The PTO at my kids’ school is ruining my life. I have three kids in elementary school, 5th, 2nd, and 1st grades. Just filling out registration paperwork in triplicate took nearly an entire afternoon. Top that off with rooting through backpacks, making lunches, volunteering, doing nightly reading, spelling, and math homework, and I’m almost happy I’m not employed full-time, because dealing with it all would be next to impossible. The school isn’t making my job any easier. Here are a few of my grievances.
- Annual fall fund-raiser. Every September I look forward to my children being pimped out to sell gift wrap, trinkets, magazines, chocolates, and frozen food. They come home with glossy sheets covered with potential prizes they can win. Karaoke machines, tablet computers, iPods, 3D glasses! Sell only 1,500 items and they can be yours! Just tell your parents to send blast messages to their Facebook friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors! Go door to door (but be safe), even though every kid in your neighborhood is selling the same bullshit. I ordered one thing from each kid, resulting in thorough disappointment yesterday when we picked up orders, and Justin and Alex found out that the only prize they qualified for was a bottle of “disappearing” ink. And they forgot to include one prize, meaning one kid had to go without. You know how well that went over.
- Family Fun Night – More begging for money. Their indoctrination of kids to push their parents into participating is one part Stepford Wives and one part Joseph Goebbels. Food! Music! Games! Prizes! Dancing! FUN! This never fails to remind me of one of Jerry Seinfeld’s best lines: “There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.” So with three kids, $10 a wristband, $5 for food, and I’m soaked for $45 before even walking in the door. And then the fun really begins, walking through the school like a zombie with 300 screaming kids. Tonight is the night the kids have been talking about for weeks. My husband and I are literally arguing over who “has” to go to Family Fun Night and who “gets” to go to the wake of a friend’s mother.
- Themes – As I write this I realize what a hater I’ve become, but when kids are promised a prize for dressing up in whatever theme one of these fund-raisers has, it puts that much more pressure on me. I’m all for a good party, but not when I’m digging through boxes of hand-me-downs at 7:00 in the morning to find three tie-dyed shirts so everyone is sufficiently outfitted for the Groovy Get-together.
- Raffle Tickets – In conjunction with Family Fun Night, donors provide items for a raffle drawing. And the school sends home 20 tickets for each kid to sell. And of course the kids are the ones who want to buy them because they’ve been staring at that brand new iPod Touch or signed Adrian Peterson poster that has been on display at school all month. 20 tickets x 3 kids = $60. No fucking way. And as I mentioned before, there’s no pool to sell to because every family in the ‘hood has a kid going to that school, and no one else gives a shit about a raffle for random prizes they can’t even see. But the tickets come home anyway, and my kids go to town filling them out, and pretty soon there are tickets all over the kitchen table, mixed up, torn apart, and I have to explain that I don’t want to spend $60 on raffle tickets, and they get all sad and disappointed, and then notes come home from school because they need the unsold raffle tickets back per Minnesota state law, and write a check for the ones that are still intact, and I gather the rest of them all up into one Ziploc bag, give them to my oldest to deal with, and send a bitchy email to their teachers saying that I really don’t have time to tally up and account for five dozen tickets, and that they may or may not all be there.
- Healthy Snacks – Last time I checked my children were pretty well fed, if not overfed. When I was young, I don’t recall bringing snacks to get me through the day at school. Even infants can go three hours without being fed, yet we’re encouraged to send along a healthy snack because they get soooooooo hungry. Of course maybe they are hungry since Michelle Obama got hold of the school lunch program, and now the kids are given two mini-corn dogs, some applesauce, and a carrot to subsist on for lunch. But inevitably it results in wars at home over what snack to bring because “Johnny brings candy and chips,” so why can’t they? And if I keep tons of snacks around, my four boys and their friends devour it all up after school so there isn’t anything left to bring, resulting in me keeping the local grocery stores profit line healthy.
Ok. Rant over. I’m going to do some Family Fun Night prepping by making myself a Cape Codder. Or two.
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2013