Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Parental Involvement--Fail

I am a serial quitter.

This is a harsh and unpleasant quality to first recognize and then acknowledge about yourself—stings a bit, like hydrogen peroxide on a cut, only without the pleasing, fizzy chemical reaction. But it is an inescapable fact. I get bored. I get distracted. I’m pathologically lazy. I’m simply not equipped with that all-important ‘see-it-through’ gene. Things get set aside. Pots get put on the back burner. Life goes on.

You remember, several months ago I mentioned that I had volunteered for the PTO. I regretted it almost as soon as I did it. But this business of me quitting things long before I’ve had a chance to see them through has been on my mind quite a bit lately. It has occurred to me that if I’m going to shake myself out of the rut into which my life has fallen, I might have to first shake myself loose of the quitting habit. So I showed up at my first PTO meeting last Tuesday evening nervous, doubtful, but full of determination to honor my commitment.

Keep in mind I wasn’t the official secretary for the meeting, but I’d like to try to give you a rough rundown of the minutes of the meeting:

  • We opened with a guest speaker who lectured us for 35 minutes on the importance of parental involvement in the public schools. Preacher, meet choir.
  • Then a second guest speaker used 25 minutes to encourage us to spend 15 minutes a day--just 15 precious minutes, every day--alone, without distractions, talking--just talking--to our children.
  • Finding this a reasonable request, we all looked at our watches and wondered if we'd make it home before bedtime.
  • When the incoming PTO president introduced herself and opened the floor for committee updates, we all thought, probably not.
  • There was a lengthy discussion about the distribution of some manner of brochure--the significance and outcome of which was entirely lost on me because they didn't use the word ‘brochure’ in the beginning, they used some other word that I had never heard and didn't understand, and by the time I figured out they were talking about brochures, they had satisfied themselves that they were going to give something a try, but I had no idea what they were going to try, so I rather hoped they didn't expect me to help.
  • The 17. Mai committee then discussed the possibility of forming another committee to debate, and handle the possible purchase of a cotton candy machine—cotton candy machines being expensive to rent, apparently, and critical to 17. Mai success.
  • Then the fall flea market committee whined that there weren't enough people on their committee.
  • Then the traffic committee whined that the kommune never listened to them, and nothing ever changed anyway, so maybe they should just disband their committee.
  • One lady argued that the whole organization needed overhauling on account of too many committees.
  • The committee for the preservation of committees objected.
  • Then the treasurer entered a motion to spring for stronger coffee at the next meeting.
  • The 'ayes' carried it.
  • Me, I just wondered when the committee for cake baking and class field trip supervision would be recognized, because that was the one I was there to volunteer for.
  • By 9:15 it began to dawn on me that there was no such committee.
  • I sank lower in my chair.
  • By the end of the two and a half hour meeting I was positively dripping down the back legs in an effort to remain unseen, unheard, and unthere.
Two days later, late Thursday evening, I tracked down the incoming president of the PTO and resigned my position.

Pretty chicken shit of me, no? Possibly even more chicken shit than the time in the 9th grade when I quit the marching band without notice after I found out that early morning rehearsals and band practice would continue throughout the football season.

But to my credit, I did spend those two days between the meeting and my resignation waging a mighty internal battle. Step up, Jamie. This too can be borne, Jamie. You promised them, Jamie. You promised yourself! But O Jesus God, the tedium! The repetition! The bureaucracy! The humanity!

In the end it came down to this: There were more parents who volunteered as PTO representatives for the 1st grade than were needed, I just happened to be sitting at one of the first tables to be asked. At the parent meeting last week one of the mothers who volunteered, but was lower on the list, complained bitterly that she was never called. Apparently she gets orgasmic over committee work. Bam! My replacement. Plus—the brochures, people. I seriously didn’t have a fucking clue what they were talking about. How much help can I possibly be to them?

Judge me if you must.

I promise to be resolute about something else sometime really soon. Seriously. Something fun. Something that makes me feel a little less like chewing my arm off to escape the pain.


skinny bitch's mom said...

Let me see if I can help....This may very well be a gene thing, I seem to have the same affliction (ya I had to stop and look up the spelling for that one) and your comments brought back some not so good memories of quitting. Through the years I have learned to stop and think very carefully before volunteering or committing to almost anything. Which just proves that I am at least teachable, even though it takes a little time. Look ahead there is life after all this crap. And I'll just bet the kids will still think they had the best of all the moms.

Queen LaTeacha said...

I agree 100% and wholeheartedly with my big Sis. Committees are overrated and tend to bring any progress to a grinding halt. Just give the damn job to somebody who wants and let him/her run with it. (If ya need me, call me; if ya don't, just get the job done!)

But I have to say your description is hilarious. I wish I'd been there sitting next to you so we could snicker and say snide nasty little things in English. Congrats on getting out before you got bogged down!

Trace said...

Oh what I have to look forward to!

I volunteered to help with the 3 year old class at our church once, where I was to simply tell a story about Jonah and the whale, play games and do some fun creative things and enjoy them as the one hour service was going on. Even though I had an assistant, which made it just 6 or 7 kids for each of us, there were two little massivly overactive boys that were like 5 children in one body each, which went well beyond my maternal comfort zone...

Long story short, we went to Carl's Jr. for lunch following church and I asked Chad if perhaps they had any vodka they could add to my shake, and have since taken my name off of that volunteer list!

Guitar said...

Every time I get the urge to get involved, I lie down till the feeling passes. Somehow the world gets alone fine without me on any committees.
Don't beat yourself up too much, you have a full plate now. Just take care of your family - that's enough for now.....

Amy said...

I use to feel that guilt.

And then I got over it. Leave it to the moms who are out to prove their a bunch of overachievers.

And don't worry about quitting. Sounded tedius...

American in Norway said...

Ya... I had big hopes that I was going to be a big PTO mom... Umm, didn't happen.... Now i am feeling all bad... Kindda... You will find your "thing" I have faith in you!

cymster said...

We never go to those things....I think the others have given up on us to the extent that we are no longer on either the 'winter or summer group'(which means you are responsible for cleaning up, buying gifts etc...). But hey- we show up and video tape every that's gotta count, right?


Michele said...

Funny post, Jamie. The PTO meeting sounds excrutiatingly boring, so I don't blame you one bit for making the very understandable decision to cut any more of them out of your future. In fact, it sounds like a very good decision. Better to just be honest and handle it rather than dread every meeting and have to make up excuses to miss them.