The new school year is upon us. Last fall, in a wave of rah-rah-hooray-for-school spirit, I decided to volunteer to be my daughter’s kindergarten room mother. She is my oldest child, my first one to head off to the great adventure that is elementary education. How could I resist the opportunity to be part of the magic? The smell of crayons and sharpened pencils…the adorable crafts made of two parts construction paper, three parts creativity, and forty-one parts glue…the bittersweet performances that make us cry (and cringe, occasionally). I was enchanted with school from the time I walked into my kindergarten classroom in 1982 until the time I left high school in 1995. (I’d prefer you don’t do the math on those dates. Let’s just say I’m not as young as I once was.) I loved school and frankly, I missed being a part of it, so it made sense to be involved in my daughter’s experience.
And I’m glad I did the room mom-ing. However, like most experiences, the imagined is usually better than the actual. To help you avoid disappointment when your room parent experience isn’t quite as charming as you hoped, here are six things I learned during my room mom tenure.
1. There are more celebrations in kindergarten than you can possibly fathom. There are the usual events – Thanksgiving buffet, Polar Express day (as a quasi Christmas party), Valentine’s party. However, I also got to contribute my (barely existent) crafty talents and (meager) culinary skills to all sorts of less traditional fetes: Dr. Seuss’ Birthday, 100th Oceanside Café Day, Rainforest Day, and Dairy Barn Day. My least favorite was Dairy Barn Day; it combined everything I hate in one glorious afternoon – the outdoors, poop (only bovine, thankfully), and eating lunch picnic-style.
2. These are not your momma’s kindergarten celebrations. In other words, gone are the days of mom or dad sending in a package of (possibly expired) Chips-Ahoy to the class party. Today’s kindergarten events are, like most everything else for American children, elaborate and overdone. My daughter’s teacher was an outstanding educator but her vision for each party (“there should be crafts and games and decorations and prize bags and themed snacks!”) did not usually mesh with my vision (“there should be Oreos and silence.”). At the last party of the year, the teacher handed me some streamers and asked me to create an “ocean effect” by hanging the streamers from the ceiling in the auditorium. It was a high ceiling and I stupidly asked how I was supposed to get the streamers up there. She told me to use a ladder and then asked why I hadn’t recruited any parents to help decorate. I replied, “because I never dreamed a children’s party would be so extensive!” She didn’t seem that amused.
3. Your children will not remember the details from kindergarten. If you are the room parent this year, enjoy the ride. Have fun getting to know your child’s teacher andclassmates. Don’t worry that the party is “supposed to have” forty-one different activities and snacks because “that’s how the last room mom did it”. Day of School, Hoedown Day, Froggy Party… just do your best, smile, and remember that when first grade rolls around, no child from your kid’s class will ever say “do you remember when that kindergarten room mom forgot to bring in sea-creature-shaped cookies? The horror!”
4. Some kindergartners are ill-mannered jerks. At one of the kindergarten parties, a little boy in my daughter’s class said – quite loudly – “this party sucks!” I had an almost irresistible urge to tell that child to fuck off, but I figured that sort of language would be frowned upon by other room parents.
5. Some room parents are really into room-parenting. Our Thanksgiving buffet was a multiple grade event, for kindergartners through 2nd graders. My job was to bring corn muffins. I arrived at the event five minutes early and was immediately
assaulted greeted by the 2nd grade room mom. She looked at me with crazed eyes and asked/shouted, “where are the corn muffins?!?”. I calmly told her that they were in my car and that I needed to get my toddler settled first. She didn’t seem satisfied with this response and said, “but you did bring the muffins, right? Because I don’t see any muffins!”. She was genuinely terrified that there might not be corn muffins available for the kids’ consumption. You know how many kids ate my corn muffins? Two. Two kids out of roughly fifty kids. It was super important to have those corn muffins at the feast. If you decide to be a room parent, avoid these creepily energetic people.
6. You’ll be happy you did the room parent gig when the year is over. My oldest child is only six. She doesn’t find me embarrassing yet. She liked seeing me at her school on a semi-regular basis. I liked having a valid reason to be at her school a few times each month. If my daughter is like every other kid who has ever lived, she soon won’t want me to be so overtly involved in her life. I must grab the chances to participate in her childhood while she still wants me near. The good news? When she hits those difficult tween years, my youngest daughter enters kindergarten. The joy of room mom-ery will return.
Related post: What to Expect From Your Kindergartner