I was in the school office the other day, signing my kid in tardy. Again. It was one of my most winning mothering days: hair scraped back into a frizzy ponytail, rumpled but clean t-shirt, sweatpants stuffed into hastily pulled on Ugg boots, unmade-up, unmoisturized face, and a tangible miasma of exasperation and chagrin floating around me like a cloud of gnats. Also, I probably had coffee breath. Working from home has perks, but developing socially acceptable habits is not one of them.
As I grabbed the slip of paper and handed it to my glowering little angel so she could be admitted to class, I saw it. A smirk. It flashed across the face of the parent volunteer manning the desk. I believe the verbal equivalent of that expression, according to my Southern lady friends, would be the words “Bless her heart” uttered in the same tones of pity, condescension, and amusement one might reserve for a dull-witted pet. Or, I could be wrong. Maybe she had gas.
I imagined this mom and her cohorts cozily chatting at, like, one of those parties where you buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need so the person whose wine and cheese you are scarfing down can earn an equally impractical gift. I’ve been one of those moms (well, not really, but I used to try to be) and do you know what they talk about over wine and cheese and unnecessary catalog shopping? People like me. The weirdo who hardly ever socializes or participates and can’t seem to get her shit together well enough to join a committee or get her kid to school on time but who will occasionally make a really inappropriate joke and/or over share. Again, I could be wrong. I am gifted with an anxiety-ridden interior life and a vivid imagination.
I’m just not ever going to be on that team. I accept that the way I eventually accepted that I was never going to marry Ricky Schroeder and live in a mansion where you could ride a miniature train from room to room: reluctantly. (Note: I know he goes by Rick Schroeder now, okay? But I didn’t want to marry Rick Schroeder, I wanted to marry Ricky Schroeder, circa 1986, in full Silver Spoons glory. We were young, but I would have made it work. Sorry, I digress. Actually, I don’t digress. This whole Ricky Schroeder-miniature train fantasy is exactly the kind of thing I would over share, which brings us back to the weirdo issue.)
Where was I? Oh, yes. The parent team with the players who have it all together, or seem to, and who are really good at joining and organizing and performing all sorts of miraculous works of community service and who can get their kids to eat the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables and who are able to participate in casual conversation without feeling like a fire alarm is going off in their body. Here’s the thing about that team: they terrify me, but I appreciate them so fucking much.
I mean it. Thank you, curve-wrecker moms (and dads). My personal feelings of inadequacy are totally worth it. Thank you for being in the classroom so my child’s overworked and underpaid teachers can better devote their time and attention where it’s needed instead of cutting out construction paper flowers forever. Also, thank you for the construction paper flowers so my kid can see her name on the classroom door along with all her classmates on that super clever vine-thingy that you designed. Thank you for the eleventy-billion fundraisers that are kind of annoying but deeply necessary. Thank you for making copies and reading stories and painting signs and running contests.
Thank you for making me acutely aware of my inherent messiness as a human. I don’t know. Maybe you’re as frazzled and strange as I am, and you still manage to do all that you do. Or, maybe you’re a secret species of extraordinarily civic-minded aliens come to infiltrate earth by winning the hearts and minds of our children through bake sales and sponge toss booths. Which, by the way, would be a kickass X-Files episode that I would watch the shit out of. Like, Mulder and Scully would have to pose as PTA parents and Mulder would be volunteering during literacy time but he’d be making goofy jokes and telling the kids to fight the power and Scully would be like, “HEY, MISTER. Rules are important!” Sorry, I’m digressing again. The point is, I, for one, welcome our carpool driving overlords.
Thank you, moms who make me break out in anxiety hives. I hope you get everything you want this holiday season and that you get spoiled terribly by your photogenic families. May you and the other fabulously functional parenting paragons have a wonderful winter break. And if you get together for wine and cheese and need a good story to giggle about or roll your eyes at, it’s okay if it’s about me. In fact, I’m already working on providing you with new material.