At the beginning of the year at Bigs’ school all families are encouraged to sign up to “Give 3” (hours of volunteer time to the school.) There is a long list of ways in which you can volunteer, which I didn’t look too closely at as I told myself, “My husband will do that.”
In December a note came home in Bigs’ backpack about volunteering for his class holiday party. I signed up assuming my husband and I would do it together, because he is good at these types of things and, well, I’m not. I have not confirmed the thought process he had, but the outcome was him encouraging me to go on my own. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but as the day arrived I realized something very important. I was petrified of going to volunteer in a kindergarten classroom.
We all tell ourselves stories about who we are and my story doesn’t include spending time with large groups of children. I don’t really enjoy spending time with large groups at all, but children are acutely needy for someone… more maternal and who perhaps enjoys being touched by strangers more than me even if they are only five years old. My reasonable mind recognizes that being a mother qualifies me as maternal. I even concede that I possess a number of traditionally maternal qualities – loving, nurturing, kind, comforting, and squishy around the midsection. My emotional mind spews a laundry list of motherly traits that are not me – crafty, relaxed about the unknown (or anything for that matter), playful, and spontaneous. (This list could go on indefinitely, but I will spare you all of my shortcomings.)
As I left work to head to school, I started crying. In full realization that it wasn’t that I ever thought, “Oh! My husband will take care of that.” It was that I thought, “I’m not good enough to do the volunteering. My husband is more qualified. Anybody is more qualified.” I hadn’t even made it to school and I was awash in shame. How was I ever going to walk into school with all the other moms only to be seen right through as a fraud of a mother?
After a pep talk from a wise friend who reminded me that I just needed to do my best and that all my kid cared about was my showing up, I took a deep breath, pulled myself together, and walked in the school. As luck would have it, I walked in with a mom of boy in Bigs’ class. She was carrying big bins of supplies. She was everything I am not. 25 gingerbread houses, frosting, games, candy, snacks, craft supplies filled her bins. I knew she was the leader and I was the follower the moment she said that she needed craft paper to cover the kids’ desks for easy clean-up. Not her first rodeo, friends. I would have never thought of that.
Mrs. O, Bigs’ teacher, had to go get the craft paper from some unknown location. Perhaps she didn’t notice me waving my arm in the air and hyperventilating, “I’ll get it! I’ll get it! I’ll get it!” Instead, she breezily lead me to the room with the class doing some sort of exercise video (I know it wasn’t that, but I have no idea what it really was) and left me in charge of all 19 kids. In the eternity in which she was gone, only one child cried and everybody survived my “supervision” unharmed.
More volunteers joined the party — lots of moms, a dad, grandparents. (There was a grandpa that joined mid-party and I’m pretty sure he came specifically to quality control/taste test all the candy.) Leader Mom explained the various centers and asked where we wanted to go. House decorating? No. Craft? No. Toilet paper snow man making? Umm… maybe. Winter Bingo? YES! There was no winner and most of the kids just wanted to eat the candy markers anyway. I have always respected teachers’ abilities to manage a classroom, but bingo took my admiration to a whole new level.
On my way out, I thanked Leader Mom profusely for executing a wildly successful party and all the work that went into making that so. She is totally awesome and I’m so glad she is a regular volunteer in Bigs’ class. As Bigs and I walked the halls hand in hand leaving the building, he had a grin of pride on his face. I knew one thing for sure. Bigs doesn’t need me to be Leader Mom. He just needs me to do my best as HIS mom. And THAT I can do.