Fired Volunteer

9Jan2013

Fired Volunteer

I had a panic attack at the school volunteer fair. The problem was that my imagination underwhelmed me. I envisioned a couple of tables with sign up sheets for class treats. When I walked into the gym, it looked like the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Table after endless table housed paper applications for strange and foreign committees, projects, and events.

I wanted to run, but I froze. I questioned the need for a paid staff when the parents had to do so much. I marveled at the plight of the working parent –how did they do this, and have a career? I spotted a few other parents of Kindergarteners –first time Volunteer Fair victims, as frozen as I was. Then, I formulated a plan.

With a jolt of inspiration, I cruised the rows, searching for behind the scenes opportunities. Treats, play dough and teacher gifts, were my ticket to continued backwards house mom bliss. Unfortunately, the only positions that remained involved face-to-face kid interaction.

Is it weird that children make me nervous? They are smarter than most adults, but without social grace to skip over certain questions. I can panic at the possibilities, most revolving around problematic bible stories (we go to a Christian school).

The Nativity Scene is magnificent until some kid asks what a virgin is. Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac could generate questions about why Abraham didn’t just check into a mental hospital instead of thinking God was talking to him. What is leprosy? What’s a prostitute? Why did people hate tax collectors? What is murder and adultery?

Of course, none of these stories surface in Kindergarten (except the virgin). I can clarify these questions to my own children. I just don’t like having to predict what little Johnny’s mom is going to do when he goes home to say, “Mrs. Magnifique said a virgin is someone that hasn’t had sex! Then I asked her what sex is, and she said…”

One of the volunteer positions I signed up for was to help my daughter’s class with a walking field trip to King Soopers. Sounds easy enough, right? Not when you understand my tumultuous relationship with the grocery store.

Go through any old post and you’ll realize that I view the grocery store, with kids in tow, as the flaming pit of hell. We catch croup, spend our entire paycheck, and nearly get banned each time we visit. To top it off, I usually either get pantsed by the kids, or asked if I am pregnant (by the same clerk who got the same answer as last week, “NO!”). The most pleasant King Soopers experience was when the power went out, and silenced the kids. I couldn’t see what I was buying, or who was behind me, but it was a relaxing experience because it was quiet.

On field trip day, I was assigned four kids, including my own, Elle. Two of the boys were descendants of WWE wrestlers. On the walk over, they practiced their Full Nelsons and Rolling Koppou Kicks. At first, I thought it was going okay. At least the boys weren’t in traffic or spitting blood.

The teacher took those boys away from me, and gave me a look that said, “Try to watch your daughter and this other girl without messing it up”. I sulked a bit, watching the other Moms with their groups of five or six kids.

Maybe it’s like animal training –you have to start with a ridiculous amount of confidence or the child can identify a weakness. Once I lose control, I’m helpless because I can’t discipline other people’s kids. There are no time-outs at King Soopers. Sure, I could threaten to take something away: “I’m coming to your house tonight and killing your goldfish if you don’t stop”. Perhaps I could withhold something they were looking forward to: “I’m coming to your house tonight and throwing the apple pie your mom made straight into the trash”. However, these options all involve breaking and entering at night, and I’m no good past 8 PM.

I also have a hard time forcing a strange child to hold my hand. I didn’t need to be burned into kids’ memories as the predator that attacked them with sweaty handholding for the entire field trip. That’s why the other little girl fell over a display, scraped her knees, and spilled her complimentary hot chocolate.

The teacher took the chocolaty, bloody girl, and I was left in a group with my own kid. The teacher looked a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to handle that, either. I stood in my party of two, shamed by the wrecked display, and imagined a quieter time when the power went out. The cashier cleaning up the mess interrupted my happy reverie:

“I know you are emotional because you are pregnant, but you need to pay attention. Your daughter is wandering off.”

The good news is that the school may not require me to interact directly with the kids anymore.

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