Confessions of a PTA Mom
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
I just joined the PTA.
Yes, I know my youngest graduated from high school five years ago and graduated from college last year, but that hasn’t stopped me.
Once I realized there was no parents’ association at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, or at San Diego State or Berkeley – where my two other kids went – I was a bit lost. But no more so than when, after years of PTAs, school site councils, room mom, field trip chaperone, team mom, swim team mom, it was all over. My kids were finished with their K-12 education and I was done with my job. Sure I had worked full- or almost full-time throughout their childhood, but much of that time had been from home. I wanted it that way, so I could be available to be “involved.” And suddenly, all that involvement was gone.
I have a vivid memory of my 4-year old son in tears, claiming he wasn’t going away to college without me. Well, obviously he did, and these days he is planning his wedding.
In fact, as I write this today, my youngest is wine-tasting in Sonoma with his college friends, his older brother is in Texas on a business trip, and my daughter is getting ready to go house-hunting with her boyfriend.
I went to the drugstore for some lotion and Best Buy for an ethernet cable. And took a nap.
The fact is, I’ve been at a loss for five years, in a funk, or in medical terms, a deep depression. While I swore I would never live my life through my children or my involvement in their lives, it just accidentally happened.
I mean, we’re mothers. Even if you’re not as I lucky as I was, and can’t be as ”involved” a mom as society expects us to be, our children ARE our lives. When they grow up and leave the nest, we’re not quite as understanding as the animal kingdom. I had a huge shock to my system when my I realized, to my chagrin, that my children were becoming young adults and didn’t need or necessarily want me involved in their lives. It hurt. It wasn’t their fault, I knew. It was just that I was extremely sad that era of my life was over.
I was saved by a few things. At first, it was my two dogs, on whom I was able to lavish all that extra attention I had stored up. Then it was rediscovering a relationship with my husband. He’s still a pretty good guy after all those years of neglect. It was becoming more involved in my alcohol recovery program. (My addiction was something my years of involvement in kids’ activities kept me from facing – hmmm.)
Still, I felt a hole in myself. What was missing?
It turns out what was missing was me.
Then I heard about this other PTA, the one I just joined. And it’s going to be a lot harder to for me to be involved in it than I was that other PTA.
It’s called Patience, Tolerance and Acceptance. For myself.
It’s meeting myself where I am, not where I think I should be.
It’s having PTA for others, too, especially my kids. As they grow up, they don’t need me to drive them to work or pack healthy treats for their wine-tasting trips; they need Patience, Tolerance, and Acceptance that they will make the right decisions (and Uber, Lyft or stay at a friend’s house when they drink too much).
They need Patience, Tolerance and Acceptance that they are in charge of their own wedding, and don’t need me meddling in their decisions.
They need Patience, Tolerance and Acceptance that they will get married when and where they want, and buy a home when – and if – they want. Or can.
My children need me to be a different type of parent. That starts with me parenting myself, giving myself the love and Patience, Tolerance and Acceptance I gave them.
I don’t know if I even remember how, or if, I even learned how to in the first place. Growing up, my mother and family pointed me in a direction I was “supposed” to go: Get good grades, be involved in school activities, go to a good college, etc. But make no mistake, I put the pressure on myself.
I made sure they loved my husband, and we started a family, all while I was trying to carry out a career. And once a parent, I put it on myself that my kids would live in a community – a lovely neighborhood in Walnut Creek, a San Francisco suburb – where going to college was an expectation, and I did what I thought was expected of me: I became one of “those” parents.
I don’t regret any of it, or begrudge my sisters- and brothers-in-arms who did it alongside me. And some people can do it all, many because they have no choice. But to quote the title of one of my favorite books, “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” I should have expected it to start crumbling down. It almost did a couple of times.
I really don't know how I would have survived the pressures of this past year like the parents of school-age children have, with the pandemic, distance-learning and parenting all rolled into one. Or single parents of any size, shape or color. But they all churn out kids they can be proud of.
And make no mistake, I am very proud of the young adults my children have become. I’ve been proud of them at every stage of their lives. But it is fun now to see their confidence, self-assuredness and charm. Somewhere along the way they found their own PTA.
And I can only hope they’ll be as proud of me as I continue my own PTA journey.