If your kids have already been in grade school awhile, you may have nodded a knowing “yup” just from reading the title of this post. If your little one’s only just starting school, come closer and listen up. School moms can be a little…crazy.
But first, rest assured. The kids will be fine. They’re more capable and resilient than we give ’em credit for. Their teachers, unless irrefutably bad, know what they’re doing and will do their best to teach, guide, encourage, listen to, discipline and help X number of kids, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Give ’em the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, we moms may not survive if we don’t relax…and learn how to navigate the mommy school yard too. ‘Cause that stuff is scary.
As a mom of a now 5th grader, 3rd grader and transitional kindergartener, a room mom for the past few years, and just hearing what I have from other mom friends who’ve been around and active, even heads of PTAs, at their kids’ schools, here’s what we’ve learned collectively, straight up:
- It doesn’t matter whether your school is public or private, big city or suburban, commuter or neighborhood. Moms are moms everywhere. We come in all different colors, shapes and sizes but our insides all have “Mom” marked on ’em, expressed in a million different ways.
- At school, you’ll find hovering helicopter moms, hands-off laissez-faire moms, tiger moms, “don’t mess” mama bears, hippie New Age moms, “real housewives” moms, moms who bake, moms who pay, moms who vaccinate, moms who don’t, open moms, competitive moms, moms who live on campus, moms who’ve never stepped on campus, single moms, married moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms. God bless us all.
- Get in and get out. Don’t get me wrong. Volunteer – in class, on field trips, wherever is needed, whenever you can. Try your hand at being a room mom if you can. But don’t stick around campus any longer than needed. You’ll get sucked in. (Kidding. but not kidding.)
- Be friendly and patient with everyone, and take time to nurture good friendships with a couple trusty school moms. But make sure to have and nurture a life outside of school too. For your own sanity as well as for those around you.
- School moms talk. A lot. About everyone and everything. Almost every time you turn around. Avoid this at all costs if possible. I confess that when I stick around campus longer than necessary, I often hear things that I shouldn’t and worse, open my mouth when I shouldn’t. Not good.
- Be grateful to and for everyone who contributes to making your children’s school better – through their time, energy, talents, culture, money, fundraising, or whatever else. It really does take a village.
- Tread lightly around those of influence, and stay humble and gracious if you’re one of them. Power and pride can destroy even the best of intentions in all of us. “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self.”
- If something or someone at school gets you miffed, and something will at some point — it’s usually best to step away, take a breath (or a hundred), and think before you speak or react.
Let me just push “PAUSE” here, because this is where I messed up big-time just last week. Before I knew it, I was acting like a “crazy school mom.” I’m talking emotional, impulsive, overreacting.
This first week back at school was cruddy all around – for me, not for the kids thankfully – and largely due to my own fault. Feel free to take a lesson or two from my blunders:
It all started the Friday before school resumed, when classroom assignments were posted and I discovered that, once again, my eldest’s grade level – which has but two classrooms – was split very unevenly (as it had the year prior) when it comes to active, involved, available and contributing parents.
Having been a room mom a few years, I recognize the difference a class’s parents can make. Without a doubt, parent contributions, involvement and availability affect the teacher and kids in a classroom – from classroom fundraising, support for the teacher, assistance with classroom projects and celebrations, the introduction of new or dynamic learning opportunities, and more.
So I read the list and my temperature shot up instantly. Almost all of the known historically active and helpful parents in Son’s grade, this year’s graduating class, were in the other room. Again. And even more of them than last year, which had already been a struggle for my co-room mom and me, and the year before that. Immediately, a flag went up that maybe this annual “stacking” of the other classroom wasn’t a mere coincidence.
Mistake #1: In my anger, I was curt with an innocently bystanding parent whose son was in the stacked class as he perused the class assignments list. (It wasn’t his fault, poor dad!)
Still anxious that evening, I emailed the principal to raise the issue and ask for help. I wasn’t sure whether the classes could be shuffled around at the 11th hour, but I hoped we could have a few kids with active parents shifted from the other class to ours before school started. To be clear, I was not asking that Son be switched to the other class. That wouldn’t solve the heavy imbalance. If it could be helped, all the 5th graders should have a great graduating year.
The principal asked to chat on Monday, the day before school would start.
Monday came and almost went, but I called the principal’s office just before closing time. She apologized for the heavy imbalance but said she wouldn’t be rearranging any classrooms. Instead, she’d speak with Kathy, an involved and influential parent from the other class, about what to do. The principal suggested the solution may be to have room parents for 5th grade be room parents for the entire grade level rather than for a particular classroom. Like a team.
School started the next day on Tuesday and I didn’t hear back.
Still anxious, on Wednesday morning at a kick-off parent volunteers’ meeting, I saw the principal and asked if she’d spoken with Kathy. She hadn’t yet. I was doubtful that the other class would want to share room parent responsibilities with another class, since that means more work to go around, but she seemed hopeful. “Let’s just see.”
Mistake #2: Instead of waiting patiently on the principal, I spoke directly with Kathy about the principal’s proposition and she said no. Every parent cares about their own kid and should step up for their own class. Can’t argue with that. It’s the very reason why having one class filled with kids of busy working parents who’ve historically been unable or unavailable to help, and another filled with school officers, stay-at-home moms, and working parents with the flexibility to help at school during the day, wasn’t good. I grew increasingly anxious as my concerns seemed to be falling on deaf ears.
On Thursday, God gently reprimanded me. I shouldn’t have approached the principal at the volunteers’ breakfast (horrible timing) nor cut her off whenever she’d say the classrooms couldn’t be rearranged and shared room parenting was a viable solution. I should’ve respected her authority and management of the issue. Bad, bad, and bad. With my tail between my legs, I went to the school to apologize to the principal: I should’ve picked better timing, been more gracious, more patient. I asked her forgiveness and she gave it without hesitation.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
Later that same afternoon, I bumped into a mom from Son’s class at our neighborhood coffee shop. She was with another mom in the class and introduced us. Innocent enough. But then.
Mistake #3: We started venting about the skewed classes. And sin crept in once again. We started having this “us against them” mentality. Fine. We’ll step up. We’ll rally. We’ll have the best 5th grade class there ever was. They’ll see. (I know, I know. What did I say about crazy school moms? Could I have been any more childish and asinine? We’re working on this, God and me. But be patient. He can do all things.)
At the crack of dawn on Friday, I went running to decompress. Once again, God spoke to me. He reminded me of more of my foolishness. I shouldn’t have snapped at that poor dad checking classroom placements. I shouldn’t have thought ill of Kathy or anyone I thought might be responsible for the skewed classroom arrangements. I shouldn’t have vented with other moms nor entertained or encouraged a divisive mentality. I felt horrible, icky. How did I fail to recognize the devil’s tactics? He loves to whisper words that create anxiety, faction, suspicion, antagonism, stress. He hates when we live out God’s love and peace in our actions and when we respond to trials with faith, patience and grace. He got me. Big-time.
So once again, I had apologies to make.
And once again, I went to school with my tail between my legs. I sought out Kathy after dropping the kids off to tell her I was sorry. I shouldn’t have let my anxiety or frustration spread to my dealings with her and make her upset too. After all, everyone has worries of their own. She agreed and said it’ll be a great year.
I emailed the dad to apologize. He responded compassionately.
I went home and texted the two moms from the coffee shop:
“Morning, ladies. 🙂 So. I’m a little calmer than I was yesterday, lol. It’s taking me day by day since the class assignments were posted to come to grips with everything. But I think we, or at least I, need to push ‘reset.’ Our kids are gonna have a fabulous 5th grade experience no matter what because Ms. X is an amazing teacher, our kids are great kids, and we care about our kids and love on them as best we can at home and wherever else. So, it doesn’t matter whether Ms. X gets a ‘teacher of the year’ award, whether we have fun activities of our own, whether our kids are with their besties or not. It’s gonna be good. No matter what. So I’m just gonna help when and where I can and try not to worry about all the less important things that we crazy school moms worry about. Lol.”
Thankfully, they agreed and I think we’re on the same page.
Needless to say, it was a rough week. Instead of being calm and collect and praying over everything, which is what I should’ve done from the beginning, I acted like a “crazy school mom.” I’m just thankful God never lets me go. He never lets me get away with sin but nudges me to bring it before Him. Then He’ll remind me that it’s already washed away, and send me off with a loving kiss on the forehead to “try, try again.”
So here we are. In spite of a rather rough start to the school year, I believe it’s gonna be a good year for the kids, whatever happens. I’m gonna let it go. I’m not gonna be a room parent for Son’s class. We have new room parents (yay!), and they’ll do great. I surrender it all to One far wiser and more capable than I or anyone else.
As for you, my dear mamamigas, ha! Hopefully I haven’t scared you into home-schooling.
Navigating the mommy school yard? Avoiding crazy school moms or becoming one of ’em? You’re one step ahead of the game now. xoxo.