Thursday, May 22, 2008

CALGON! TAKE ME AWAY (or May is a Four-Letter Word) by Jenny Gardiner

Ah, the month of May…The flowers in bloom, the birds whistling a happy tune. Parents across America ready to throttle the next teacher, coach, or offspring activity-related person who dares to lump one more have-to in their lap.

The month of May…what my friend refers to as the Storm before the Calm. What I view as the annual rite of hazing inflicted upon every mom (and most dads, to a certain extent) every springtime as the school year draws to an imminent close.

The drill goes as follows: class play, class music program, soccer practice, soccer games, soccer try-outs, baseball, baseball and more baseball, lacrosse games, lacrosse playoffs, state cup championships, piano recitals, ballet recitals, field trips (why weren’t these scheduled for the dull month of January?!), pre-school graduation, kindergarten graduation, lower-school graduation, middle school graduation, college graduation, teacher appreciation luncheons, class parties. Class parties? I’m thinking class warfare at this point.

I get nightly calls: can you come in for the teacher appreciation luncheon? Can you drive for the field trip to Pakistan? Can you pledge your extra kidney to be auctioned off at the school fund drive?

Can you stop calling me before I have the national do-not-call list enforcer come after you for harassment?

Truthfully, I’m happy to be of help. To a certain extent. But when I start to wake in the middle of the night, fearful that I have sloughed off my duties to prepare Pad Thai for 300 for International Day, I get to worrying. And when I realize that I am clenching my teeth so hard that I think lockjaw has set in, I’m a little more concerned.

And when the call comes in for me to do just one more teeny little thing to help out so and so, and I—without thinking, without feeling, snap the first snarky come-back that pops into my head to the poor unsuspecting room-mother calling me in a desperate spot, I know two things. One, that it’s time for me to hang up my mommy cleats for a few hours and re-gain my grip on reality, and two, summer vacation must be just around the corner. At which time I might just be longing for the days when the kids were in school and the demands on a mother’s time were at their peak.

*a note from the author: I must tell you that Claire Doolittle, the lovable heroine in SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, penned this piece. Jenny Gardiner had absolutely NOTHING to do with it. Jenny is, without question, perfectly contented to have a life that is out of control and she never loses her temper with room moms and she has in fact already donated a couple of organs to the spring fund drive. She has had no weeping fits, no stress-related breakdowns, and hasn't even noticed that it's Parental Hazing Month.


Joanne Levy said...

Poor Jenny - whoops, I mean Claire. But thank you for this post - it is excellent birth control.

HRH said...

Ya right. I think what a mom should do is to fight back by voluntarily hosting 17 fourteen year old girls for a sleep-over...

No, that would be insane.

I am still laughing at the Pakistan sentence.

We actually had a field trip ON the last day of classes...wha? Hello? Anyone? Anyone?

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Joanne! LOL! THis is precisely what my youngest brother used to say every time he visited our house. He'd walk around saying "birth control, birth control."
Though he eventually yielded and now has 2 small kids himself. And his voice betrays the stress level every time I talk to him on the phone ;-)

Holly!!! You are so right? Who in their RIGHT MIND has 17 teenaged girls to a slumber party smack in the middle of May?? Oh, damn. Me.

Field trips on the last day of school? I'd offer to drive--my kids only. And drive them right to the pool instead ;-)

Tish Cohen said...

Mommy cleats. I did a little snort over that.

And just to give you hope, by the time they're in middle school, the school wants very little to do with us mommies.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Hi Tish! Oh, it's true that they no longer want volunteerism from the parents, but the level of have-to's with high school kids is even more insane. I haven't been home from 3:30 till about 10 pm for the past 3 weeks--between soccer, soccer and more soccer, the school musical, the rehearsals with that, the consort singing group, the tryouts, the tournaments, the sports banquets, the spearheading gifts for coaches, the graduation events, etc. I keep buying groceries for dinner only to have them go bad in my fridge!

Suzanne Macpherson said...

"I get nightly calls: can you come in for the teacher appreciation luncheon? Can you drive for the field trip to Pakistan? Can you pledge your extra kidney to be auctioned off at the school fund drive?"
LOL spit my coffee on the keyboard laughing at that one- I just got an invite to a lovely party- $150 a pop! I'm like What Planet are you ON,cuz lunch ain't that high in my neighborhood! Oh Just Ditto ditto ditto and Claire you are so right!
S'cuse me I have to go bake 3 million brownies for teacher appreciation day. :~) OH and Tish, keep telling yourself that. Middle School is the calm before the storm. High school is another whole phase of torture--uh--parenting.

Alison said...

You totally hit the nail on the head. I had this exact (well, almost exact) conversation just the other day. As the mother of 4 kids, I have all those above mentioned events happening right now. I even had to set my alarm an hour early the other morning to make a breakfast dish for staff appreciation! Who appreciates me!!!!

Alison Stone -- who can't wait for summer

Mitchell said...

Jen, you always make me laugh. Love the field trip to Pakistan!

I'm so glad to know other mothers go through this too. I thought I was the only one!

And I am forever saying, "Calgon, Take me Away!" LOL.

Donna Rosenbloom

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

$150 lunch??? Are you crazy? We got invited to a fundraising dinner 2 weeks ago. They wanted like $400/head. Um, for $400 a person I hope there are dancing boys and grape peelers and some magical machine that instantly removes about 40 pounds from my butt and another one that de-wrinkles your face. My friend who went told me it was the most amazing home she'd ever seen--an Italian villa plunked down in the foot of the Blue Ridge Mts, complete with priceless portraits, probably tiles they had lifted right out of Versailles, or whatever. But sorry, hamburger helper'll just have to do for now...Plus I HATE going to see how the other half is living. It just makes me realize how much I need to fix my rotting front porch ;-)
Alison--you get an extra badge of honor for waking pre-dawn to cook for teachers. Either that or a dope-slap across the head!
Hi Donna! thanks for coming by and hey, we're all in this PIA together, right?!

Alison said...

I think it's a dope-slap because quite frankly, I've never made my kids a hot breakfast on a school day that involved more than the toaster or microwave.


Paulita said...

Jenny, This is my first experience with the mad, mad month of May because we always homeschooled until this year. Well, with my husband out of town, my daughter's concert was on the schedule for 7 on Tuesday. On Monday my sixth-grader brought home an announcement about his class play at 6:30 Tuesday. And, of course, it was conveniently located across town. I ranted about the one-day notice, until my husband magically returned home that evening -- two days early, and with two days off. Yee haw. Help with concerts, plays, soccer games and swim team.
Your blog made me laugh.

Marilyn Brant said...

Jenny (um, Claire :),
Your post really made me laugh, esp. since I read it right after I checked my 3rd grader's take-home folder. There's an actual PACKET of events/activities the school is asking parents to volunteer for in these last 2 weeks: Imagination Day, Field Day, the big Class Trip, "Amazing You" Day (not sure yet what that is) and even "Wacky Facts" Day...

Beth Trissel said...

Truly, you have nailed the blitz. And it all breaks loose again in late August/September. Don't even get me started on Christmas.

Lisa Marie Wilkinson said...

Ah, Jenny!
How selfish of Claire to be unwilling to part with her "spare"
kidney for the sake of the school fund raiser!

I'm still laughing....great piece!

Leslie Langtry said...

You are spot on. Down with May! If I get one more call from the PTA...Scouts (both) I will take my sniper rifle to the rooftop.

Leslie Langtry

Judi Fennell said...

Jen--I mean, Claire, please listen to the advice my good friend Jenny gave me, via specially monogrammed napkins: SUV

Stop Unnecessary Volunteering.

It works. It really works!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Judi--you are right!! SUV. Everyone needs to remember that motto! Though not much of what I'm doing involves volunteering. Well, okay, I admit, I *did* stupidly volunteer to bring volunteers to senior awards night, even though senior parents weren't supposed to bring anything (but I felt bad! no one was offering!). Martyr mom...
Alison, that is SO true--we perform for the outside then feed our kids ice cream for breakfast ;-)
Paulita--now you know why you were home schooling!!!
Marilyn--that list totally sent chills down my spine!
Beth, holidays! NO!!!! Can't even begin to think about them! And back to school with 5000 forms we have to fill out. Ack!
Leslie--look out with you and your sniping, we know you'll be on target!
Lisa Marie--Claire figured she wanted to hang on to her kidney just a little bit longer ;-)

Kalynne Pudner said...

Oh, the room mothers know not to call me. Once they find out (and I make sure this happens no later than September 10) that I have nine kids at six different schools, they actually start vying to cover my share!

So there's your solution, Claire: FOUR MORE. You can do it! C'mon! Just like Hearbreak Hill!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Kalynne, your logistics are like some very complex math problem designed to solve the unanswered questions about the black hole theory or something. I do need to know how you manage the logistics of SIX schools (uh, not to mention NINE kids!!!!)
I will speak on Claire's behalf (I'm used to it) NO WAY!!!!

photoquest said...

This sounds like a must read!

Michele L. said...

Down with May! Up with summer! Yeah! O.k. less cheerleading.

Ha, ha! Loved your blog! Hilarious take on birth control! O.k. I don't have kids but have enough friends to know that it is excruciating at times to get them to listen to our words of wisdom.

Oh and volunteering is optional remember? Practice the word "No" in your head before you approach the teachers/other mommies/etc. when they open there mouths to ask if you can help out with so and so. Your time is very precious just like their's is so you don't have to feel guilty or pressured to volunteer when you really don't have time to.

Thanks for the laughs!
Michele L.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

I totally subscribe to that volunteering-optional thing. Learned THAT the hard way...When I ever-so-stupidly volunteered to make a quilt--yes, you read it right, a QUILT!!!, by hand, no less--for a lovely kindergarten teacher my son had. What was I thinking? And then in 1st grade his fabulous teacher was retiring. One more quilt. 2nd grade? Teacher got pregnant. I merely made her a raggedy ann doll. And then we moved. NEVER again did I do anything as stupid as those things!!! Now I'll pony up a batch of brownies if I'm feeling generous LOL