Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Little Perspective Folks

Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.” - Unknown

Somehow I volunteered to be a Room Parent for Bianca’s school. I am not sure how I ended up volunteering. I got a call out of the blue saying that I had signed a form indicating thatI was interested. I have no recollection of signing the form at all. The only thing I can figure is that after another sleepless night, I blindly signed the form while in a walking coma.

 It isn’t a huge responsibility, and I was glad to be able to help. I volunteer to help in recess once a week and I love all the kids in the class and would do anything for them. Being a Room Parent basically requires that you plan a couple of parties: Halloween and Christmas. Pretty easy stuff, but when you have three kids (one with special needs) and work full-time, and work an opposite schedule of your spouse… time can be hard to come by. I missed planning the Halloween party because my dad broke his hip during the planning week and I went to be with him and support my mom. So I am trying to do a lot more for Christmas to make up for not being so involved last time around.

Planning this week has been fun. The kids are going to get a Santa House Christmas Ornaments with their picture in it, we are going to be making personalized stockings, and they are going to get a surprise visit from the jolly elf himself. The teacher told me today that her son was going to come and do Christmas carols as well. It should be a really great time and a lot of fun for everybody… this is the part I love; Doing stuff for the kids and making them happy. I love seeing the smiles on their faces, and solidifying the connections that I have made this school year with these absolutely amazing kids and their families.

But then there is the other side of it. The side that conjures up memories of every reason I hated school when I was in it. The bureaucracy, the clicks, the people drunk with the little bit of power they have been given and how SERIOUS everybody is about their position. Certainly this isn’t everybody you encounter along the way, but there is a lot of it… and it drives me crazy.

Here is an example. I received a call from the head of the room parents the other day. She seems like a nice enough lady but this is what she called me about while I was watching my three kids and trying to keep them from killing themselves and/or each other (paraphrased):

“Hello. I was wondering if you had your volunteer and supply list for the holiday party.”

“Uh… no. What supplies exactly are you talking about?”

“I need to know how many plates, utensils, napkins, bowls you may need.”

“Hmm… well there are only 10 kids in the class.”

“OK… so one set of utensils per kid?”

“I guess.”

“How many napkins will you need?”


“How many napkins?”


“I have you slated for 20.”

“Uh… well these are special needs kids you know. They tend to be a little bit messier on the whole. My daughter can’t even use utensils by the way.”

“OK… I will make it 30 then.”


“How about volunteers? I didn’t receive a volunteers list from your class.”

“The only real volunteer is my wife I guess, but not really. But you know that the other parents and family members tend to come, right? It is nice to be able to get together with them.”

“Oh dear. Well, if that is true then they will have to stop by the office and get name tags because they won’t have any already filled out.”

                “That is unfortunate.”

OK… the other room parent and I should be a little more organized. This is our first stab at this, so we are a little green. That said, having attended the Room Parent meeting at the beginning of the year my wife and I marveled at how seriously people took their responsibility. Maybe you need that kind of skill set when you have a class of 20+ neurotypical kids. I am sure one can get a little frazzled trying to plan something that will entertain them, and I am certain that all of the parents don’t attend the party. In fact, I would hazard to guess that none of them do except for the volunteers.

Don’t even get me started on “Drink Gate”. Apparently some Room Parent went “rogue” and sent a note home without prior approval to all the kids in the class saying that they were responsible for the drinks at the Cookies with Santa event when all that people were supposed to supply was cookies. Oh the humanity! Cats and dogs living together! What are you going to do with beverages?!?

A part of me is jealous. It must be nice to have the luxury of worrying about bringing cookies to school and how many napkins you need to be allotted. It dawned on me that part of trying to raise awareness for autism is making people aware of what our version of worrying about napkins are… They run the gambit from diapers and playing with poop to hoping that your child keeps her shoes and socks on while driving to therapy. We worry about things like ABA and health insurance reform. We stress out about whether or not we are focusing enough on our marriage and giving it the time and energy that another human being deserves. You worry about who will care for your child once you are gone and who you trust to care for them now when they are young. We fear that our special one’s siblings will resent them for the limitations placed on their daily life… if you even dare to have more children. You stress over your child losing skills and wonder if it is just because the season changed or are they regressing further?

Perspective is a heck of thing to gain. I would never in a million years waste a second thinking about giving a napkin count to somebody for a party. I don’t really care about utensils either. All I care about is that the kids have a great time and that they get to laugh and be happy. It would be nice to worry about such trivialities, but I feel like my life is so much more enriched for not being allowed to do so.

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