Not a PTA Mom

Sometimes, I cast my memory back to that childless period that my husband calls BK (Before Kids). Back when, for all we knew, the acronym PTA stood for Pizza Takeout Activities. We were young and ignorant then.

But in the fullness of time, we became fruitful and multiplied, and lo, we brought forth fruits who had the temerity to exhibit a need for education. And so, we sent them to school. That's when my adventures with the Parent Teacher Association began. And that's when I realized I'm probably not cut out to be a PTA mom.

Don't get me wrong. PTA is a worthwhile organization. God bless the moms who donate their time and talents to the schools. But the group has a serious flaw in its screening process, proven by the fact that it allowed ME to join. In a few short months, I inadvertently managed to sock it to my local unit. I don't think the PTA ladies have yet recovered.

It started with the best of intentions. I dutifully joined PTA when my oldest child started school. At open house, a group of relentlessly energetic moms surrounded me, thrusting a sheaf of volunteer sign-up sheets my way, and I obediently scribbled my name on sheet after sheet.

Soon after, I opened my door to an unexpected visit from the PTA president, a well-coiffed woman in sensible shoes. Naturally, my house was a disaster: dirty dishes in the sink, partially folded laundry on the table, crushed Cheerios adorning the furniture. And the new puppy had just pooped on the floor.

There are those who "pop over" without warning and those who know better, and never the two should meet. I was flushed in embarrassment, but invited her in. Her dismayed eyes swept over my domestic disarray, but she continued her recruitment speech.

She was clearly an exuberant parent, bent on marshalling her troops for the task at hand. I felt my parental confidence ebbing away, and good old guilt setting in. I obviously needed to do more. By the time she left, I'd been conscripted into her volunteer army. I was eager to prove my maternal mettle, anxious to impress.

So I tried to be a stereotypical PTA mom. I really did. I put on a saccharine smile and covered myself in cute, volunteering in the classroom while wearing a school bus sweater in September, a candy corn necklace in October and a turkey broach in November. In December, I was a walking festival of kitsch, swathed in yuletide apparel.

I became an aide-de-camp to the homeroom mom (who happened to also be the hard-charging PTA president), holding up the walls while she ran the show. I was assigned to crafts and gamely did my best, wrestling with felt and fabric, glue and glitter. But I proved to be severely craft-challenged, bungling the carefully planned projects and snickering at all the seriousness.

So I was moved to food. I cooked a soggy spinach quiche for a teacher breakfast and Kitchen Sink cookies for the first PTA meeting. Those treats turned literal when they actually fell into the sink as I tried to juggle a cookie-laden plate and a crying child at the same time. They were slightly damp, but still perfectly edible. (The rash of reported illness among parents the next day was a mere coincidence.) My giant Jello monster at Halloween was more funny than frightening. By Thanksgiving, I was a confirmed bottom-feeder, instructed to bring turnips (turnips!) to the class Pilgrim feast. I tried to redeem myself at Christmas, but my cupcakes collapsed into a gooey mess.

I managed to fall short at every turn, forgetting the spoons for the Chili Cookoff, knocking over a display at the Book Fair and spilling the soda at the Fall Festival. Clumsy and barely competent, I was clearly an abomination to the bake sale set.

That's when Madame President transferred me to fundraising. I gave it my all, schlepping shoddy merchandise and tacky trivia in the name of education. But my lack of enthusiasm must have shown, because the sales numbers were lackluster.

So I was switched to membership. My job was to get up at school functions and community events and beg people to join. They couldn't have picked a worse spokesperson: my voice squeaked, my hands trembled, and I began to giggle uncontrollably. Plus, I kept nervously touching my pants zipper, convinced my fly was open. Audience members gave each other alarmed glances as they headed for the door, and membership plummeted.

Madame and her cabal of Super Moms were not amused.

So by mutual agreement, the Parent Teacher Association and I parted ways. I was a round soul trying to fit into a square PTA. I discovered that I can be a better mother by marching to my own drum. And as long as I'm moving away from them, the patrons of the PTA think that's just fine.

~ Jackie Papandrew ~

Copyright 2005, Jackie Papandrew. Permission is granted to send this to others, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes. Jackie's official website:

[ by: Jackie Papandrew, Copyright © 2005 -- from 'Mikey's Funnies' ]


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