Elementary school politics: how little can I participate?

Filed under: Day Care & Education

Tonight I'm attending my youngest child's Kindergarten Round Up, which I can't help but picture like a rodeo with the principal trying to lasso the kids into the school. Which I know it's not like that since I've done this once before, but tell me wouldn't it be a lot more exciting if it were like that?

Anyway, I read Laura at 11D's post yesterday titled "Engineering Popularity" and at first the only part which resonated with me was the mistaken belief that "...elementary school was sort of like college with lunchboxes."

I've been picturing it all day, dropping Max off down the street at the elementary school with an old futon and all his clothes come September. Like me, Laura quickly realized the whole 'school' thing wasn't so much a return to a more self centered life she (and I) once enjoyed as it was a new chapter in being a parent.

She talks about the moms (the A-List) who are very involved in the school, how it appears the children who are considered cool at this stage are the ones with mothers who are the super involved PTA moms. An in crowd where the mothers all know each other and arrange playdates. The A-List parents seem to insure their children are A-List as well.

I have an interesting perception being on both sides of this apparent phenomenon.My son currently attends a preschool where I happen to have met the mothers I wish I'd met about seven years ago as I started this ride as a mother. Because we're all good friends we have weekly playgroups, family dinners, one on one playgroups and our kids are pretty much enmeshed in one another's lives.

I've not done it so my son could be 'popular' I assure you, I gravitate to my comfort zone and playdates and playgroups with the women I already know are much easier for my introverted self. But from the outside, it could appear that my group of friends and I are a clique. 

On the other hand, I am not involved at my daughter's school at all. I'd hoped to move her to the school in the neighborhood we hope to buy a house in, and so I think I've not been very committed to her school. Also I've had extremely bad experiences with large groups of mothers in the past, so the PTA and hyper-involvement (with it's politics and gossip) makes me want to peel the skin off my face.

As a result I rarely host playdates for my daughter, I just never even think to ask. With my son's preschool friends it's so simple to just bring one of them home from school. Somehow not knowing any of the other mothers at my daughter's school makes it seem more complicated to call and arrange a playdate. I know that my friend who is very involved in her daughter's school is constantly having kids over after school and participating in carpools and such.

Thinking about Laura's piece a little more, I realized how she's kind of right. It's not so much that my daughter will be unpopular if I don't volunteer and get involved at her school. I'm just realizing as I prepare to send my youngest to kindergarten I may need to change a little. I may need to be more friendly and involved with the other mothers at the school in order to help him develop good friends in his class like he has now in preschool.

This is hardly my forte and so I'm absolutely dreading it already. Why can't we just live in a neighborhood where kids just play and I don't have to set up playdates? Just please, please don't make me participate in the PTA. Please?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.