Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This is How You Don't Get Asked to be Room Mother

It's back-to-school time already, and your child's new teacher has discovered you don't work full-time. She's already dropped a few hints at orientation about having you organize school parties and serve as a PTO officer.

Panicked that you just got the kids out of the house and now you might have to join them and 27 of their classmates in school regularly?

Don't be.

Instead, follow my stellar, super-awesome, back-to-school mothering examples, and you won't have to worry about the school staff asking you to volunteer. You'll never have to say "no" to those sweet, puppy-dog-eyed teachers because you'll never be asked to help. With Anything. Ever.

I accidentally learned how not to be involved last year, when I completed my daughter's middle school paperwork after a night out at a Paolo Nutini concert in Nashville. I drove two hours to Nashville that afternoon; attended the (amazing) Paolo concert, where I danced non-stop, shouted "I love you" to random musicians, tried to catch Paolo's sweat and possibly threw my training bra on stage; scarfed down some post-concert munchies at the Waffle House; and drove two hours home. That kind of outing was a rare treat for me, and after a long, fun night, I didn't get back until near dawn.

Unfortunately, I had a full day of errands ahead me, so I couldn't go straight to bed. If I had been a young college gal, no problem. Heck, we didn't even go out until near midnight. But I'm old, as in, I-watch-CSPAN-for-entertainment and fall-asleep-by-10 p.m. old. I can't stay up all night anymore and function normally.

Too bad I didn't realize this at the time. I was tired, but I thought I was mostly fine.

One of my errands that day was my daughter's middle school registration. We arrived at her new school to  meet her teachers, who promptly handed me the requisite book of paperwork. Seriously. It's at least eleventy-billion forms requiring names, social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, phone numbers, more phone numbers, emergency contacts and my second cousin's husband's inseam.

I promptly sat down, rubbed my bleary eyes, diligently completed the forms and handed them to the school staff. Returning home, I decided sleep was necessary when I saw what I thought was Gary Coleman (God rest his soul) lounging naked on my kitchen counter. In reality, it was a half-eaten package of mini chocolate donuts, but I digress.

Fast-forward a week into the new school year. The phone rings, and the woman on the other end identifies herself as my daughter's middle school counselor. She tells me she's been reviewing Kelsey's paperwork and has a few questions for me. Fire away, I told her.

Counselor: First of all, Mrs. X. Is that, in fact, your name? Mrs. X?**
Me: Yessss.
Counselor: Okay. I wasn't sure. Is your name Kelsey, too? Or is that just your daughter's name?
Me: Noooooo. My name is Jennifer.
Counselor: You put down on the form that your name was "Kelsey".
Me: Oh. Ha. Nope, that's my daughter.
Counselor: And does Kelsey work outside the home full-time, Mrs. X?
Me: Um, no. She's only 12.
Counselor: Alright. You said Kelsey worked as a teacher at the high school.
Me: No, no. That's her dad.
Counselor: Is his name Kyle?
Me: Wow. No, that's Kelsey's brother. Her dad's name is Jeff.
Counselor: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Okaaaay. (Although I was on the phone, I could see her shaking her head at me.) And does her dad have a cell phone number?
Me: Yes.
Counselor: 'Cause you said his phone number was "7." That's all you put down. Seven. Can we maybe get the other digits?

As her inquest continued, all I could do was giggle. I didn't know how to explain my lapses to her because I didn't think, "Well, you see, I went to a concert the night before registration and was out all night long" was going to help the counselor's first impression of me. I'm pretty sure she had me pegged as a meth head. Or an idiot. Or a meth head idiot fathered by my uncle brother.

So I laughed, gave her the correct information, apologized profusely and hung up, knowing the middle school staff was undoubtedly wondering how such a bright girl came from such a dense mother. I was mortified, but there was a silver lining: No one at the middle school ever contacted me again to help with any of the school events. In fact, I'm pretty sure they posted my photo around the school district, warning staff of my significant lack of brain cells.

Ashamed and embarrassed, I was determined to be a better, more-involved parent this school year. I did not attend any concerts the night before my kiddos' school registrations, and I painstakingly completed and proofread all the forms before handing them in to school staff.

Why, I even rushed to Target as soon as I saw the first back-to-school commercial to buy all the required school supplies, so I wouldn't be one of those frazzled, impatient, last-minute parents elbowing other frazzled, impatient parents in the Crayola aisle the night before school starts.

I was so proud of myself as I checked items off my son's second-grade supply list, conveniently mailed earlier in the summer by the school. This year will be different, I thought, as I filled the cart with glue sticks and composition notebooks. This year, I will be Super School Mom: faster at buying school supplies than any parent; more powerful than last year's PTO president; able to complete school forms with a single pen...

So last night, on Back-To-School-Eve, I smugly filled backpacks with supplies purchased weeks ago. Both children had bathed, brushed their teeth and were easily on track for bedtime. Their outfits were carefully laid out on their dressers; their lunch boxes were partially packed; and their names were written neatly in all their bright, shiny folders.

As I put the final items in Kyle's bag, he turned to me and said, "Are you sure we have everything I need, Mom?"

"Of course," I said. "That's why I purchased everything early. Your Mama is smart!"

But my Kyle is a worrier. That, and he knows his mother well. "Are you SURE?" he asked again.

"Okay, Kyle, if it makes you feel better, read the list, and we'll check the items off as we put them in the backpack."

List in hand, I sorted all of his supplies again:

One pair of Fiskar scissors? Check.
Three boxes of 24-count Crayola crayons? Check.
Three dozen #2 pencils? Check.

I was on fire!

We quickly moved down the list:
One large box of Kleenex? Check.
A package of dry erase markers? Check.
Pencil pouch? You betcha!

One material/cloth covered binder that closes with a zipper? 

Uh. What was that?

One material/cloth covered binder that closes with a zipper?

Oh. No.

No check. Did you hear me? No check! Code Red! We have a Code Red, people!

As a nervous Kyle handed me the list, I noticed it for the first time: the large, bold-faced type in the middle of the list informing me that I am, in fact, a total doofus. Here's a photo of the list, in case you need proof of my dooftastity:

Yes, in case YOU, for some inexplicable reason, failed to notice the giant, bold, capitalized, exclamation-pointed type in the middle of the list (boy, that would make you some kind of an idiot, wouldn't it?), it reads:

1 Material/cloth covered binder that closes with a zipper...must have 3 large metal rings inside. This is the MOST IMPORTANT item on the list! It is a MUST! If your child shows up on the first day of school without this VERY IMPORTANT binder, you are a sorry, no-good, piece of crap parent! We will frown every time we see you and think how incredibly heartbreaking it is that your child has you - a MORON - for a mom. WE'RE NOT KIDDING!

Oopsie. Guess what school supply I didn't have for my anxious, type-A son, who so desperately wanted to make a great impression on his first day of second grade?

Kelsey, so relieved it wasn't her who looked stupid this school year thanks to her mother's ineptness (at least not yet), doubled over in laughter when she saw the list. "Way to go, Mom!" she said, "You took a big ol' ride on the FAIL WHALE!"

Needless to say, I rushed both kids out of their pajamas, hopped in the minivan and drove 80 miles-an-hour to the nearest office supply store, where I elbowed those frazzled, last-minute parents out of the way and paid a small fortune for the best darn cloth-covered binder that closes with a zipper and has three large metal rings inside.

No way was I going to be the Loser Parent this year. NO. WAY.

But it's safe to say I probably won't nominate myself for PTO President anytime soon. I bet after reading this, no one else will nominate me either.


**My name really isn't Mrs. X, though that would be super cool.


  1. I nominate you! I nominate you!! If I were in your school, I would vote for you! Stuffy, organized parents stagnate the world. Let a breath of fresh air into that self-righteous PTA. YOU SHOULD BE PRESIDENT! BABE-RAHAM JENKINS for PTA President! Woot!

  2. Incredibly hilarious post, by the way. Will and I were both cracking up. The conversation with the counselor was INSANE! Oh my. Eyes-watering funny stuff.

  3. I laughed so hard, I spit out part of my ice cream sandwich on the keyboard. Thanks, Jenn.