When I state that I am a misanthrope, my friends say that this is not true. I may have a low tolerance for morons, but I generally like people, they insist. But sometimes I wonder.
I am the kind of person who knew years before I even thought about being a mother, that I could not belong to a Cooperative pre-school. I knew that even if most of the parents were great, there would be one annoying parent that I would want to throttle every time they opened their mouth.
So despite peer pressure from friends, I have stayed true to myself. Although I have been occasionally tempted by cooperative schools because they seem so...nice, I chose an elementary school that was not cooperative but encourages lots of parent participation. My son's elementary school is particularly liberal and politically correct, the focus is on mixed age classrooms, with a particular "emphasis on diversity" and social and emotional development. (Let's just say there's a transgendered kid in his k-1 class.) It's a lovely place, very creative and inviting, but also academically challenging for my son. He has the most amazing teacher I've ever seen. I wish he could have her every year.
BUT. As you can imagine, this kind of school can attract a kind of over-thinking liberal parent. You know the type; the ones that never let their child play a game where the end result is that someone actually wins or loses (horrors!). The type of parent that if their child was tantrumming in the middle of a family party, would never send the child to their room to calm down because that would be "emotionally abandoning" their child. Instead this parent would spend 20 minutes talking with their child about their EMOTIONS in the middle of the living room, as family members were forced to look on.
Personally,I never spank my child, I don't think it's really productive, nor is it a good way to teach children to not express their anger physically. However, unlike the kind of parent I describe, I do not consider the occasional swat on the bottom to be some kind of physical and mental abuse.
To each his own, though. Whatever works. I just don't want to have to be on the same school committee as those parents.
Whenever you volunteer for committees at school, it's always a bit of a crap shoot. My first experience was great - coordinating the classroom art project for the auction. We were a great team and I made three new friends of the parents involved. And then there was the grandparents/seniors tea. Mostly good, although the woman who chaired the event was insanely particular. I swear to God, you couldn't move a napkin without her approval. For the same event, there was a woman who decided to bring her deviled egg fixings to the school and make them there. I should add here that the school's galley kitchen is apartment-sized, not mcmansion-sized. There were ten parent volunteers getting trays and teapots ready, and this woman with her mixer and bowls splattering hard-boiled eggs everywhere. I heard later from the school's director that the woman had made them at home last year, but that they had "gotten mushed" on the way to school. I just thought " Have you hear of that new-fangled invention called tupperware, lady?"
Which brings me to my latest committee. The fall festival committee. Everything was going great with the two other parents and myself, until the frizzy-haired granola woman showed up. Up to this point I had thought that fhgw was kind of cute. She had warmed my heart and tapped into my adoption radar because she has a biological daughter that is around six, and a clearly Chinese girl that looks to be about 18 months. But within minutes of her sitting down I knew we were in trouble. When I suggested a Halloween bingo game for the kids that used the letters G-H-O-S-T, instead of B-I-N-G-O. She scrunched up her face all funny and said, "I don't have much experience with Bingo. Is it just numbers??" I said, well yeah, it's Bingo, so instead of B4, it would be G4." Fhgw's confused looked remained, but was accentuated by slightly disturbed look. "I don't know...It's just numbers?" she said.
"pretty much," I said. "Well if YOU guys like that, but I'd much rather do something more cooperative."
I had actually wondered whether Bingo was appropriate anyways, because it's gambling, not because her 6 year would get bored. I could give a flip whether we played Bingo or not, but I guarantee you, if you have a roomful of people aged from 6 to 96, and you give everyone a Bingo card with the possibility that they can win something - anything - you will have roomful of avid Bingo players. I've seen it happen.
We dropped the Bingo idea and moved on to a variety of other activities, all of which had to be assessed though the prism of their educational, social and developmental merits. When a cake walk was suggested, fhgw was concerned about giving out cupcakes, because her daughter is wheat and glucose intolerant, in fact BOTH of her daughters, both the biological and adopted one, have a plethora of food allergies. Of course they do, fhgw. During the five minute conversation that followed I truly started to lose patience.
FHGW was also concerned that the potluck portion of the party was from 4pm-6pm, as that was right before dinner. She was very concerned about everyone's children filling up on junk. "For fuck's sake, lady," was all I could think, "Just bring your own damned food." What really sent me over the edge was when she suggested that everyone who brings food should also bring a label to put on their food containers that contained all of the ingredients within. I suggested putting out a general reminder to keep in mind that there are nut, wheat and glucose allergies at the school and if you have a good recipe that omits those ingredients it would be great to make it. She insisted, "No, I don't want people to limit themselves, if they can just write all (my italics) of the ingredients down and label their food.."
When the meeting came to it's merciful end, I was deeply, deeply relieved to distance myself from fhgw before I fucked up and said somehing snottily sarcastic.
Later in the evening, after I had vented to my husband, I happened to pick up the school roster. FHGW's daughter has a first name that is spelled traditionally, but has an unusual pronunciation. Almost everybody pronounces this name with the accent on the first syllable, but this family puts the accent on the second syllable. Every single day of her life this kid is going to correcting people on the pronunciation of her name. But as I looked closer at the roster, I noticed something else. The daughter's last name was an amalgamation of her parents last names. For example, if the mother's last name was Coleman, and the father's last name was Burton, the child's name was Coleburt. Coleburt, as well as this child's name probably exists somewhere, but again, is an unusual spelling. I mean if you heard the name Coleburt, wouldn't you instinctively spell it Colbert? Is it just me? This kid is going to be explaining her name over and over and over again. But if she's anything like her mom when she grows, rambling on about herself may be something that she delights in.
So now I'm worried, because fhgw is on the set-up committee. I don't know. What do you think, am I a misanthrope, or are some people just plain nuts?