“I Volunteer to Bellyache,” Said No One Ever

My kids have exactly three-and-a half-days of school left. It feels like everything is being crammed in and there’s no time to breathe. They will both move to new schools in August so, in addition to the typical end of year concerts and classroom open houses, there are special events and celebrations. Between all that, homework, and sports, the madcap hijinks never stop. And, that’s just when I’m wearing my mommy hat.

Other than serving as a PTO board member for one kid’s school and going on one field trip per year per kid, I don’t volunteer a whole ton throughout the school year. Even though I run my own business from the comforts of home and seemingly have more flexibility than parents who routinely travel for business or must physically be in their offices 40 hours per week, it’s difficult for me to commit to meetings and whatnot and still keep my schedule open enough to accommodate my work demands. So, I’ve learned to say no. After all, I only have six and half kid-free hours each day, and I work 50-60 hours per week.

That is, until this time of year. Sign. Me. Up. Suddenly there are more hours in the day. It’s balls to the wall. Get it done. Why? Because, you guys, this is the good stuff. This is what it’s all about.

I couldn’t care less about all the little classroom celebrations throughout the year. Honestly, I think they’re too much. The kids are in school to learn, not constantly find excuses to consume large quantities of sugary baked goods. And, I don’t know about anyone else, but my kids have plenty of learning yet to do. I am perfectly content teaching them about appropriate, healthy sugar consumption at home.

But, the activities, traditions, and celebrations at the end of the school year, especially for the grades about to transition to new schools, are a whole different ball of wax. They’re rights of passage. They’re opportunities for the kids to celebrate themselves and each other — past, present, and future.

And, this stuff is all about the kids. Please pause and hear me say that again, a little bit slower. It. Is. All. About. The. Kids.

While I am not volunteering at full capacity this spring, I have friends who are. They are bending over backwards to create incredible experiences for our kids; giving them the gift of lifelong memories.

Sadly, some parents of the kids who stand to benefit from all these volunteers’ hard work, are dissatisfied with how the volunteers are handling things. And, they’ve been vocal. I have not borne the brunt of this stuff, but some moms I know have — they’ve been on the receiving end of nasty emails, angry texts, and even passive-aggressive jabs spoken directly to them. I’m more than slightly miffed.

Excuse me, complainers? Ahem. I know you’re busy. May I have a few words? It’ll just take a minute (really, I promise, I timed it). I want to say four quick things:

It’s All About the Kids

Every single school-sponsored activity going on right now is about the kids. All the kids. Not just yours. Yes, your kid is important. But no more so than anyone elses kid. Absolutely none of this is about you.

Step Up or Shut Up

Quit your bellyaching already. Seriously. Want a say in how things are run? Then offer to help! Oh, you don’t have time? Neither did the rest of us until we consciously decided to make the time. As my dad always said, “Freedom of choice, not from consequence.”

No One Had To Do This

These people are volunteers, giving of their time to create incredible experiences for your children. Do they have something better to do? Probably. Your children are not entitled to these activities and celebrations. They are privileged to have people who care enough to orchestrate them.

Say Thank You

You don’t need to take up a collection to buy the volunteers thank you gifts. You don’t even need to give a card. A verbal thank you, or even an email, is more than enough. Have your kids say it, too. By giving thanks to those who volunteer, you teach your children a huge lesson in how to see, understand, and appreciate the importance of gratitude for others and their unrequired actions.

Our kids emulate what they see. If we don’t want to raise a generation of entitled brats, some of us need to change our game. This is life and the remote control is in your hand. You can press play, pause, and fast forward. But there are no stop or rewind buttons. Where’s your thumb?


Also published on Medium.

3 comments

  1. Laura, I loved this. It’s true, every word. I have a son who just “graduated” from 8th grade at AMS, and am about to help out tomorrow morning with a TBS 5th grade field day. The organizers are tirelessly committed and put up with too much crap from other parents!

    1. I just don’t understand. I will admit, I got very feisty with a school volunteer one time and one time only several years ago. But there were extreme extenuating circumstances. The stuff I’ve heard about the past few weeks is just ridiculous.

  2. Hi Laura,
    As a retired teacher I had many problems with too many movies being shown and parties, and other “events” in school.
    There were constant disruptions to the children’s schedules, and children need a set constant schedule.
    I would just get something started and then we would have an assembly or this or that.
    And yes, it should be all about the kids.
    You go!!
    xo
    Wendy

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