I have a confession to make: My son is now in middle school, and I have never once in my life been to a PTA meeting. You may think this is no big deal, especially if you don’t have kids, but in the cut-throat, mom-eat-mom world of Elementary School Mothering, not attending this hallowed monthly meeting is an abomination against good parenting. I should just go ahead and smear black tar heroin all over a double fudge Pop-Tart and serve it to my kids for breakfast with a shot of Patron on the side. Yeah, some people think it’s that bad, but before you start the proceedings to have me declared an unfit mother, please allow me to plead my case. I have completely legitimate reasons for being an Absentee School Mom.
Before I became a mother, I thought I scored fairly high on the Decent Human Being scale. I was gainfully employed and good at my job. I kept myself in shape and made good food choices at every meal. My house was clean, and my yard looked nice, and my bills were all paid on time, and I regularly donated to charities. I sailed through life with not a care in the world more pressing than where to eat out every weekend and whether or not Nirvana was the greatest band in the history of rock. (Probably) What’s not to like…or so it seemed. My calm, cool exterior hid the fact that I was a mostly crazy, OCD-suffering control freak who hates to talk to other humans. That was my business, though, not the world's, and I planned to keep it that way.
Then, alas, my children were born.
Then, alas, my children were born.
When you step out of your house with a child in tow, the door to your personal life is flung wide open, and complete strangers feel compelled to bestow their advice and admonitions on you at will. There is no hiding that you aren't perfect and were running late because the strained carrot proof is still smeared across your baby’s face. It’s obvious that you are a poor planner because you find yourself at the mall with a baby who is sitting in a toxic diaper and only an empty box of butt wipes in your bag. Don’t even get me started on the comments you get when the Lactation Nazi at the hospital catches wind of the fact that you have decided to give your child formula instead of breast milk. Horrors! Don’t you know that by drinking formula your child will grow up to be a maladjusted, undernourished, slacker who catches every virus wafting through the air at the mall where he half-ass works as a clerk at the comic book kiosk? (This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from “Raising Arizona” when Holly Hunter’s character was asked, “Why ain’t you breastfeedin’? You appear capable.”)
As babies grow into toddlers, the pressure to have an advanced child is palpable. The Stepford Moms will brag that their precious darling was walking by seven months of age and speaking Mandarin Chinese fluently at two. You need to be in the “right” pre-school, or your child may not master at four years of age everything they are supposed to learn in kindergarten. Since my son was cared for by my late mother instead of being schooled properly, I was already a few steps behind in the “My Kid Is Smarter Than Your Kid” game. Gee, I guess I should have been ashamed of myself for not teaching my child to write in cursive before his fifth birthday, but on the day I was going to review that, he was playing with trains, so I cut the little man some slack.
It only took chaperoning one field trip early in my son's first year in public school for me to realize I was in over my head with the other moms. It was high school all over again, and I was still the dork. They were all Junior Welfare League fundraising-types, and I was...you know...Not. When they encouraged parents to join their club aka the PTA but held meetings during the mid-morning hours, I took that as a sign that they were trying to keep out the working mother riff raff. When these same moms were more than happy to accept my meager cupcakes for their school activities but wouldn't acknowledge my existence outside of the school cafeteria, I took it personally. When did I become one of the dregs of society? For your information, MY kid isn't the one eating paste or peeing on the rug during circle time. Just because you are in a higher tax bracket than I am and have a flair for being the Drill Sargeant of the Book Fair doesn't mean you get to treat me like the hired help.
So, I wrote off the whole lot of them. I swore that as a bona fide grown up, I didn't have to suck up to group of clique-ish women in cashmere sweaters. I want to tell some of these memers that the PTA isn't a sorority of adulthood. Yes, I will help my child's teacher if the need is there, and I am more than happy to donate my time or resources in the name of furthering my child's education, but I jumped off that Social Ladder the day I donned my cap and gown, and even though we're at a different school now, I refuse to join because I have a gold medal in grudge holding.
Sadly, I never had the cojones to stand up to those women back then, but this was the anthem that played in my head...my way of socking it to 'em... (click here)