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How I Came to Hate the PTA: "I Wish I Could Quit You," on Babble.com

“Emma likes to collage! Why can’t she just join the older kids when they’re doing it?” Aggro Mom was dominating the PTA meeting. Again. It was not unexpected. At the last meeting, she typed her monthly tirade into the minutes.

I probably wouldn’t have cared but I was on edge from yet another conversation about the logistics of art class. Euro Mom felt she needed to vocalize her disagreement with the long-held philosophy of shared school supplies. She wanted little Sophia to have her own soybean crayons.

As PTA president, I was supposed to be gung-ho for these kinds of discussions, but instead I looked around the room and seriously reconsidered home schooling.

Our son’s foray into preschool started out great. It was less expensive than a babysitter, and we were pleasantly surprised that the school had more on its agenda than changing diapers. In just the first few weeks, he learned some wicked dance moves and, amazingly, how to follow directions. We were delighted.

Other parents had much higher expectations: specifically, they wanted flexible hours on demand, organic snacks, and intensive art education. And it is they who have made me want to resign my post and never put my name on another sign-up sheet.

To be fair: for the most part, my preschool PTA is filled with people giddy about the fact that their tiny children require an association at all. We fidget in too-small chairs while we hear the teachers’ reports on our children’s strengths and challenges.

When I was asked to be PTA president, I took the call to service seriously. My mother and grandmother were teachers, and I shared their disregard for parents who didn’t get involved. Back in high school, I was class president, student council president, band president, 4-H president – any available elected office was on my radar. I was about change before it was cool.

Who would have thought a leadership role that entails making sure there are pull-ups and wipes in every cubby would disillusion me?

Here is a short list of the grievances that have come across my desk: the phase-in process is too long, or too short. There isn’t enough stroller parking. The full-time school should really be part-time. Then there’s my personal favorite: the yearly fundraiser “exploits our children.” And don’t even get me started on the “baby wearing vs. the rest of them” brawls. Is this what I have to look forward to for the next eighteen years?

It’s hard, but I don’t see an alternative yet. My overdeveloped sense of duty and thirst for all news of my son and his friends keep me from throwing in the towel. And the dread I feel on meeting night is tempered by the reports we get from the teachers letting us know who is potty-trained and who has learned to eat with chopsticks.

If I don’t show up, I’ll never find out what new and exciting things my kids are learning. And if I sit in the back, I risk letting crazy, collage-obsessed people take over. For now at least, I’ll continue to be the beleaguered mom at the wheel.

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