I went to a PTA meeting last Tuesday night. Before you get to thinking I’m that non-existent superwoman who balances work and family, cooks nutritious meals every night, and maybe darns socks and saves baby birds in her down time know this:
I was tricked.
I walked in my door at six pm. My daughter pulled a flyer out of her school folder that said “PTA Ice Cream Social, 7 pm”.
That’s all it said.
I looked at the clock and thought about how shy she’s been since second grade started. I thought, sure, I can do ice cream social and maybe she’ll find some friends.
This’ll take half an hour, tops.
When I told her we could go she was so excited that I kinda felt like a hero.
After a quick dinner and a change of clothes, we headed up to the school. The kids skipped through the main hallway toward the gym. It felt really strange to be anywhere but home after being at work all day, then swimming across traffic for an hour and a half to get home. I wanted to be a hero, but for a minute I wanted my pajama bottoms and my couch more.
“Here we are!” My daughter presented the gym to me, one arm extended like a magician’s assistant presenting a magically empty box. I almost expected her to finish with “Ta da!”
I wanted to groan.
Oh, there was ice cream, all right. Buckets of it in the back, complete with sprinkles and other toppings. There were also several large mountains of candy at the end of the tables. Suckers and Tootsie Rolls and all the other crap that sticks to kids’ teeth and creates life altering dentist bills.
I groaned because it wasn’t until that moment that I realized the “social” part was only the bait.
In front of the buckets of ice cream and candy sat row upon row of metal folding chairs facing a podium with a microphone sticking up out of the top.
This was not just a “PTA Ice Cream Social” like the flyer proclaimed.
This was a PTA meeting.
I mumbled some ugly words to myself while my son did a happy dance over the mounds of candy. Then I saw my daughter approached a circle of seven or eight year old girls chanting “Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish…” and asked “Can I play?”
I swallowed those curses, barbed and cutting though they were because the very thought of approaching a group of strangers and striking up conversation sends me into paroxysm of social anxiety. If my sitting through one PTA meeting will do anything to spare either of my children the shitty elementary school experience of being the ‘shy’ kid, then, by God,was worth my time.
Some day they will know the bullet I took for them.
Chairs was starting to fill up. I didn’t recognize a single face in the crowd. Clearly they all knew each other. Some were even wearing their PTA-mom uniforms. A lady with short dark hair and black rimmed glasses had on a shirt that was clearly custom made with the letters “PTA” written in five inch sparkle letters.
I seriously lack PTA sparkle.
I took a seat in the back and I pulled a notebook out of my purse. I was determined to make the best of the night, even if all I got out of it was a good blog post. Maybe I would look like I was taking notes during the meeting so no one will talk to me. Except, of course, the irony is that I do want someone to talk to me.
But only under certain circumstances.
I want them to approach me so I am spared my face turning red whenever I approach someone new. I want them to be instantly interested in me. And I want them to not judge me because I’m not a stay at home mom or a full time volunteer for the school.
I am aware these are ridiculous expectations and so kept to myself.
See, I thought I left all this inadequacy bullshit behind back in high school. But, do we ever really leave it behind? Or do we just carry the scars of our childhood with us so we can beat ourselves over the head with them at inopportune moments?
There was one saving grace: My daugther did not seem to have a problem being social. She said hi to other kids. I sighed and sucked it up. At least this wasn’t for nothing.
I was busy calling myself an asshole and gearing up to talk to someone who looked friendly and non-judgemental when Miss PTA Sparkle was suddenly at the podium.
She tapped the microphone a couple of times and called for our attention.
“Thank you parents. I know some of you just came from soccer and football and we appreciate you being here.”
Since I had come from neither soccer nor football, but from home after a full day of work I tried hard not to take this as a reflection of my parenting abilities.
We opened with the pledge of allegiance, which I knew, then the pledge to the Texas flag, which I did not. I just held my hand over my heart and moved my lips and hoped to God I looked like I was saying something.
Note: I did not grow up in Texas and I don’t remember having to do a pledge to the California state flag, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Texas would have the surplus of pride needed to create a pledge to themselves.
Pledges finished, PTA Sparkle paused for a round of applause. When the applause died down, she spoke into the microphone. “The meeting minutes from last time were approved.”
Pause for applause.
This was clearly an easy audience.
I didn’t realize PTA meetings had minutes, and I had a fun few minutes imagining scandalous topics that might get them disapproved.
Volunteer opportunities announced and I avoided eye contact with PTA Sparkle. Volunteer teams were made to stand up and wave to the audience.
Pause for more applause.
I shrunk down in my chair and kept writing in my notebook.
My son turned to me and asked, “Mommy why aren’t you clapping?”
“Because mommy didn’t drink the purple Kool-aid, baby.”
“What? There’s Kool-aid?”
An hour later the PTA pitch wrapped up. I herded the kids into line for their ice cream so we could get home, take baths and get ready for the next day.
So let this be a lesson to anyone who thinks a PTA social can just be “social”. Chances are there is a hidden agenda akin to a time share pitch in your future.