Preschool Parent Helper.
The very words fill me with a debilitating mixture of paralyzing dread and delight. I know, that’s confusing and slightly crazy sounding, but it’s true.
Ten years ago I would have been all sorts of excited to be the parent helper. I’d have bought in some kind of super-duper Martha Stewartish cupcakes or cookies with sprinklers and confetti bombs attached.
These days, we aren’t allowed to bring those kinds of snacks to school. We’re reduced to grapes, Cheerios and teensy cups of tepid tap water.
Any who… each month as my parent helper gig approaches, I fill with dread. The mere thought of three hours at the preschool reduces me to a frantic frenzied mass of anxiety. I get hung up on all the writing I need to finish, the books I need to read, and the deadlines I need to meet. For at least a few moments, it might even cross my mind that I’ll be wasting my precious writing time. I briefly resent noodle necklaces and doling out grapes to tiny tyrants, some of whom don’t like green grapes and they expect you to know they only eat red grapes, dammit!
Later, after I’ve finished thinking all of those selfish thoughts, I’m filled with remorse. I take a bath in a giant tub filled with guilt and maternal failure. I wallow in the stench of self-absorption and wonder what kind of mother gets all worked up about spending three hours at preschool? What kind of woman is so selfish that she’d dread three hours in the presence of her precious child and her burgeoning social set?
I’m told I’ll miss these years and I know I will. Really, I do. I already see glimpses of the Gwen who will be in high school in a few short years. She’ll balk at the thought of spending three hours in my presence. Her social life will hold an air of mystery. There will be secrets she won’t share with me anymore.
So on Parent Helper Day, when I find a Lilliputian-sized chair, sort through some blocks and immerse myself in their tiny wonderful world, I’m always so thrilled to be there. Seriously…and here’s why. Is there any other place on the planet that legally allows people to randomly pull down their pants to display the boo-boo on their privates? I don’t think so. You want to know the best part about that unabashed moment of sharing? It was that, at four years old, not a single one of those 13 kids raised an eyebrow. Hell, some of them didn’t even notice.
Thank goodness for preschool and the fantastic teachers who steer our children toward social norms. While I bit the inside of my cheek, drawing blood to avoid laughter, one of our teachers helped that kid understand that junk displays just aren’t acceptable at school. In her happy Mary Poppins voice, she hypnotized that boy and commanded him to pull up his drawers. I swear she did. She’s magical and thank goodness!
Who knows what would have happened if it weren’t for Miss Mary. Take the whole butterfly effect into account…had she not been there to intervene and I was the only ill-equipped adult in the vicinity, my laughter might have placed that kid at serious risk. He might have been destined for a future filled with flashing and let’s be honest, after the age of 5, that kind of stuff starts to get creepy.
Putting the flashing aside, my parent helper gig happened to fall on Cookie Swap day. The mommies all got together at a mommy’s house and swapped deliciousness while I was busy suppressing belly laughs as one of their kids pulled his drawers down in the middle of the classroom.
I was bummed to miss the Cookie Swap so I decided that I’d contribute anyway. I made these Martha Stewartish melted snowman cookies.
Okay, maybe they look more like something Martha Stewart would turn out if she was coming off a week long crack bender, but still… I tried.
Last year I’d have made them perfect. I would have made perfect sugar cookie dough, perfect royal icing and I’d have used all the right cake decorating tools to make my melted snowman perfectly perfect.
But then I started taking medication.
(No, seriously. I’m taking ADHD meds now and I’m way less psychotic about details than I’ve been for most of my life. It’s somewhat refreshing to not give that much of a shit what my snowmen cookies look like.)
So, last night I spent three hours making my melted snowman cookies because there’s still a little corner in my brain where the little psycho lady hides. She nagged, Make some cookies stupid or the other mommies will think you suck!
So I listened to her.
By 9:30, my eyes were burning and my hand hurt from squeezing tiny buttons, noses and scarves onto 36 snowmen. I simply stopped caring what the cookies looked like.
I let it go.
And when I sat in the preschool classroom with 13 little people, Kate and two magical teacher ladies, I laughed and I smiled and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.