Back to School in 3 Acts: Act 3 - The Room Mom

Act 3: The Room Mom

(Int. Elementary School - Evening)


Do not turn up your nose at the opportunity to be the Room Mom in your child’s class. It’s so much more than just planning the parties, buying teacher gifts and organizing room volunteers. It’s an all access, back stage pass to the teacher. As a Room Mom you can find out many useful things. My favorite, in no particular order, are: teacher gossip, principal bashing, teacher not using names but subtly dissing other mom’s (love it!), inside scoop of upcoming activities and sometimes if your really lucky the teacher will share intimate details of her life. This gives you the opportunity to transform your Room Mom status in Friend status. When this happens you’ve won the elementary school lottery. Your teacher/friend becomes your go to source for all things school related not just when your child is in their class but for your whole elementary school mom tenure. She’s the person on the inside, your confidential informative.


Now, I try not to be greedy. I don’t attempt to be the Room Mom every year. I have a strategy. First, I do a ratio analysis that involves researching the teacher. This is crucial. You need to find out what your input (time spent) and the teachers output (information she will share with you) equals. Next, I do a personality test and background check. If you have a teacher going through some personal issues (especially a divorce) - jackpot! You want to be her Room Mom. This is an excellent opportunity for a Room Mom to Friend conversion. Usually the success rates are very high. My research has shown that the following teachers are good candidates for you to seek out the Room Mom position. Any teacher your age, any teacher with kids you age (you already have a lot in common which could lead to successful friend conversion), any first time teacher (they’ll need your help and they’ll be grateful), any older teacher (they’ve been around the block, aren’t afraid to speak their mind due to job security and they usually like to share their knowledge of school politics). Teachers that you do not want to be a Room Mom for: The male teachers. Don’t even waste your time. They’re clueless about any teacher break room dirt and are severely gossip challenged.


This school year, after doing my due diligence, I had decided I would be a perfect fit for Room Mom in my daughter’s class. Her teacher had recently gone through an ugly divorce and her only daughter had just left for college. This left her teacher lonely and talkative. I was thinking I could make the Room Mom to Friend conversion happen by the Halloween party (which really would be unprecedented, usually it takes till at least the winter holiday party). But, I had competition and her name was Busy Bee.


Busy Bee has four kids, all in elementary school. You avoid her at all cost, seeking evasive tactical maneuvers immediately upon sighting. To see her and engage in conversation is mind numbing. It’s akin to watching Barney on a loop for 10 hours. All, she does is go through her laundry list of her kid activities with you. Like many moms, only more obnoxiously so, she seems to judge her self-worth as a parent by the number of activities her children are enrolled in. I have found the only way to render her speechless is as follows. When Busy Bee takes a breath in describing her to do list for the day and stops to ask you what you're doing I say this: “Nothing. We’ve got nothing going on, nada. We’re just hanging out at home.” The concept of a family doing nothing is so foreign to her that her brain has a problem processing the information and she shuts up. This is where you make your getaway. Of course, my family has the usual stuff to do soccer, dance, music lessons etc, but it sure isn’t fascinating enough to share. Now, if the dance teacher ran away with the soccer coach I’d be all over that news.


The thing, though, that really bites about Busy Bee is she signs up to volunteer for everything and does none of it well, if at all. A lot of times, she doesn’t even show up. Her excuse when you call her and ask “Hey, where are you this morning because you volunteered to work in the classroom today and didn’t show up” will be”: “Opps, sorry I forget. I’m just sooo busy.” Well, here’s a tip quit signing up for everything and showing up for nothing. Busy Bee’s glory, the hope diamond in her “so busy” crown is always signing up to be the Room Mom of all four of her kids classrooms. It’s as if her highest achievement as a mom is seeing her name listed as Room Mom four times in the school directory. Never mind that she sucks at it and logistically you can’t be at four places at once on party day. If you’re Room Mom you need to stay in the classroom and run the party. Why the teachers select her to be Room Mom was a mystery. A mystery that was solved at this year’s back-to-school night.


Our back-to-school night takes place the evening before school starts. From 5 to 7 p.m families go to the school, kids excitedly find out whose class they’re in, meet their new teachers and enjoy the ice cream social. It’s at this time that each teacher has sign up lists in her room for various volunteer activities. One of those sign up sheets is for Room Mom (really it says room parent, but come on, who are we kidding.) The teacher traditionally selects whatever parent signs up first. So, if you want to be Room Mom you have to hustle to check the classroom postings and haul ass to the classroom. Cheers for me because I managed to sign up first for Room Mom for my daughters class. Imagine my shock, an almost are my eyes deceiving me moment when after I have signed up, chatted up the teacher, and now I’m looking over the other volunteer “opportunity” sheets I notice Busy Bee walking in, checking the Room Mom sign up sheet, seeing that I got there first, (ha, ha). She then picks up the Room Mom paper and puts in her freaking purse. NO! I go over to my daughter and whisper, “Did you just see that?” My little piece of goodness says, “Yes, mom she took that sign up sheet.” I’m shocked. I’m actually without a revenge scenario. This never happens to me. I don’t know what to do. Do I confront her? That sounds like it could get ugly. I have no choice but to tell my daughter to go “assembly my team.” Yeah, I’ve got a team. A team of three uber awesome mom friends that, on occasion, have helped me in my various schemes, or as I like to call them “attempts at justice.” All three moms are working the ice cream social part of the evening. I tell my daughter to go alert them of my urgent need and I was going to “tail” Busy Bee. No way was she and that Room Mom sign up sheet getting out of my sight.


You can hear my daughter’s flip flops slapping the floor as she runs down the hall en route to the cafetoruim. Lucky for me Busy Bee hasn’t left the classroom she’s boring the teacher with a litany of her families summer activities. This gives me time to think up a plan. Minutes later my three friends show up intrigued. I whisper to them what I observed and they all gasp in unison. I motioned them to the hall outside the classroom where I can explain my newly concocted scheme. I called it “Grab and Go.” (Yes, yes, I know I’m crazy. It’s just that I love reading spy thrillers and have always imagined myself as a secret agent leading a double life as a down on her luck suburban mom. So, I indulge my fantasies a little. Is that so wrong?)


Busy Bee carries an enormous handbag. It was my lucky day because her handbag didn’t have a zipper. My plan was for 2 of the moms to ask her about her kids soccer schedule that would start her yakking. I would walk into her making sure her handbag hit the floor and while the three of us quickly bent down and helped her pick up her handbag, my third friend would rush in and ask her “how she manages all she does with four kids.” This would get her going on her favorite subject thus throughly distracting her as we paw through her purse debris to find the sign up sheet. Once found I would take off with the sign up sheet, lay low until the end of the back to school night and then turn it into the teacher.


All went as planned. Except that instead of finding one Room Mom sign up sheet we found three. It makes sense that she could legitimately make it to one classroom on time to sign up. Out of the three sheets we found one had already been doctored. I was thinking she was crossing out moms names and then writing her own, but she was smarter than I gave her credit for. She just squeezed her name on top of the first signature. I took the three sign up sheets and returned two of them to the classrooms they belonged in. The one for my daughter’s class I took back to her teacher and said I had found it on the floor (which I had). My team took turns keeping Busy Bee in our sights the rest of the evening. She was very flustered rummaging through her purse trying to find those sign up sheets. I almost felt sorry for her until she walked up to me and asked if I had accidentally removed some papers from her purse. I asked her to describe the papers. She declined to offer a description. I asked her if they looked liked sign up sheets. She glared at me. I glared back. Then, I said, “I only asked that because I found some sign up sheets on the floor, three, to be exact and returned them to the teachers whose names were on them.” She turns around and sprints off. Busy Bee was pretty fast. But, not fast enough to make it to three classrooms. As soon as she took off the principal got on the P.A. system and announced that Back To School night was over. It was over alright. Busy Bee’s reign of quadruple Room Mom had come to an end. The bee had been buzzed off.


* I hope you've enjoyed Back-to-School in 3 Acts. Thanks for reading and sharing the Snarky with your friends. To stay updated on when I have new posts you can go to Facebook, type in Snarky in the Suburbs and click on like. I also have been twittering such gems like today's tidbit - "The meaner the mom the whiter her teeth." Really, check it out for yourself. I think I'm on to something with this one. Follow me @snarkynsuburbs.

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