Going where I list, my own master

Last night, there was a school year-end banquet for the PTA. This included the board members and the committee chairs, of which I was one of the latter, having organized and run the four dinners the nights of parent-teacher conferences over the past year. Several representatives from my son’s elementary school were there as well, including the principal, several key office staff, and two teachers who serve as liaisons to the PTA, coming to our meetings regularly and helping facilitate communications between our organization and the staff.

There are a lot of people involved with the PTA. Probably half a dozen board members and another dozen or so committee chairs, so it was a big group of people. The president handed out little gift bags to everyone and spoke to different things people had done and teared up while she did it. It was touching. Some of our key members have kids whose youngest children are finishing 4th grade, and so they are moving on from their board positions, leaving tremendous gaps.

I’ve been really blown away at the level of commitment these ladies have to the school, the amount of time they’re able to put in and the surprising financial level at which the PTA operates – their funds are a key driver of supplementing the kids’ education with educational and fun programs that used to just be a normal part of a school year. Now, without the PTA, those things would not occur. I’ve talked about this before on my page. They provide buses for field trips, fund and staff the school carnival, Bingo night, run multiple monthly, seasonal and yearly fundraising activities and have supplied the school library with their first tablet computers. From bringing in COSI to family Bingo night, from every decorated door or hallway to funding class parties for holidays, it’s amazing what they are able to pull off, and I’ve been proud to be a part of it.

But it stressed me out, completely, being in charge of just one thing. I work full-time, and only a portion of the other ladies work. I’m now also the only single mom, and so my time is really limited – I can’t just predict that I’ll be able to show up and volunteer at something as I can’t really afford to pay for a sitter just to go volunteer at an event, and I can’t work an event and watch my son at the same time, so it’s complicated. I was supposed to have a partner to help me plan the dinners and she dropped out and left me holding the bag, and it’s a miracle everything came together as successfully as it did; and it wouldn’t have, without me calling repeatedly for help from other PTA board members. When the dinners were finally over, I told the president there was no way I could do this again and not to even ask.

Last night, they put the pressure on me to do the dinners again. “You can’t just show up and do your one thing and then drop out!” said the treasurer. “We need you!” “We need your voice and your strong opinions,” said the PTA president, who is actually a rather shy, quiet lady. “You are the perfect compliment to my quiet self; you help me get things done.”

I explained that I actually intended to help out MORE often in the coming year if I could, it just couldn’t be from a position of responsibility for organizing or running something. I’ll still come to the meetings each month, and I will sign up MORE often when volunteers are needed because now I know the events and feel more confident. If my time is free, I will come and help out. Just don’t ask me to make a bunch of calls and keep records and run around to five different places in town soliciting donations for whatever thing we’re doing, as I just don’t have the time.

It’s part of my new leaf with my “new life.” I want to do less and less of what I don’t want to do. Less of what I feel pressured into doing or forced into doing circumstantially, and more of what I really want to do. Time is short.  Focus on quality. Yes, I’m sure, I said. They said they understood and were disappointed, and said they still hadn’t had anyone step up to plan the dinners. Dot dot dot.

I unabashedly went to the dinner to network, and that’s what I did. I got to talk with the principal a little, which is always good, and had a nice long conversation with the music teacher about her program for different grades. I sat with the staff at their table. I want people at the school to know who I am, who my son is. He’s my only kid – unlike the one board member who just had her fifth baby and everyone was joking that she’ll be on the PTA for a total of like 20 years by the time each kid is through the school.

I came home with my little gift bag. A few candies, a gift card to a local restaurant. I munched on a tiny York peppermint patty and opened the card from the PTA president. There was a touching, hand-written note inside. She said, among other things, that she knew how hard I worked during what was a very stressful time for me personally, and she wasn’t sure if I knew just how much the teachers appreciated what I did. And so, she had included several of the thank-you cards the PTA had received after the event. It really touched me and brought tears to my eyes, reading through all the little cards.

And then I wasn’t sure.

I went to bed unsettled.

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