I’m the former president of the Parent Teacher Organization at my children’s school. Mercifully, my term ended at the start of this school year, but only because I am on the executive board in another position for the next year and a half.
In other words, I am batshit insane.
My mental illness aside, I’m really just one more hapless victim. When you first reach the stage in life when you’re the parent of a child in school, it feels like a sudden vacation at the beach – five days a week. Your kid is in school and you find yourself skipping along the shoreline, basking in the warmth of the sunshine, unsuspecting of what lurks beneath the tide. A siren’s voice echoes, very softly at first, across deceptively calm ocean waves. It grabs your attention immediately. The song that tickles your ear is as clear as Waterford crystal and it’s the most beautiful thing you think you’ve ever heard in your life.
“Help the children,” it says, sexily and with much sexy, sexy persuasion. “Help them! They neeeeeeeeed you! WE need you! Join the PTO!”
Incapable of stopping yourself, you’re drawn toward the voice, powerless to resist. You wade into the ocean, deeper and deeper. The water isn’t as calm as it appeared when you stood in the sand. The current is strong and it pushes you around like it’s your boss. You keep pressing forward, anyway. Was that a shark that just brushed against your legs? You don’t care. You have to reach the source of the voice calling out to you. You must join the PTO because it says the children need you. You can’t let them down, they’re just kids! You swim harder, diving into huge waves that are wild and tumultuous now, never realizing that you’re in way over your head.
There is no escaping the siren’s grasp once you’ve answered her call. You are drowned at sea, your soul being claimed by Ursula the School Witch, who has you right where she wants you.
Well, what feels like forever. Really, it’s until you either go into hiding (by moving to another state and/or entering the Witness Protection Program) or your kid graduates high school, depending on which thing comes first.
It’s too late for me, but as is customary for my lot in life, allow my experience to serve as a warning and heed my unsolicited advice.
No matter how laid back any PTO group is, you will find cliques lurking within and it will remind you of being in high school all over again. You might start to wonder what the fuck you’re doing there with those people because your high school years sucked major ass. Then you’ll remember that you’re doing this for the children, so you tough it out because that’s what a good parent does. And you’re a damned good parent – you’ve come to the meeting and everything. Be forewarned that you’ll find most of the usual array present and accounted for:
• The Nines, those moms who come to meetings dressed to impress. They must not have received the memo that while it’s called a “Parent Teacher Organization”, it’s really more of a “Mom Teacher Organization,” as very few men get involved and those who do usually don’t attend the meetings. There’s a social stigma involved when it comes to volunteering with the PTO, I suppose. It’s as though PTO-ing is women’s work, like laundry or blow jobs. The only men who attend our meetings are school administrators. While I admit that our superintendent is a tall silver fox hottie in his suit and tie, it’s a fucking PTO meeting, not a singles bar. Cleavage and/or sexy boots aren’t required for discussing classroom parties.
• The It Girls include two separate-but-equally-It factions: the women who were popular in high school and have continued to be popular to this day, and the women who were nobodies in high school but then blossomed in their 20’s or 30’s and became what they always wished they could have been in high school. They are the centers of everyone’s attention because not only do they have It, but they are all over It. The Nines often tend to cross over into this group and vice versa.
• The Sporticus Moms are overenthusiastic sideline gladiators who bleed school colors. They are constantly talking about whatever sport little Jimmy is playing this season, what he played last season and what he’ll be doing for the next five seasons. The Sporticus Moms are on a first-name basis with all the coaches and they look really cool as they high-five everyone they greet. They typically turn into Athletic Boosters in later years.
• The Blue Mom Group complains about everything. Every. Fucking. Thing. All the motherfucking time. They are only capable of focusing on the negative: the things that went wrong during PTO events or meetings, or the things that the teachers or the administration aren’t handling the way they think they should be handled. Nothing is ever being done correctly and they will let you know, repeatedly, that it is all doomed to fail.
You’ve probably noticed that I left one vital group out of the list. I didn’t mention the Overachieving Alpha Moms because they’re very misunderstood creatures. While there are women in the world who proudly wear that label, many of them – myself included – were sort of forced into the position. I’m a lazy-assed Beta mom, I do not particularly enjoy being in charge of Big Shit. “Let The Alphas Take Care Of That, I’ll Be Over Here Taking A Nap,” is my motto. Unfortunately, there are never enough Alphas to go around so Betas are often forced to masquerade as Alphas to fill the void. Being moms, we do what we must because maternal instinct drives us toward such things, even when it means over-committing to something that’s a voluntary gig.
You see, running a PTO is a lot like running a small country. Everyone wants money or needs volunteers and there are never enough of either to go around. A core group made out of necessity from the most-often-present individuals will become the driving force behind every single event, and they will fucking do everything. This is especially true for board positions. Few people ever truly want to be on the executive board, but there must be one in order for there to be a PTO. It’s like a law or something. Somebody’s got to do the work and one day that somebody is likely to be you, simply because you’re right there and hey where did everybody else go…?
Congratulations! You’ve just discovered the reason why it’s nearly impossible to leave the PTO. Whether you’ve been a board member or committee chairperson for five years in a row, or if you’ve worked at every single event during the course of the school year (been there, done that), you will eventually reach the point when you burn out and you’re ready to return home to your own family.
That’s when you find that there is nobody stepping up to take your place.
In fact, as soon as you make it known that you wish to lessen your workload or stop working completely, you will notice that everyone is beginning to back away very slowly. It’s the weirdest phenomenon I’ve ever witnessed and it always occurs just a few moments before they dematerialize into wisps of smoke, leaving you to stand there holding the bag, all by your lonesome. Did Scottie beam them up? You don’t know. They’re just fucking gone.
What is that awful sound? Is someone choking a wookie? No, it’s Ursula the School Witch, cackling louder than you’ve ever heard her cackle before because the wicked bitch knows that she owns your soul, and right now she’s telling you exactly where you stand. You WILL run the Winter Carnival.
UNTIL THE END OF TIME.