A few years ago one of the parents at our school started a Kindergarten Parent Meeting on the second day of school. It is a place where the PTO board introduces itself, discusses volunteer opportunities, and talks about the various events that the PTO sponsors for students. Kindergarten parents meet, share their fears, worries, hopes, and ask a bunch of questions.
I decided to attend today, in hopes of meeting some new parents. Ironically, most of the parents in the room were parents of 2nd or 3rd or even 5th children, so I did know them already. Of the few fresh faces, all had students in the other morning class, but it was still nice to introduce myself and get a feel for the “newbies”.
At the end of the event, the chairperson for the PTO Hospitality committee gave a speech about why PTO is more than just fundraising and volunteering. Her speech was moving, and very true. She highlighted some personal events and how it was amazing to see all of these people from her children’s school band together to help in a time of need. She said that a catastrophe, in one sense, became inspirational and positive, in another. She honed in on one thing–the community that she has built through her ties with the PTO.
The speech made me think of why *I* joined the PTO, or more accurately, why I have decided to volunteer my time with the PTO. I can come up with several points as to why I did become active…but it all comes down to that same thing: finding a community.
When Jake started kindergarten, I had 3 children 5 (almost 6) and under. My five year old gave me limited information about school, because he couldn’t communicate effectively. My three year old was in special-ed preschool (aka Early Childhood). I had a 2 month-old infant. I was isolated and spent most of my hours at home with my 3 boys. However, one of the things I did do from the very beginning was to volunteer to be the head room parent.
The PTO runs the head room parent committee. I met with other moms who had kiddos in Jake’s class. Many of us were first timers at the school. We had similar questions. We were intimidated by the same teachers and events. We bumbled along together and laughed about how we were the blind leading the blind. It was through that very first experience that I realized that I could have a group of moms who I could relate to, and that I could spend time with talking about kid stuff and everything else in between. In talking with some of them, I had my first suspicions that Jake was less mature than his peers, and a little more socially awkward…and that was a good thing. It pushed me to look into the “why” behind it.
While I sometimes grumble about the time I spend at the school, I think it’s great to get out there and be visible. I get to have more interaction with the school staff, with the kids, and my own kids can see me there. They all know I’m vested in the school and activities. I get to work with the general ed kids, and I get to see what some of them are excited about and how they interact. It helps give me some perspective on what my boys may want to do, or what they may not.
I am able to talk to parents and we find that more often than not, we all have similar hopes and worries. We all want our children to have an even-keeled day. We want our kids to be happy and to feel safe. We all hate it when our children struggle with some sort of anxiety, or if they have to deal with a not-so-nice peer.
The best part seems to be that other parents watch out for my boys. Having kiddos who may be easy targets for bullies, or who may struggle to keep up with the whole puts one on edge and fills one with worry, at times. However, I love it when another parent can tell me that Tate did great and got all of his laps in during the walk-a-thon, or that Jake was laughing and giggling with a few of his other classmates at the book fair. More “little-moments-that-aren’t-so-little” are always appreciated!
Really, joining a PTO is important for everyone, but for me, it has been a life line. A life line to the students, to the staff, to the other parents. It has given me social connections, allowed me to find some great support for my children, and has given me hope that even if I’m not there, my boys have some other parents watching their backs.