Is my level of parent involvement good enough?

First Day '13-14

It’s the first week of school, you guys. Already.

When did the first day become such a big deal? Has it always been a big deal? My mom usually took photos of us on our first days, especially on big milestone grades, but now we’re getting a little cuckoo bananas with the Pinterest-inspired first day photos. I can’t lie: I do it too. And I really kind of like it, as silly as it may be.

For me, the beginning of a new school year is still very much like the beginning of a new calendar year. Every year I resolve to be more involved, to sign the friggin’ agendas, to volunteer in classrooms more, to have lunch with one of the children once a week, to do my best not to lose my marbles when my sixth grader brings home more advanced math homework than I was doing in college.

I want to be the mom who spends free time helping the teacher, baking cookies for parties, chaperoning field trips, tutoring my children, reading to/with them before bed, checking homework, reading and signing every slip of paper (times three!) from the school, supporting all of the fundraising efforts, not complaining when I’m being nickle-and-dimed within an inch of my life. But I’m not that mom.

Really, as a single mom, if I can get dinner on the table, homework checked for completion and the kids in bed at a reasonable time, I’m doing well. Let’s all laugh at my low expectations, but they’re low for a reason: mommying is tough, stressful, I-want-to-run-away work.

There’s not enough of me to go around. I can chaperone field trips, I can remember to check folders about once a week (okay, once a month), I can throw a few quarters the school’s way from time to time, but it’s insanely difficult to be the only one in charge of this many other people. There’s no surprise there’s a correlation between single parenthood and low test scores/college attendance.

I sometimes feel like a failure as a parent because I forget to sign folders and agendas every day. (I see things, I just don’t always sign.) I can’t keep up with what’s on the lunch menu or even who’s where at what times. I feel like a failure as a mom a lot. I’m giving as much as I can, maybe even more than I thought I could give when I’m flying solo, and it’s just not enough.

This year, I resolve to do what I can, because I know that doing it all just isn’t going to happen. I don’t mean that I’m going to be satisfied with doing the minimum, because I know that parent involvement is key to a child’s academic success and I’m also not a minimum-only person (except for paying those pesky student loans), but I’m going to be satisfied with doing what I can. Or not. I’m just going to have to get over myself, I think.

I wrote most of this Monday and I’m now reading it again Tuesday, thinking about the child who waved to me at city hall yesterday and asked me to tell one of my children hello for him. I’m also thinking about all of the students I’ve hugged at lunch times and visits over the years, students who know me because I AM in the school frequently, more than their parents. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself?

Whether I am or not, I still need to do better, to do more, to be more.

What are your faults when it comes to being involved with your child’s school? Are you the PTO president? Or are you the mom who didn’t even realize teachers are sending folders home?

5 thoughts on “Is my level of parent involvement good enough?

  1. Ronda Lawrence
    August 6, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    I am right there with you. I am very blessed that Nathan seems to excel even without me hovering over him. I rarely sign an agenda and that doesn’t seem to impede his grades. His honor roll and achievement awards gives me a pass.

    All we can do is our best on each day. Some days you can be Super Mom and some days your the mom with half packed lunches dropping kids off in your pajama pants with a Cheeto in your hair. But take heart, you are not the only one. Anyone who says different is lying!

  2. August 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I can totally relate and sympathize, and I’m not doing it alone. We, as moms, often strive for perfection. I know I do. I hate the feeling of not being good enough or second guessing myself, but I actually think that’s what separates the ‘good ones’ from the ‘bad ones’. The ‘bad ones’ don’t care enough to wonder if they’re doing good enough. We just have to learn to slow down and enjoy, like you said.

    A side note about signing agendas/planners. My son’s school developed a very effective way to ensure things are being signed. If the kids do not bring their planners back signed, they get 10 points off of their homework. If this happens three times in a 9-week period, they have a detention after school. We all learned really quickly to make sure that planner is signed. My son will literally hound me at the stove while I’m cooking going, “Moommmmmmmmma, you HAVE to sign my planner. I’m going to get points off!”

  3. Janessa
    August 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I always think about this very subject at the beginning of the school year. I start with high hopes of being super involved and then life happens. It sometimes feels like every other mom is a stay at home mom. And I feel like I am constantly having to use the excuse “I can’t make it there by then, I work in Memphis” or “I can’t take off those days, that’s our busy week”. I feel bad that my daughter nearly ran to the car one day because she was so excited that a field trip was finally after the 10th of the month which means I could go with her. I am really not great with the school involvement but I am really good with the extracurricular (sports) involvement, that counts right?? Team mom has to count for something. I am a member of the PTO though and try to do my best with the fundraisers.

  4. August 6, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I do the same thing every school year. I start off strong. Signing those agendas, baking things, emailing teachers, etc, etc, etc. But, by Christmas break I’ve slacked off so much. And I’m not a single parent. I actually had a teacher send a note home this past March or April asking me to please start signing folders again or my children would be punished as it’s part of their homework! Yeah….it’s a lot to deal with, especially with everything we have to do!
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  5. August 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Great article! I think many moms struggle with some level of guilt. As a teacher, I sometimes feel bad that I can’t take my daughter to school or attend all the activities. You are right, though- we can only do the best that we can do. Having kids is a very challenging job! I’m sure your kids won’t remember the time you forgot to sign the folder, but they will always remember the love you gave them (and all the showers you made them take)!