I had my first PTA meeting last night. It was almost two and a half hours long. WOW. At least there was wine.
So, a million things have changed since I was in school, naturally. Many things that schools used to pay for are now paid for by the PTA. And of course there are literally dozens of fundraising efforts of various stripes, all of which need a coordinator, a champion, some volunteers. Fall festival, COSI visit, bingo night, box tops, book fair, class parties, school carnival, ice cream social, field day, science fair. JESUS I don’t remember school being that full of events when I was little. It’s good, yes. It’s great, really, and the amount of hours these women put in to volunteering to run and staff all these events is mind-boggling. And then there are all the wish-lists and to-do items: carpet in the library, iPads, some kind of shaded area for the playground, a physical fitness “game” we can buy to augment recess and encourage walking. And also a push to get the principal to put at least one door one one stall in each of the boy’s bathrooms. They were like this in the schools I went to as well – no doors for the boys, and honestly I really don’t get why. It’s one of the few cases of gender discrimination I can think of where males have it worse than females, and I think it’s really rotten. As my mother astutely put it, if you treat kids like animals, they’ll act like animals. And in an age where a focus on curtailing bullying is a priority, don’t we want to at least afford a school-aged male the opportunity to take a poop in some kind of relative privacy? Geez.
And yes, it’s pretty much all women; there is an offshoot group of Dads but they weren’t really discussed as anything except a possible way to work around the new requirement that we have to buy beverages for events through Coke because of some kind of kickback program the school signed with them, which will end up costing three times as much as if the Moms just bought drinks at Marc’s or wherever. It’s all a complicated shell game and it made my brain very, very tired.
But they need my help, and my big mouth. This is a great place for a cage-rattling activist like me to not only do some good, but breathe fresh life into the group. They were bemoaning the new food regulations, which require no more food be brought in for birthdays, and any food that’s part of any event now has to be sealed and labeled from a store. So, you can bring in cut-up fruit that was cut up by the grocery and packaged for sale, but not a watermelon that you cut up at home or at school. Honestly, that’s fine. These rules are in place for a reason, and I know a few of them, having had a nut-allergic nephew and having worked in legal for so long. Adapt and figure out how to still have fun and celebrate without giving all the kids diabetes or anaphylaxis. Is that so hard? It is, apparently, when it is your growing pains, so I will be writing the welcome letter to parents that goes home the first day of school, telling them who the PTA is and what we do, but with a positive spin on these new guidelines, with suggestions of alternative ways to celebrate that do not involve filling children with corn syrup and hydrogenated oil. By the end of the meeting, they wanted me to write basically everything, ha. And they need some real help with their website and FB page, which I talked to them about in terms of “branding,” and convinced them revamping these things and offering multiple touch points about our mission, work and desperate need for volunteers would yield increased membership. So now I have to help deliver on that. I know now that I am in this group not just to make my own son’s path through school one I am more informed about and involved in, but so that I can help all the kids in the school, be their advocates, make their experiences better.
I’m ready for it, bring it on.