By Amy Byrnes
My little guy and I were talking about something the other night when he turned and asked, “Mom, why don’t you ever volunteer for anything for me?”
“What do you mean, dude?” I asked, knowing full well what he meant.
“You, like, never help out at my school.”
And, since there wasn’t really much more I could say to that very astute observation, I lowered my head and said, “Busted.”
Of course, what I wanted to point out to my littlest boy was the sheer scope of my volunteering history, which began when his three older siblings were very young. It was as their overactive mommy that I cut my teeth on the ins-and-outs of cupcake baking and pumpkin picking and by the time my third child went to nursery school, I was helping to produce the monthly school newsletter.
But those were just the gateway activities to the more heavy-duty volunteering I got mixed up in as the kids got older.
I moved on to some light pumpkin seed counting and pouring juice for the various holiday parties. Later, I served as the kids’ class mom for countless years and rode in school buses to chaperone field trips to museums and local productions of The Nutcracker. I chaired fundraisers, like luncheons and book fairs, and eventually worked my way up to serve as co-president of the PTO the year I gave birth to my fourth child. That was also the year my left eye twitched uncontrollably for months.
As the kids got older, my volunteering extended to overnight activities. I chaperoned trips to a state park about an hour away when each of my older three kids were in seventh grade where I learned that an American Girl sleeping bag was not intended to be used by a 40-something American girl.
I also went twice to Washington, D.C. during each of my girls’ eighth grade year and learned how to herd wily teenagers around our nation’s capitol.
I was even a Girl Scout leader for five or six years and served a three-year term on our school board and had a magnet on my refrigerator that read, “Stop me before I volunteer again.”
I just had too much on my plate.
Eventually, I stopped feeling guilty about not volunteering to make a dinner or help starving children in Africa. I was no longer convinced that things wouldn’t get done without me.
And that thinking was fine until it wasn’t. Until the people around me were raising money to improve the technology at our school or working at our local soup kitchen. I started to remember how good it felt to be a part of something and make a difference.
Probably right when I was having this major epiphany, an email arrived in my inbox trying to get folks to help out with the annual middle school art show and before I could overthink it, I signed up to help.
I arrived for duty on the appointed day and immediately ran into the music teacher who’d taught all of my kids how to play an instrument. I waved “hi” to the school nurse and exchanged pleasantries with the teachers who’d tutored my kids during the summer.
And I was in the school for, like, an hour.
But seeing all those familiar faces of the teachers my children have had over the years reminded me why I spent all that time pouring juice and selling raffle tickets in the first place. I loved being a part of the process.
As I was pulling masking tape off the wall, the bell rang and middle schoolers exploded out of their classrooms. They flooded the hallway and I noticed one happened to be my very own 12 year old.
“What are you doing here?” he asked when he saw me frantically waving to him in the hallway.
“I’m VOLUNTEERING,” I shouted.
“Oh,” he said as he began to walk a little quicker past me. “That’s weird.”
And just like that, my baby learned to be careful for what he wished.
I’m thinking I should sign up to be his class mom this year. This could be really fun.
Amy Byrnes writes about scary stuff, like divorce and teenagers, at ‘A’ My Name is Amy. Her work has can be found in the August 2015 issue of Family Circle magazine as well as on The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy. She lives with her four children and sinister kitty in Little Silver.
Also, here’s the link to my blog if you could kindly add that to the online post. http://amynameisamy.com/