Cirque du Today: The Elephant in the Room

Cirque du Today18 Comments

I pride myself on volunteering at my son’s elementary school once a week. It’s something I always wanted my own mom to do for me, or at the very least, show up with freshly baked cupcakes for my class on my birthday. But with four young siblings at home, I was lucky when she sent me to school with a slab of apple pie in a sandwich baggie for my birthday lunch. No fork. True story.

Though I’m not quite as frazzled as my own mom was, I’m not capable of being the PTA Mom or the Room Mom. I’m way too disorganized, and shy, and multitask-dysfunctional to be that mom. I’m not the Idea Mom, the one who comes up with all the cute crafts and games to do for the holiday parties–it would take me way too long to clear the cobwebs out of my stay-at-home-mom brain to be that mom. I’m the one who shows up in my kid’s classroom once a week to make copies, file papers, laminate things, staple things, and cut things, and sometimes I even manage to screw one or all of those mindless tasks up. I’m the Manual Labor Mom.

This morning, I got to the classroom expecting the usual routine of putting my brain on auto-pilot, when M’s teacher tells me my skills would be better put to use in the library for the Book Fair. I hope she means they just need some books put away or something–this chick KNOWS me. I smile sweetly and march myself down to the library, palms sweating. I throw open one of the double doors and what greets me is one of my worst Incompetent Mom nightmares (of which there are many). A bunch of Room Moms and PTA Moms are scurrying around directing gangs of kids at various, incomprehensible, complicated CRAFT tables. What the HELL do crafts have to do with reading books?

“Oh,” says a perfectly accessorized, make-upped, perfumed, coiffed PTA Mom. “I hope you’re here to help!”

“Of course,” I answer smoothly, tightening my dirty pony-tail. “What can I do?” Indeed. What CAN I do? None of these craft tables look like they’re in my wheelhouse, but this PTA hooker gives me the one I’m most likely to screw up. The Origami Table.

I guess she has me confused with someone who can a) use simple logic
and problem-solving to erect a three-dimensional animal out of a flat freaking piece of paper, b) follow mind-boggling diagrammed instructions with lots of dashed lines accompanied by foreign terms like “valley fold” and “mountain fold,” and c) withstand feeling like a bumbling moron in front of FIVE revolving groups of wide-eyed, open-mouthed first graders who have never seen a sweaty, red-faced adult arm-wrestling a paper elephant. Origami Table?!! By the time I got done with it, it looked like the Pet Semetary Table. Happy to help.

Cirque du Today: The Elephant in the Room

18 Comments on “Cirque du Today: The Elephant in the Room”

  1. Rachell S.

    This is so much like my experience volunteering at my daughter’s school, I thought the elephant was me! I was a very competent, talented, well dressed mom, but when I got around those PTA Moms, you’d think I had never left my house a day in my life! Suddenly in front of them, my fingernails got dirt underneath them, my black top, so chic moments ago, had enough lint to clog a dryer, and my speech…uh, um, OK….only two syllables!

    You made me feel like a human being again! Please keep telling your stories! They are real, funny, honest, and did I mention, funny?

    1. Ashley

      It’s nice to know this is a universal feeling! It has to be if you and I BOTH feel this way, right?! I think maybe even the Room Mom types have to feel moments of self-doubt…that’s what I tell myself anyway. Thanks for commenting, Rachell! We all do our best, day by day – and even when we fall short of where we think we should be, there’s always room to laugh (or at least smile) at ourselves. 🙂

  2. Carolyn

    All I can say is THANK YOU for the stapling, laminating, cutting and filing! It all matters and it’s all meaningful to the kids and to us other moms 🙂

    1. Ashley

      Ha, you are very welcome. Of course, I have done things like laminate a post-it ON TOP of the sheet I was supposed to laminate. 😉 Thanks for reading, Carolyn!

  3. Margaret rose caro

    Boy do I identify…and I’m an “artist.” Last week, I actually asked the Williams Sonoma clerk to teach me to wrap a present. She said, “Oh, it’s simple. It’s just geometry.” And that’s exactly what I feared…keep ’em coming Ashley.

  4. Kathi Rohe

    I love your blog, Ashley ! You are really a great storyteller & should try writing a book about your Cirque du Life/Family – I love your stories ,

    1. Ashley

      Wow, thank you, Kathi. That means so much to me. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but this is the most I can handle right now. Book authors must spend WEEKS shut up in their rooms writing, and honestly stealing an hour away from this family to write a blog post is a modern miracle! I’m enjoying the process and the feedback so much, though. I need this! Thank you for taking the time to read!

  5. Kathy Radigan

    I think I would have ran the other way the minute they pointed to the Origami Table!! Lol! I’m very impressed that you did it!!! I love this post and so relate. The only thing is my mother and my sister are both the PTA type moms who always have a wonderful craft planned and can do it without breaking a sweat. I’m better at cleaning up or serving juice!! Lol! Thanks for a great read!

    1. Ashley

      Thanks so much for the solidarity, Kathy! I will be reading your blog to come up with the answers on how to deal with a teenage boy (among other things). You can count on that. 😉

    1. Ashley

      OMG, Kristen, I’m sure you did a wonderful job! There will always be “haters” no matter what! I’m sure, no doubt, you gave it your all and you did great. If peeps didn’t like it, they’re welcome to have at it next year. I do my best to support the room moms, throw money at them, give them manual labor (but beg them not to depend on me for crafty ideas), and we have always gotten along just fine. PTA moms are a different story – I give them a wide berth!

  6. Jess at Welcome to the Bundle

    Manual labor mom. That’s me to a tee. I can clean, stack,, or file, but please don’t ask me to come up with a theme for my kid’s birthday. I can barely match my own socks. This was one of those posts that had me thinking, “Thank God it’s not just me.”

  7. Joelle

    I really think our Moms should meet… My Mom would send me to school with a cheese sandwich ONLY, almost every day, nothing else…. and then forget to take the cheese out of it’s wrapper. It was always a big joke at the table with my friends when I’d bite into my sandwich with the wrapper still on the cheese. AND.. I was an only child, it’s not like she had 3 others to pack lunches!! Looking back though, no judgments!!! I’m not sure I’m much better 🙂 and in no way am I ever looking to be at the PTA…. noooooo!!!!

    1. Ashley

      OMG, Joelle, I would love to hear more about your childhood. Our moms DO sound very similar in their scatteredness. 😉 I don’t judge either – really. My childhood was weird but my mom and I have made our peace with it. Still hard to break out of that shadow with my own parenting sometimes. A resounding and definite NO to PTA! I just don’t have it in me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *