A couple of weeks ago I attended my first PTSA event, an ice cream social. It was a simple concept: the school served ice cream in the cafeteria and opened the playground for all of the kids and families to play and mingle. For an introductory event, I thought, this shouldn’t be too hard.
The New Kid Again
It was a bit awkward walking through the crowd of parents and kids. They all seemed to know one another and no one gave me even a glance let alone introduce themselves. After so many years I once again felt like the new kid at school.
I jumped into the rapidly growing line for ice cream and waited as patiently as one can wait for ice cream while managing two small kids. We were offered vanilla or chocolate ice cream in a paper cup along with a compostable spoon. A table full of toppings was nearby but by the time we got to it my son was halfway done with the ice cream. Still he happily accepted all of what was offered: chocolate sprinkles, confetti sprinkles, marshmallows, gummy bears, gummy worms, M&Ms, chocolate sauce, butterscotch sauce, and whipped cream. Now I understood why they made the playground available for the kids.
Outside there was plenty of socializing going on among the parents. I quickly realized, though, that it was because they had kids older than mine. They were free to stand aside and chat among themselves while their children played with lots of friends and little supervision. I, on the other hand, was too busy watching over my sugar-fueled kids to introduce myself. I held shoes and two cups of melted ice cream and candy soup while the kids played. My daughter ran from one playground apparatus to another, making sure I saw the new flips and turns she had learned during her first week of school. My son was busy climbing up, falling down, and getting battered about by the rushing mob of faster kids. Every few minutes an accidental impact would bring about tears.
It Got Better
Later in the evening the kids moved on to the huge sand soccer field. It offered plenty of room to run so I could relax a little bit. About two dozen boys were playing a pick-up game of football. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched that familiar activity.
A few feet to my left a woman watched the game as well. Then my son’s antics caught her eye. I used this as an opportunity to introduce myself and make a friend.
“This is my son,” I said. “He’ll be three in November.” As if on cue, the little barbarian ran over to me.
“Dad, I have a PENITH. YOU have a penith and I have a penith.”
I thought we were done with this.
“Ok, shhh, we don’t need to talk like that here…” I spoke quietly, trying to quell the growing awkwardness of the moment. My words only threw gas onto the fire.
“IHAVEAPENITH! A PENITH, DAAD!” By son grabbed me around my legs and began wrestling with me. “PENIIIITH! DAAAD! PENIIIITH!”
I needed to act fast. “Hey, look!” I exclaimed, pointing toward the far end of the field. “Your sister is all the way on the other side! How fast can you get to her?”
In a cloud of dust he was off and running, straight through the football scrimmage. I cringed, watching him make his way amid the gridiron chaos. My new parent friend seemed unfazed, even mildly amused. “Ooh. He’s a wild boy…”, she laughed.
After a few minutes of conversation I learned we were on the opposite ends of the elementary school experience. My daughter was just starting kindergarten and her son was starting fifth grade, the last grade taught at the school. He was one of the players in the football game.
Eventually my son returned, slightly winded and wanting to be held. I picked him up and squeezed him tightly; a little too tightly it turns out because I felt a rumbling.
“I tooted, Dad!”
“Yes, you did…”
My new friend gave me a knowing nod and said “You have a lot to look forward to.”
A New Start With School
As the sun began to set many of the parents herded their kids into vans and SUVs. I gave mine a little more time because they were having a blast making sand angels.
So, that was my first day as a PTSA parent. I’m not sure how many of these events I will be able to attend since so most of them are during the school day and I work full time. I have heard plenty of stories of the politics of the PTSAs around the country. That doesn’t appeal to me at all. Still, I’m willing to give it a try.
I really do have a lot to look forward too.