Friday, October 8, 2010

Black Hawk Down

I have prided myself on being a “slacker mom,” that is to say, my parenting style leans toward letting my kids figure out things for themselves, rather than me doing it for them. To some, this comes off as lazy or bad parenting, but both my girls are doing well, despite having me for a mother and their primary caregiver. I have days where if we all make it alive to bedtime, that’s a good day. But they are both smart girls who show much compassion, so I can’t have fucked them up that much.

I’ve met my share of Helicopter Parents and thought things would get better as the kids got older.

I was mistaken.

I was really looking forward to The Big One being in marching band and being a “Band Parent.” I thought there would be a camaraderie among the parents and was looking forward to making new friends. After only three encounters with the group, I’ve come to the conclusion that Band Parent may not be a good fit for me, as I don’t own a helicopter.

I have maintained for years that the biggest bitches in the world convene at PTA and Sunday School. Apparently, I need to add band boosters to that.

And I mean “bitches” in the nicest possible way.

I am well aware that organizations such as these only thrive because of their volunteers and I truly appreciate the work that the volunteers do. Less shit I have to deal with. And I am well aware of the 20/80 rule: that 20% of any volunteer organization does 80% of the work.

There’s a good reason for that. The 80% that doesn't work can’t stand the 20% that do.

I’m not putting down stay-at-home moms. I was one for nearly 10 years and staying at home with my kids was way more challenging than working full time. Most of the mothers I know who consider themselves full time stay-at-home moms also work part-time outside the home. However, there are few who have truly not worked in the real world in years and have completely immersed themselves in their children’s lives. Therefore, they must have complete control of anything that comes into their children’s lives.

At the first meeting, I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of committees and volunteers required to run said committees. It was micromanaging at a level I’ve never experienced. There were so many committees, I wondered if the parents were expected to do the actual marching and playing of instruments, so the kids would not have to. There is a committee to load the instruments and equipment into the trucks for performances, then another committee that provides pickup trucks to transport the unloaded equipment if the equipment truck has to park far away from the venue. My first thought was “Seriously? They’re actually asking these middle-aged men to do all this heavy lifting, when there are plenty of able-bodied teenagers to do it?” Yes. That’s exactly what they were asking. In all fairness, this might be a liability issue, but I doubt it. There are several committees that cover fundraising, and their various sub-committees. I GET that organizations like this run on fundraising, but do we really need a committee to manage just cakes and pies for a supper fundraiser?

The band marched in a local parade a few weeks ago. The parade route was about a half mile from the school and on our way to park the car for the event, we passed the drill team, walking from the school to the parade start location. When we were waiting for the parade to start, I ran into a couple of the band moms and I mentioned I'd just seen the drill team walking over, and expected the band would follow. "They just got on the buses," one mom informed me. "They're taking buses?" I said, "It's like 6 blocks away!" Band Mom retorted, "Well, they have to load up all that equipment."

Um, seeing how there was no special equipment needed for a parade like the drum majors' platforms, would "all that equipment" be the instruments they would be marching with in the parade?

That would be a YES.

No wonder childhood obesity is such a problem in America.

The most incredible committee that was listed at that first meeting had the vague heading of “Water.” Yes. There is a Water Committee. The Water Committee makes sure that at the games and events, there is water available for when the band comes off the field. When it was explained, my first thought was, “Are the kids not allowed to take a water bottle with them and leave it at their seats?” Apparently they can, but I suppose that would require they think for themselves and have to remember to bring the water bottles, and, goddess forbid, they should have to think or do for themselves.

My friend, Genius Girls’ Mom, thought this would be really simple and something she could do, so she volunteered. When we got to the first game, we found GGM frantically running up and down the stands, executing Water Girl duty. She had been given no instruction on exactly how Water Girl’s duties were to be performed, but she had just been given a dressing down as to how she was failing miserably at them by the former Water Girl. I jumped in and tried to help her fill the seemingly endless plastic cups of water and place them in their official band trays. She was given four coolers of water, but we exhausted those in about 10 minutes and went in search of refills. We lugged two coolers down to the concession stand, only to find we could not fit them under the faucet. Plan B: we took the lids off so the ice would melt more quickly and started filling the cups from that. By that time, Former Water Girl came over in a huff and informed GGM that there was a HOSE in the concession stand, specifically for the purpose of refilling the coolers, snatched up a cooler and took it to be refilled, and reiterated that GGM was doing it WRONG.

Yeah. GGM might have wanted that information BEFORE she started.

Then, just to make the situation ironic I suppose, it started to pour rain. The next day, GGM’s status on FaceBook read: “I was filling cups of water, and then I filled cups of water, and later I filled cups of water. And then it rained and we dumped out all the cups of water.”

I heart GGM.

During this whole escapade, I kept saying, “Why don’t they just bring their own damn water bottles?” Here’s where my friend Irony, pops in again. They WERE given water bottles prior to coming to the game, and I could see them clearly, in the stands, at their seats, and most were still full.

A few years ago, a similar thing happened to me. When I kicked out The Ex, I relied upon the kindness of strangers to the degree that my girls and I may have ended up homeless without them. Because at one point I was working one full time job and several part time gigs, I had very little time and energy to volunteer. When The Big One was in sixth grade, an opportunity to volunteer arose that was a good fit for me. I would be able to volunteer my morning off to run a weekly bake sale. This was actually pretty easy. I just had to send out reminders to parents for donations, set up a table, set out the Twinkies and sell junk food. I was happy to be finally able to give something back for a change. For the first couple of months, I averaged about $100 a bake sale. Pretty good for selling Ding Dongs at 25 cents each within two hours.

Then the Former Bake Sale Coordinator noticed that it was only myself and another mom manning the bake sales, and that this is NOT how they had been run when SHE was running the bake sale. I came in one morning at my usual time, about 20 minutes before the sale start time, to find Former Bake Sale Coordinator, setting things up and swearing under her breath, “I have been here for FORTY minutes, waiting for some help. You have not contacted any vendors to make donations and I have been doing all the work by myself.” Um, I didn’t know I was SUPPOSED to contact any vendors for donations, and had had plenty of inventory without doing so, seeing how I’d never run out of junk food to sell, and it only takes about 10 minutes to open a few boxes of Twinkies and set them on a table. She then proceeded to call other people to come up to the school, because she was desperate for help. Four volunteers appeared out of nowhere. Keep in mind, we are manning a six foot table. With me, the regular volunteer, Former Bake Sale Coordinator and her four minions, we were seven, squeezed in around this table.

I’m sitting there the whole time thinking I could really find a better use for my time, since we had so many idle hands, and this was my ONLY day off, and seriously thought about sneaking out, but knew I’d have to deal with the wrath of the Former Bake Sale Coordinator. A couple more sales commandeered by the Former Bake Sale Coordinator later, I withdrew my services, claiming they were “not a good fit for me at this time.” Again, here comes my old friend, Irony; we made as much at my sales as we did at the Former Bake Sale Coordinator’s sales.

I really felt like I’d been gypped out of an opportunity to give back, simply for the reason I was not doing something a Helicopter Parent would have, and I have a feeling GGM feels the same. It’s as if the HP has to control everything, not just their kids, because they have no other outlet for their energy. Which really sucks for everyone, because it causes so much tension within an organization whose intentions really are good.

I ended up volunteering to alter uniforms for the band, which went really well. The Coordinator of the Uniform Committee is really cool, laid back and gets things done without being an obnoxious control freak or micromanaging something that doesn’t need it. GGM withdrew her services as Water Girl, citing the “this is not a good fit for me at this time” excuse.

I got a mass email the other day, asking for a new head of water duties, and volunteers for its committee. At the last game, there were four volunteers, filling cup after cup of water and delivering it to each band member. All the while, their water bottles waited for them on their seats.

I’ll continue to volunteer when I can, and do what I am able to enrich The Big One’s experience with this organization, but will hold myself at arm’s length from becoming too meshed within the group, because I can already tell there are endless possibilities for backbiting within the troops, and for the simple reason that I really don’t need a helicopter, and neither do my kids.

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