The fabulous #peterandjane wrote a blog in March which was shared far and wide and which began “shall we talk about the dreaded ‘PTA Mummies’?” but which actually applauded the work of those mums. I am one such mum but last week, and for the first time in the three years since we joined the school, we had to cancel an event due to lack of interest. It broke my heart.
I have seen people avoid my gaze, seen friends stop short of standing with me, seen people roll their eyes as another request for help has been passed around assembly….But what might school look like without us? Without the events that we hold, which bring both the children and the parents together beyond school hours?
I know it’s a pain when it is another bottle of wine for another raffle – it’s one more thing you don’t need to remember, it’s one more thing you don’t need to pay for, which blooming event is this one for anyway and you never win the sodding thing either….
I know you are busy and most of the time you would rather be at home looking after your own life than standing for an hour on a tea stall which only raises a few hundred pounds and we never see it spent….But we are all busy – I for one, am the mother to 3 children, a dog, working part time, without a cleaner or an ironer, desperately trying to squeeze in a bit of time for my own enjoyment, supporting Dan who is training for a coast to coast, without family to help out round the corner. I get it. I don’t want to do it either. Sometimes I want to cancel it all and leave it to someone else. At times, it feels like it’s leading me on the path to divorce!! But despite this, I persist.
The thing is, we have chosen to live where we live because of its amazing community.
Also, to me and many of my friends, school is family. It took us all by surprise when at the end of H’s reception year, some of our best friends were those we had known for 9 months. Almost another 2 years down the line and we are more like family. Linked by our children and the same time experiences, which by nature of being a parent are guttural, raw, emotive and explosive and mean that we are almost forcibly joined, in a way you never are with a work colleague. In each other’s eyes we see reflected our own challenges and our own burning love and aspirations for those children who are together their own clan, their own unit, in their class of 24.
For those of us particularly close, it is noticeable that many of us do not have family close by. So we live in each other’s pockets more than we ever thought we would and we lean on each other. That in itself is not perhaps remarkable, but the speed with which we knitted together is. I think it is also fair to say too, that lots of us no longer invest the same amount of time in our older friends, who are not part of our everyday village life.
I would also add that even if you don’t feel that close to some of the other mums or dads, you still feel connected and still know that you could call on them if you needed to and you see in their smiles, the feeling is mutual. Like a cousin you only see every now and again perhaps.
One of the reasons being, that our children will raise a hand to hold and not necessarily check it’s their own mummy’s or daddy’s, and if they realise it is actually somebody else’s, then they simply smile and skip on, holding on. Our children, will run into the arms of any friend sent to collect them and will happily play in a home that is not their own. Our friends represent our children’s larger and extended family. Our children are as at home in our friends’ homes as if it was grandma around the corner. For this, I will always be eternally grateful.
I know crucial to this is our village school. I wonder if it would be the same, had we all not been there repeatedly boiling 300 horrible hot dogs at a time, losing the kids across the playing field whilst organising another gala, stumbling home drunk together from the just for grown ups disco….and emptying our spirits cupboard without any mixers….
Dan and I watched Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby on iPlayer recently and one of the episodes visited an incredible hotel on the island of Fogo off Canada, remote and unyielding. The youngsters on this island are leaving: it’s not for them – lured by the brighter lights of the mainland and turning their backs on the long standing traditions and island industries. The population of Fogo is now in serious decline and its future uncertain. Many of its homes empty and the hope of the remaining inhabitants is as battered as its rocky outcrops.
If we all give up on our PTA, which is old fashioned in its events and is often unprofessional in its efforts, just because we are all short on time and not because we don’t want to do better, is that how our school would feel?
Would there be tumble weed across the playground? Would we nod and smile courteously, but not know what you did drunk last Friday, what you are in pain about, what you are excited about? Would we no longer love each other’s children so intently? Would we know their names? Would we know that they only like sausages without their skin on or will only have sandwiches without butter? Would our children feel the same sense of security and assuredness which they have now amongst our adult friends? Just at school full stop? Or would it be more like an office, 8.45-3.30, in and out.
Would we still have our modern family? Our school friends, the foundations of our blessed life… The people I sometimes want to hide from, feeling the intensity of living in a little bubble, but who I know are part of us and without whom I would be lost.
I don’t know, but this, for me is why I slog on, another irritating PTA mum.
ps thank you to Pinterest for the images