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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Mosh-Pit Conundrum

She's back!!  My dear friend, Karen, MWOB extraordinaire, beautiful mama, and incredible writer. Kicking off the week with a MWOB guest blogger makes my heart happy. Enjoy Karen's unique perspective and don't forget to show her some comment love.  

I’ve been in the midst of some real-life conundrums (yes, conundrums – a beloved word passed down from my beloved father). The kind of conundrums that keep the wheels turning in your head while you automatically go through the chores of the day and place your replies to your kids on autopilot so as not to fully interrupt your train of thought. See, right now, my daughter is trying to get me to read her a book, but I don’t have time for that sort of thing right now.

Anyway, what I’ve been trying to put my finger on for about, say 6 or 7 years, is…

If Utah is the equivalent of a concert stadium full of radical supermoms (and you have to live here to see this must be true), then does that make the ultimate supermom haven, the PTA, the mosh-pit of supermom-dom? Isn’t PTA the exact center of a school community where moms (and sometimes dads, God bless them) jostle for a place to fit in and stand strong on their own two feet?

I mean, we all know what happens in the mosh-pit, right? It is pretty much impossible to stay still, independent and confident here. This is not a place for peaceful enjoyment, it is a place of maniacal fear – fear of spilled drinks, fear of sweaty smelly pushy people, fear of going deaf, fear of going unnoticed and being trampled… the list of fears is infinite in the mosh-pit. Now that I mention it, I guess this is a lot like the reality of parenthood… a lot of the mosh-pit fears relate, don’t you think?

So I sit here in the middle of the ultimate supermom-land, Utah, in the center of the mosh-pit that is PTA – Hence my conundrum… Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of inadequate moms like me like a PTA meeting, right? So how on God’s snowy, freezing earth did I get here? I mean, truly, is this my life?

I must regress for a minute. I was one of those young, single, career-minded women who looked with disdain at stay-at-home-moms focusing all their energies on OTHERS and leaving NOTHING behind for THEMSELVES! Sound familiar? PTA to me sounded like a little slice of hell. Parents spending inordinate amounts of time focusing on cupcakes and award ribbons, perfecting the art of pats on the back, thumbs up and pom-pom shaking, driving their ungrateful urchins around the world to this and that in a, gasp… MINIVAN! I knew that this picture of domesticity and parent-involvement was not me and was never going to be me – thank the Lord!!!

Well… as a show of what could be divine retribution, or maybe a little of karma kicking me off my high horse… here I am now…

And here…

Yes, I have become my worst nightmare – a PTA mom. I am completely trying to reconcile this part of me with what I consider to be the REAL part of me – the part that is “too cool for school” – WAY too happy to let the supermoms to their own devices, while I kick back and marvel how great it is that I don’t have the patience or skills for PTA.

I bring all this up right now because after 3 years of PTA inactivity (due to the birth of my 3-yr-old who has her own story of survival of the fittest), I AM BACK!

And, guess what? I may not have the patience, but I do have the skills – I’m a television producer and production coordinator for PETE’s SAKE! I can put together a team of motivated parents to organize a literacy week, right? RIGHT! So I’ve realized something as I am back in the familiar school library, taking in the collection of faces all looking at me as I describe what goodies we’ve planned for the teachers and students to promote literacy (gasp! A real, bona-fide, educational goal). What no cupcakes? No pom-poms? My realization is not earth-shattering, it’s not even original...

…PTA is US – you, me – all of us

Parents of all colors, shapes, sizes, backgrounds, cultures, religions, financial groups, social groups, some have jobs outside the home, some don’t, some dress up, some dress down, some look happy, some look downright irritable, some have snotty nosed kids running around, some sit in the back, some in the front, some bring coffee (Lord knows we don’t serve coffee in a Utah PTA meeting), some partake of snacks, some are relaxed, some are rushed… I mean look at it – its EVERYONE!

We all come to the table because of one goal – to be involved in our kids’ lives – to have a voice in what happens in the place they spend the majority of their days in the majority of their formative years.

THIS is EXACTLY why I’m here:

Groups like PTA and other parent-involved groups are intimidating, scary and sometimes appear to be exclusive and cliquish. But I think that is the nature of a mosh-pit. It’s a love-fest for those brave enough to enter into the middle of it. And yes, I still constantly marvel how I ended up here, but I have to say, I’m happy to be here. I’m glad I made the choice (with MUCH trepidation) to jump in – it’s the only way to do it!

The conundrum of how I got here still buzzes around in my head now and again, but I’m starting to look at it more like, “look how far I’ve come” - with a little feeling of pride attached to it, actually!

I’m impressed with the folks that surround me at those PTA meetings. Everyone with their own stories and their own paths to being there. It is SO not my place to judge anyone there, supermom, superdad or supermom imposter (like me). 

So I apologize to PTA parents across the nation back when I was in my 20’s and completely ignorant of what it REALLY means to be a parent. You rock! And to all my friends out there in cyber-land who are still afraid of the PTA – just dip a toe in now and then to see how it feels and then…. You never know, you could be sucked in! Ha! 

Let’s all meet in the mosh-pit soon! I’ll bring the cupcakes and I won’t tell anyone if you need to spike your cup of fruit punch!


  1. PTA - yikes! I am on two PTA boards and I am not sure I will do it again...

  2. PS - If I worked with people like Karen on the PTA, I would probably enjoy it a whole lot more. Some, not all, of the moms I work with are PTA Nazis and they scare me. (OK, not really, but they drive me nuts.)

    Keep up the good work, Karen. The schools do need people like you!

  3. That was awsome! :) I am on 2 comittees at work now, and help out with a huge fundraiser currently. You never know who you are going to meet, it is so exciting and scary at the same time. I have a few years yet to contemplate PTA, but I am sure I will take part! I am a firm beliver that good things don't just happen, you have to make them, trial and error it, and hopefully succeed! ya karen-aka the original super mom!

  4. Show interest in our kid's educations?

    Really? What an interesting concept!


    Loved it.

    BTW Lee if you're reading do read your own blog even when you have guest poster, don't you? hee hee

    I have something for you at my blog.

    Ahem. You need to make a shelf in here. If you need me to I'll come in and dust it for you once a week, k?


  5. I've been on these PTA groups for so long - I can't even remember life before them. And I have met some of my best friends through them.

  6. Thanks for the nice comments, ladies. Hot off the presses, we have an interesting law being proposed here in Utah by one of our more out there legislators - SB199 - it will restrict PTA from the public schools because it charges a $5 per person membership fee. Does that seem weird? Seems like an unlikely organization to pick on considering what it does for the schools and children of the state... hmmmm.

  7. The PTA at our elementary school scares the living hell out of me. They are some intense ladies. I went to one meeting, cracked one joke and they just stared at me. Awkward pause.... and then started talking to each other again.

  8. it's true... the right and good thing is to try to ignore the bad (i realize i am judging, but there is bad in our pta) and be involved for the kids. i am on my last year of elementary school, and have chaired fundraisers, book fairs, and the like and am completely burned out. i have my eye on the finish line, cause the good news is, they don't want you or need you in middle school and high school. YAY!

  9. ps: great to see karen back! when is she going to cave and get her own blog???? twist her arm, for goodness sake!

  10. I am still like you "were" in the "I'll never be like that" stage! But, you're so right, Karen, that even though it's scary, you're all in it because you CARE about the KIDS. This is more than I can say for a lot of people out there, and we should be eternally grateful to people like you.

  11. What a great post. I've never been part of a PTA, although I've done volunteer work for them in the (long-distant since my only child is a High School Senior) past.

  12. I can not tell a lie. I went to one parent meeting and was a nervous sweaty mess. If we could meet on Twitter I would be all set...

  13. Great post, Karen. You sum up the trepidation and insecurity that comes with the "mosh-pit" of PTA. (Love that term!!).

    I agree, if we keep our eye on the goal (creating a better school enviornment for the people that matter the most...OUR KIDS) we can deal a little more with the scariness of it all.

    I know your daughters' school is extremely lucky to have a mom like you on its PTA. Way to go!! :-)

  14. Oh my kindred I was voted PTA president for next year.

    Part of me was thrilled.
    And part of me.
    A BIG part of me? Wanted to run for the hills screaming "NO! I used to BE SOMEBODY!"

    I hear ya.
    Like driving home late at night after one too many cocktails and thought 'how the hell did I get here?' (yeah, like I am the only one)....I often in the PTA meeting and think the SAME THING.

    Which convinces me...I must have been drunk when I signed up.

    loved this post.
    Clearly Lee knows good peeps...

  15. Hey Karen! It's me, Chris Sneddon who used to work with your hubby! Girl, you hit the nail on the head! You could be speaking about me. lol. I vowed that IF I had kids, (and we know I did) I would NEVER become a, as I liked to call them, a 'stepford wife, PTA mom'. Not in this lifetime. How things change. I am on the historian for my son's school PTA which I originally took for strictly selfish reasons because the historian is supposed to photograph activites involving the school and I'm a photographer. No brainer, right? I figured take pictures and that's all I'm doing. Hardly. I'm in the thick of the PTA and loving every moment of it. Who knew?! I've cooridnated a fall festival, a school musical and I'm the official photographer of the school and yearbook and....wait for it...I LOVE every single moment of it!! Believe me when I say, I know where you're coming from!

  16. I'm going to take the plunge next Fall, once Youngest is in preschool and I have "free" time to hit the elementary school for Oldest.

    Note: I've bookmarked your post to give me some intestinal fortitude come September. Those ladies scare me. Em

    (hi Lee!)

  17. i'm not judging you but I'm still not getting a minivan. LOL

  18. Oh yes Utah is the land of Supermom's. Trust me it's next to impossible to keep up.

    I am still just trying to grip that my oldest is in 1st grade and #2 will be starting kindergarten next year.

    I still have yet to get too involved..a field trip here, helping in class a few times...but not the PTA!! I know I am sure my day will come when all of a sudden I am stuck right in the middle of it all, but at least I have avoided the MINIVAN.

    When I heard about the proposed legislation, i thought the same thing?? Say what?

    I still think schools need a "kindergarten round up" for first time parents too! Wouldn't that make jumping into the whole my kids are in school deal a little easier.

    BTW your girls are getting so big and grown up. I can't believe it!

  19. Wow - great post Karen. You were writing about me with all that trepedation about the PTA, although ours is called PTG (I guess we just have to be different). And so does Utah ... restricting the PTA from public schools WHAT???????? Is that an oxymoron or what?

  20. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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