I remember as a child my parents would “help out” at school. I really don’t recall them using the word volunteering, in those days they were just helping out. I believe that in the beginning, my “parent volunteers” started out as a way to quell my separation anxiety. Holding onto dad’s hand that first week of kindergarten gave me the security I needed to take the first steps toward independence. In actuality, dad was a yard duty volunteer in the morning, but to me, it meant that I would be able to spend ten more minutes with him before taking the walk into the classroom on my own.
The transition to first grade meant long days away from home. To help me cope, dad would come into my classroom each week, and sitting on a child’s size chair as we crowded around his feet, he would read to my friends and me. It was comforting and familiar, just like those nightly bedtime stories.
Because my mother worked during the day and dad worked a night shift, it seemed natural to me when dad became the room parent! Mother would bake cookies after dinner and package them for dad and me to take to school the next morning, but having a dad as the room helper a special treat!
Fourth and fifth graders seemed to want their parents around less often, but having dad help with the SRA reading program meant he’d have a watchful eye on my progress in school. I recall him being so kind to some of the children who weren’t fast readers. I believe my friends didn’t feel the pressure from him as from their own parents.
In middle school my parents wanted to help out more in school; I wanted them around less. So the subtleties of parental involvement came into play. Because I was a “joiner,” there were school plays, talent shows, poetry memorization contests and pre-teen jeopardy. With each of the extracurricular activities, parent volunteers were needed. What I learned in the process was that my mother and dad were great to have around behind the scenes; helping with set designs, costume fixes and even as judges!
The distance grew between my parents and me. I was a teenager and the last thing I wanted was to see my mother or dad on my high school campus. And yet, having my mother involved in the parent teacher association or seeing my dad selling cookies and drinks at the snack bar to raise funds for school sports meant more to me than I ever let on.
My parents had this simple philosophy: “There are so many wonderful things that will never get done if we don’t take the time to do them.” I am grateful that they were just helping out!