Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Selfless Volunteer

About a week ago, Evie's kindergarten teacher cornered me and reminded me that I'd put my name down on the classroom volunteer list. I nodded and said "mm hmmm" while Evie yanked on my arm and tried dragging me away with her. Teacher and I had a quick exchange, during which I told her which mornings would work best for me, and she told me...some stuff I didn't really catch.

I'd all but forgotten this conversation until this morning when, as I sleepily waved goodbye to Evie as she walked into her school, I caught sight of her teacher and had the urge to duck and roll, realizing that Today was The Day that I'd said I could volunteer. Bah!

I drove home, having not showered or brushed my teeth yet as usual, and went over the possible scenarios in  my head. Maybe Teacher had forgotten? She didn't look at me in any way that indicated I should be returning in a half hour. Maybe she wouldn't notice if I didn't show up? Good god, of course she would, she's a teacher for crying out loud - they need all the help they can get! I pictured her standing in her classroom at the appointed hour, surrounded by a mountain of small children trying to dogpile her ala Kindergarten Cop, slowly spinning around crying "where is she? Where is my parent volunteeeeeer?!"

I made myself a cup of tea and slugged into the shower, trying to think of ways to bail without seeming like a dick. I wanted to curl up in a ball under the covers in my bed didn't really seem like it would fly. I tried to remind myself that I'd gotten only a few precious opportunities to volunteer for Jonah's classrooms because of my work schedule, and how much I'd looked forward to having a chance to do so with Evie. I also tried to remember why this had at one time seemed like something I'd actually enjoy doing.

I forgot I was wearing this and left it on all day

In the end, I swallowed my fears of the Kindergarteners being smarter than me, and pushed down the images of them pointing their fingers at me saying "ha haaaaa.....Evie's mom is a DUMMY!" (This is actually why I won't volunteer in Jonah's 4th grade class - because there's no question that they're smarter than me). I walked into the school looking very presentable, got my Volunteer sticker, and made my way to class. When I got there, Evie was sitting outside with a parent volunteer, and I thought 'oh come ON! They don't need me here after all, that lady's got it covered.  Goddammit.' 

Then Evie noticed me and her face lit up like it was Christmas morning, and I was the Barbie she'd been waiting for all year. 'Ah', I thought. 'Right. This is why I wanted to volunteer'. 

After her teacher figured out how to introduce me to the class (Her - this is's mom...Mi... Me - Janik. Her - oh, right, right, I was going to use the other name... Me - (patient smirk) Her - kids, this is Evie's mom), I got to sit outside the class and help assess their level of understanding of things like the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors. I found that I had just as difficult of a time introducing myself to the kids as Teacher did. I overheard the other mom say "Hi Logan, I'm Miss Katherine!", but I've always preferred a more formal relationship with kids. I played around with "Miss Amanda" in my head but thought it sounded too much like a mediocre stripper name. When it came time for me to say my polite, proper, I'm-The-Boss name though, I got stuck again. I'm not a Mrs anymore. I'm not a Miss. Does that make me...a Ms? Oh my god. I've always assumed that was for old ladies or french women. I'm not even sure how to say it! Mss? Mzzzz?! 

None of this helped to alleviate the mild panic attack I felt every time a new kid came out into the hall to sit with me. One girl dipped her head lower and lower toward the table until she was breathing directly onto my hand. "Can you tell me what letter this is?" "H!" (spits on my  hand with the 'ch' sound). "That's great! And what sound does H make?" "Huuuuuuuhhhhhhh" (breathes hotly onto my hand). I gave her a check mark and managed to mutter "Very good you're done please send out Nathan!" through a forced smile while keeping my hand as far away from my face as possible. I don't even know why, she didn't seem sick or anything. But you can never be too safe with kids. Germ factories, those things are. By the time I was given my leave I'd convinced myself that I'd acquired everything from lice to the bubonic plague.

Before I left I went out to watch Evie scuttle around with her friends during recess. As they lined up to go back into class, she ran over to me and gave me one of her breathtaking hugs. No wait, really, she runs full force toward me and rams her head into my gut, leaving me doubled over in pain and unable to breathe. After that we kissed and high-fived and she said "mama, no! Stay!" then stuck out her tongue at me as I left.

Ah, right. This is why I wanted to volunteer. That kid is a riot. 

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