, only some of which were answered.

  • Collected and managed the funds for class parties and teacher gifts.

  • Planned and executed said parties.

  • Came up with ideas for and purchased said gifts.

  • Spearheaded our class’s Teacher Appreciation Week efforts, which included cards, flowers, and food.

  • Participated in a snowman t-shirt stamping extravaganza.

  • Helped 24 seven-year-olds tie-dye t-shirts.

  • Presented flowers to the music teachers after the play.

  • Made Valentine’s Day cupcakes, decorated melted snowman water bottles, and did something for Halloween that I’ve mercifully blocked out of my mind.

  • Procured bags and bags of candy for a gingerbread-house-making-fest.

Actually, now that I look at the list, I see a very clear breakdown of things I enjoy vs. things that make me want to hide in a dark room. Anything where I got to play with sugar was fun. Anything where I was with a group of kids for more than 15 minutes, not so much. Meetings, no. Organizing other people, dealing with money, paint? No, no, NO!

So I politely told the playground mom that I’d be taking this year off instead of screaming “Never again!” There are other, more introvert-friendly ways to volunteer at school.

  • Help stuff the kids’ take-home folders.

  • Make copies for the teacher.

  • Bring coffee and/or snacks to teachers or office staff.

  • Bake treats for parties.

  • Send in paper products for parties.

  • Volunteer to pick up teacher gifts, flowers (no presenting!).

  • Shop for supplies for crafts.

  • Send in money/t-shirts/other supplies when room parents ask. (Note for parents who aren’t able to help in the classroom – this is so much more important than you think! I was grateful for each and every person who sent in funds. And it was a huge help when people remembered to send in materials for craft projects.)

So this year will be different. At Back-to-School Night, I walked by the table full of volunteer sign-up sheets and didn’t put my name down for a single job. I’m going to wait and see what opportunities come up during the year, and I’m only going to choose ones I’m excited about.

NO TIE-DYE!

— Kathy

tiffany_head_128I have no time to volunteer. So I write checks. And respond in a timely fashion to PTA or teacher requests. And bake when I can. That’s all the mental energy I’ve got, people.

Don’t get me wrong. I love teachers and I admire and respect parents who provide material and physical support by organizing and leading activities. But I don’t think I am one of those parents. Even if I did have time would I volunteer for classroom activities? I like the idea of volunteering at school but let’s be real here: ONE seven-year old wears me out. A room full of seven year olds? Um. Would I get a week by myself in Bali to recover? Could I volunteer to reshelve books in the library after school hours? Because that’s about my speed.

I want to support Princess Slim as much as possible, of course, but for me, right now,  support means creating a home environment conducive to learning, emphasizing the importance of reading, feeding her healthy food, and making sure she gets enough sleep. And by loving her to bits for who she is. If I contribute bake sale brownies made from a box instead of from scratch it doesn’t mean I support her any less, nor does it mean I’m an inferior parent. This is what I can do right now. And you know what? Seven year olds can’t tell the difference between boxed and homemade anyway!

You’d think this would cause an Instaguilt™ flare-up. Fortunately it doesn’t thanks to plenty of therapy and the ability to say no;  in fact, the necessity of saying no. If you have a difficult time with the latter this article offers a quick and easy tutorial. I find the idea of a Resentment Journal delicious. Oh, the pages I could fill…

I make kick-ass from-scratch brownies, however. Just so you know.

— Tiffany

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