Wednesday, August 22, 2007

like old home week

Next week Lola will start pre-k. She's going to a new preschool for this, the same preschool Iris Uber Alles attended. Lola herself is puffed up with pride over this and has been informing the world (including disinterested strangers), "I'm in pre-k!" She'll spend four hours a day at her new school, most of which will be playing freely indoors or out. I'll be there at least one day a week, working my assigned shift.

Last night I said to myself, "It all begins again" as I headed off to a three hour evening meeting. The two co-op preschools we've been a part of are very, very different, and one of the biggest, glaring differences is that at Lola's new school, there are A Lot Of Meetings. Parents must attend at least two night meetings a month, while at Lola's old school, we could go several months without a single meeting. Last night's was the most annoying in many ways, because it was an orientation for first-time parents. I am not a first-time co-op parent. This is year six of toiling in the co-op preschools for me. I'm past seasoned and into overcooked and oversalted by now. It's ridiculous for me to be required to spend three hours listening to someone explain how It Is Deathly Vital That You Be On Time for Your Workday, and, unlike six years ago, I'm not wound up about potty training my child.

My entire goal for the evening was to wangle a seat on the single couch. The evening passes so much more pleasantly if one is not perched on a tiny preschool wooden chair. As I strode quickly towards the couch, I was so happily surprised to see two returning families, delightful European families. We had all been there six years before together, and we'd served on the same committee together and had our children in the same room for years. The husbands gallantly yielded the good seating. "Look at us, we're like princesses," one wife said, as we veteran mommies relaxed on the couch.

At the midpoint of the evening, the no-nonsense vice president said that at the break, we needed to sign up for our committees. Immediately the princesses of the couch tensed up: There were about sixty people on little wooden chairs between us and those pieces of paper. "You need to push in there," hissed one to her husband. "Don't stand in my way," I said to that same husband. It was just as well I didn't have my husband for this; he's far too polite and sees the humor in these situations too much, rendering him ineffective. The year I let him go to the meeting alone where the sign-ups were out, he hung back and called me on his celphone to inform me that there were only two choices left, each a horrible, hateful choice. That's what you get when you send a Sober Husband to do a Drunken Housewife's work.

One of the husbands got up to start making his way over, and the vice president, with an edge in her voice, told him to sit back down. We got more tense. I put my sewing down. At the break, we were off. "Excuse me, excuse me," I pushed among the poor, overwhelmed new parents. One woman said to no one in particular, "Why are they racing to get to the table?" "As you'll know for next year, this one moment will determine your happiness for the entire year," I said. I wriggled in and managed a spot on a happy slacker committee, my old committee from the happier days of the past. Equipment! Feeding fish and mending broken toys! So much less stressful than fundraising or event planning.

Once that was done, we were free to mingle. I had a lovely chat with a woman I'd happily spotted in the sea of little wooden chairs. Our life stories are similar: back in the nineties, we were hotties roaming the Burning Man playa in skimpy clothes, with a trail of broken hearts in our wake. Now we are older and heavier, wearing much more concealing clothing, with husbands we picked from the playa throng and little children. It turns out that we've both taken up sewing. She has a serger, though, the hussy. (I want a serger and an embroidery machine, dammit). We're going to get together and sew.

I asked the vice president if my husband truly had to attend an orientation as well, given that he'd spent six years laboring in the preschool mines and had been to various orientations before. "Everyone has to go to orientation," she said with no humor. "Look over there at Maria, she TAUGHT pre-k here, and she has to go to orientation." This struck me as patently ridiculous. Why be proud of wasting the time of Maria (who used to teach Iris Uber Alles's preschool room and was greatly loved by all)? (Let the record reflect that the extremely patient and good-natured Maria had no complaints herself and was as cheerful and warm as ever, truly a woman of a superior nature to your old Drunken Housewife).

At home, I filled the husband in. "The main thing is they outlawed alcohol." In the old days, we used to bring bottles to share to our evening meetings and work parties. (The Europeans and the Drunken Housewife all murmured disapprovingly when the new, abstemious policy was announced. "We used to have wine," one European mother said mournfully). "And you're going to have to do an orientation, too."

I pity the vice president who must orient the Sober Husband; the man has a low tolerance for being made to sit in meetings. My old playa acquaintance is much better suited for co-op life in that regard. "As a civil servant, I have acquired a very high tolerance for meetings," she said perkily.


hughman said...

how will the school know if you have wine at the meetings? are they held at the school? don't you have a flask?

Lee said...

Just pour the wine into grape juice containers!

Missy said...

The infinite capacity for meetings for some people is astounding. Never send an email or a memo when you can have a meeting and bore people in person. The ballet studio requires a meeting for parents before recital, unless you have been in two or three years. I was so thrilled to bypass that. The Nutcracker meeting, however, is still mandatory no matter what.

I feel badly for laughing so hard at the description of the committee sign-up.

hughman said...

meetings are only an opportunity to judge everyone else there and make fun of the speakers. also think about what you want for dinner.

Freewheel said...

This brings back bad memories of our 2 years involved with a horribly-run co-op. The first year, we got stuck with the job of "buyer." Before school even started (and right after my wife had baby #2) we started getting pestering phone calls informing us that we needed to buy more paper towels, etc and run them up to the school.

We were also called to many pointless meetings, including one about parking (neighbors had apparently complained about the parking situation). I resented this meeting a great deal because (1) it didn't apply to us and (2) an email would have done the trick.

Trouble said...

You know, I never really realized how much going to shows like Black Flag in 1986 would help me when it came time to things like PTA meetings.



Anonymous said...

I have two friends currently creating their camps for their annual trek to the playa ... ah, me wishes I could join them!

Parent meetings crack me up for some reason. I guess it's the people-watching obsession I have - I find them so very entertaining!!