Can you believe it? Our kids are graduating from elementary school! It feels like just yesterday we put our tentative, toddler-esque kiddoes on the bus on that first day of kindergarten. It was just a minute ago that our husbands chased them up the steps to remind them- in front of a load of seasoned peers- to remember to buckle up in those rended and mended plastic green seats. We were just listening to them choke out a full sentence in an easy reader. We were just watching them learn how to sit criss-cross applesauce long enough to hear a full story read aloud to them.
And now they’re tweens. They’re tentatively interested in the opposite sex, and fairly logical when talking back, and asking to sit in the front seat of the carpool load. Elementary school’s ending just as true friendships are forming and comfort levels are coming into view. The carpet is being pulled right out from under all of us as we look anxiously toward another year of awkward adjustment in middle school.
But first- there’s the end of year party! The rite of passage for wallflowers everywhere, filled with meaningful stares across a dance floor. With boys huddled in a mischief circle and girls primping in front of bathroom mirrors. They’ll be chaperones, of course. And who else to fulfill that noble duty than the moms who worked tirelessly through their children’s elementary school careers to ensure the best of everything for their young scholars? Yes, that’s right, PTA Moms, this is your night. Or is it?
I’ve been told I am not welcome at the dance. What makes me think I would even get a look? What did I ever contribute? I was never a class mom. I never served lunch. I never manned the book fair. I never took photos at field day. I didn’t curate the yearbook. In 6 years, I never even attended a single PTA meeting (is there a medal for that?). I know what you’re thinking- what a delinquent. I don’t deserve to be there to hover over our fledgling adolescents. I did nothing to earn the privilege. There are no rewards for me to reap for all my hard labor. I’m just a free loader.
The implication is that I didn’t want to do any of these things, and that is simply not true. I didn’t contribute because I was busy supporting my family. I didn’t contribute because I try to use every free minute actually spending quality time with my children, since I have very little to spare. I didn’t kick in hours of labor but I shelled out money for every fundraiser, bought a million notepads, planted dead flowers carted home from the plant sales, overpaid for thousands of for-profit lunches, and have shelves full of book fair treasures to prove my support over the years. I doled out whatever I could to help the self proclaimed selfless institution that is the PTA out in the only way I was able. And it simply wasn’t good enough for you.
Here we are in a world where we condemn bullies. We preach inclusiveness. We shun leaving people out. What kind of example is being set for my child when I have to explain to him that I can’t hover over him and his friends at the end of year party like the other moms because I didn’t do enough in their eyes to prove my worth? How do I tell him that I won’t be there to socially engineer photo opps fit for finsta because his field trips, class parties, movie nights, and pot luck dinners took a backseat to my high pressure, demanding career? Why am I being judged and punished for being not unwilling but simply unable to be there in the ways I would have loved?
We may be entering middle school, some of us for the first time. But let’s be honest. We’ve all been here before, and it seems, sadly, some of us never made it out of high school. Just as I did then, I’ll dry my tears with the help of true friends, hold my head high, and rise above.