Happy Valley PTA

May 6, 2007

By Rachel 

The PTA at my son’s school is a serious business.  They gross $75,000 annually and their budget is about $45,000, earned mostly through an auction at the end of the year.  They spend it to help fund a teacher’s aide and buy extra equipment for the classroom, but also for lots of “enrichment” activities, like visits from a children’s author or trips to the symphony.  Then there are the rewards for reading, walking, turning in an art project: basically, almost anything the children do at school “earns” them an ice cream party, a candy bar, or a trip to the Treasure Chest for some crappy toy that I will eventually throw away.

Recently I was asked if I wanted to be PTA President during the 2008-09 year (yes, they schedule it that far ahead). The power is enticing, but the offer has become a watershed moment in my life. Why would anyone believe I could be a PTA President, or, more to the point, how could they think that I would want to?

I had always seen myself as kind of a laid-back Mom, helping my kids out where they need it, but mostly letting them enjoy their childhood and figure things out for themselves.  I do take my kids to church every week. My husband coaches their spring soccer team, but we only play because it is on an indoor field. Oh, and they take guitar lessons (but NOT violin, because that is way too prissy).  And they all take art classes in the summer. I am the room mother in my 3rd graders class this year. And I volunteer to go on most field trips… Wait, am I one of THOSE mom’s after all?

The more I thought about what I had imagined as an easy-going approach, the more I realized that to outside observers I am not relaxed at all.  I may even be one of those meddling, over-anxious mothers who is way too involved in developing her child’s resume.  Do I take this “calling” of motherhood too seriously? And is such a thing possible?

I don’t know.  I know I am not even in the same league with some of the mothers I talk to: voice lessons, piano AND violin, competitive swimming, dance, etc. etc. Even if I do some of the same things, I do it with a genuine smile (and no lipstick) and Green Day is playing when I drive the carpool. It is all with a wonderful sense of irony: can’t you see it?

Mulling this self-comforting delusion the other day, I wondered if I apply it to my church membership as well.  By every outward indication, I am just another Molly Mormon, but I think I am somehow different.  I think more deeply about it! I am more open-minded, easy-going and sympathetic to the questions and difficulties friends or family members have with the doctrine or culture.  Sure, I go to Enrichment Night, but I am wearing faded jeans and a Janis Joplin t-shirt.  Can’t you see my detached, self-aware irony? It makes my Mormonism so much more open and sincere.  Right?

We are considering a move, so I may not have to actually be a PTA president after all.  Dealing with my self-image of being an “easy-going” Mormon will not have such a quick resolution.

PS: My current least favorite “serious” calling is the emergency preparedness guru.  It seems like anyone who takes this calling seriously does it by constantly nagging and usually crescendos with an irritating whine about taking a Saturday CPR class or becoming certified to use a ham radio. Ugh.


  1. Rachel, What a great post . . . I love that you have Green Day playing on car pool day. I have a feeling your kids are going to be very well rounded. Matter of fact (not that you should use me as an example of well rounded) but I think one of the reasons I love music as much as I do is because I was able to raid my parents collection of Hendrix and the like. I’m glad you take your motherhood calling “too seriously”.

  2. Great post. I also think that you’re a cool mom, and that your kids are going to be pretty well prepared to meet the world.

    You remind me that in Utah I am pretty liberal for my beliefs but back in New York I am a conservative. I really haven’t changed at all.

  3. um…do our kids go to the same school??? 😉

    I don’t know why, but I LOVE that you wear a Janis Joplin shirt to Enrichment. That’s just fabulous.

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