PTA Do-Gooders

Continuing with our New Year's Resolution theme, I wanted to cite some truly good deeds done by a group that often gets picked on in the mommy blogosphere: the school parent teachers association, or equivalent group. Sometimes, the parents become so enthusiastic and strident that they make good cartoon targets, especially for those of us who might feel a tetch guilty about not volunteering. But a few dedicated parents can make an incredible difference in the life of the school, its children, teachers, and the very parents who poke fun at the uber-volunteers.

Here are three examples from my life:

In the 1970s, my mom single-handedly started an after-school sports program at my elementary school in D.C., Horace Mann, that provided cheap, incredibly fun activities for boys and girls for more than two decades. She hired a sports teacher who organized co-ed softball, kickball, soccer, capture the flag, gymnastics and other games five days a week. Those adventures, and the sportsmanship I learned on the blacktop, stayed with me for life (and I assume the other kids, too). The program was dismantled fairly recently as individual tutoring and specialized sports programs replaced the casual, everyone-plays focus of the original program.

At the small independent school I attended after Horace Mann, another mom started an annual antiques auction to benefit the school's small scholarship fund. Other moms and dads took over, expanded the annual event, and now the parents, grandparents, students, teachers and alumni raise more than 25 percent of the school's financial aid in a single night's event.

Fifty years ago, parents at the Green Acres School in Rockville, Md., put together mimeographed sheets about fun activities for children in the Washington, D.C. area. Subsequent groups of parents, grandparents and staff improved on the original guide. This year marks the 50th anniversary edition of Going Places with Children in Washington, D.C.. The Washington Post calls the guide "a bible for parents since 1958," with good stuff for vacationers and locals including classics like Glen Echo Park and newcomers like Exploraworld in Columbia.

No one among these volunteers made any money or became famous from the ventures. Hopefully, they had some fun along the way, but clearly, they threw themselves into these projects to benefit their children's community. I'm sure you have more examples to inspire us for the coming year. What have you done or seen others do to make a positive contribution to your kids' world?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  January 4, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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"I wanted to cite some truly good deeds done by a group that often gets picked on in the mommy blogosphere: the school parent teachers association, or equivalent group. "


There are reasons why these groups get picked on, however noble their deeds....

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 4, 2008 7:59 AM

This is not exactly a parent volunteer thing, although Freida and I have had our fair share of selling drinks and food, lending our equipment to school functions and chaperoning.

But our public school district has mandated at least 20 hours of public service for all HS grades as a condition for promotion to the subsequent grade. I was moaning and groaning about this the first year wondering how my kid would fulfill this. He is working for Habit for Humanity today (yesterday and last week) digging ditches! This is great! And he was the one to pick what he wanted to do. He is so satisfied doing this work (not necessarily digging ditches but construction), he said he may do more this summer!

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2008 8:31 AM

Fred,

Maryland public schools require 60 hours of "Student Service Learning" (read: community service) during the course of middle school and high school in order to graduate. And yes, they will withhold your diploma if you haven't documented it. Most middle schools in our county try to get the students to complete the 60 hours in middle school.

And DS has to complete and document 15 hours each year for his Catholic high school; they withheld his year-end report card last summer because he hadn't documented his work.

"Community service" appears to be a pretty common school requirement these days.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 4, 2008 9:17 AM

My wife had to stay at the hospital a few extra days due to serious complications from the c-section delivery of our 3rd child.

life moves on. For me this meant that I had to get my daughter to school, and it was a frigid day with a wind chill factor well below 0 degrees F. So I bundled my 1 year old daughter up real good, through her on my shoulders piggyback style, grabbed my cane, and walked my 1st grader to school.

I think the teachers and moms felt sorry for me. The blind man with his baby on his back, stumbling through record-breaking frigid temperatures, wife in hospital with serious complications... What a stunt, huh?

At the afternoon pickup, the teachers rallied as many parents as possible and devised a quick plan to help our family out. A bolunteer was assigned to bring us dinner every evening for the next month. That was a huge help! I don't know how I could have managed without their help. It was fun too. Although some rang the doorbell, delivered and ran, most people dropped by to see the new baby, so we got to chat with families of our daughter's classmates.

The school tradition of bringing dinner to the family with new baby has lasted over a decade so far.

Posted by: DandyLion | January 4, 2008 9:30 AM

I know it's slightly off topic, but since Fred brought it up...I think it's sad that Community Service is a requirement!! What happened to just doing it??

I helped out at my church most Sundays (until I joined the fire dept., LOL), volunteered at a local hospital from 7th grade through 12th grade (7th and 8th were summers, 9th - 12th were EVERY Saturday morning in the pharmacy). That volunteer work led to a per diem job for two years while I was going to Community College. I also was a volunteer firefighter starting as a junior in HS. Granted, this was back in the late 80's, early 90's so maybe that's why.

Posted by: DLC1220 | January 4, 2008 9:53 AM

Loved that story, DL.

I don't find it sad at all that community service is required. It's heartening that institutions such as schools think service is important enough to make it mandatory. Sure it's nice to think some kids will volunteer anyway (and I'm sure even with a requirement some don't take it seriously). But the policy sends the message that the community takes service by young people seriously. Some companies have service requirements for employees too.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 4, 2008 10:15 AM

Community service has its plusses and minuses. Short term community service can result in more work for the agency where the time is served than net benefit for that agency, especially with middle school volunteers. Some parents and schools don't seem to grasp that it takes time to manage large numbers of volunteers.

High school aged volunteers can make a true contribution when they commit to a significant number of hours over a semester or a school year. There's actually time to teach a few skills that can benefit the agency receiving the volunteer hours.

The worst is when students and parents procrastinate and then scramble to fill, say, twelve hours in the next week. They tend to approach potential places for volunteering as though the agency should be grateful and jump at the chance to have their wonderful child help out.

I actually sympathize with a lot of the parents. How are working parents supposed to haul their non-driving kids to fill these hours? Certainly, there aren't enough volunteer positions within walking distance in surburban areas to meet the demand for hours. What about lower income families without a car to get the kids to their hours? Some of these volunteer programs required in the public schools seem well-intended but not well-thought-out, practically speaking.

Student volunteering becomes the parents' burden rather than the students' without much net gain of substance to the community. If educators think this is so important, they should manage student volunteers within the school building. I doubt many would jump to manage volunteers either after or before schools or on in-service days.

I'm sure there are individual stories of young students making wonderful contributions in their communities. I merely want to point out that from what I've seen in the majority of cases, there's a lot of busy work performed by what amounts to unskilled workers that takes up the time of volunteer coordinators who likely have this role as an Other Duty as Assigned in addition to their primary job duties.

Posted by: marian3 | January 4, 2008 10:19 AM

Sort of related to the topic of the day, I want to ask a potentially sensitive question: how do we get more women involved in their daughters' sports programs? I would appreciate any serious input.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 4, 2008 10:44 AM

DandyLion--

As a longtime lurker, I just want to say you're one of my all-time favorite posters.
I have a few questions for you, if you don't mind the intrusion:

How do you read online? Do you have a program that reads pages aloud to you? Does it read the ads to you too, or can it tell the difference? Do you have an employee who reads to you?

Do you have a braille keyboard, or do you speak the words you want to write? Just curious about the challenges and blessings of technology for the blind.

Thanks!

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 4, 2008 10:51 AM

Marian,

Thanks for the comments from the "receiving" end.

The school board was smart enough not to restrict vol activity to organizations, libraries etc. The student can work helping out an individual. In fact, one of my son's friends helped us out rebuilding from Katrina so I signed off on his requirement. Plenty of work to do here still and plenty of people needing help.

You are correct about students scrambling at school year end. I am happy to say that my son will have his hours done today. (They go back to school next Monday.)


Posted by: fred | January 4, 2008 10:53 AM

Now I'll explain my previous question. I help run one of the largest fastpitch softball programs in Maryland - in a good year, upwards of 700 girls from ages 6 - 18. Fastpitch softball is an awesome sport - go watch a Washington Glory game sometime and watch Monica Abbott throw a 72-mph rise ball past somebody from 43 feet away, and you'll get a true appreciation for it. If you're expecting your neighborhood slowpitch game with a bunch of overweight beer-chuggers lobbing a ball and puffing their way around the bases, you'll be stunned.

I got involved in the sport about 12 years ago when oldest DD started playing. DS played baseball; the girls all played softball. The baseball programs all had tons of volunteers - nine dads wanted to show the kids how to throw a curve ball; nine moms volunteered to keep the score book/run the fundraising/organize snacks. The softball programs had two or three parents involved on a good day.

So, I started as an assistant coach, then moved on to head coach, league commissioner, program commissioner, and whatever else was needed.

It seems like our program has always had "just enough" volunteers to get by - and we rely on the kindness of our baseball folks who share the same park to get through a lot of things.

Further, the vast majority of our volunteers are men. Eight of the ten people who collectively run the program are men. We only had seven female head coaches out of about 40 last year, and there aren't many assistants, either.

The kicker to me is that, in talking to folks, I'm finding out that there are a number of mothers who played softball in high school and college, and know the game better than almost any of us. So what can we do to get them involved?

One of the things we've asked ourselves - and as many of the women as we can - is whether the men involved in the program are doing something that's running them off - are we doing something that tells women they aren't welcome helping with the program. We don't think so, and the women who are involved in the program can't think of anything we can change. But we just can't get enough women involved in the program.

Now, I'm certainly all in favor of fathers who want to be involved in their daughters' activities; I am one of those fathers. But we need more mothers involved or we're going to continue to suffer.

So if anybody reading this blog has any ideas, I'm all ears.

Thanks!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 4, 2008 10:56 AM

Sort of related to the topic of the day, I want to ask a potentially sensitive question: how do we get more women involved in their daughters' sports programs? I would appreciate any serious input.

Posted by: ArmyBrat

I wonder if the mothers get more involved with the sports that they themselves play(ed)? When you ask for more involvement, what exactly are you looking for? Coaches?

*off-topic alert*

California Mom, if you're still reading, I wanted to thank you again for the book recommendation "The Dangerous Book for Boys". I gave away two more for gifts and the kids were thrilled.

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 4, 2008 10:56 AM

Army Brat,

Our soccer league does have a few women coaches. I think part of the problem is that many of us moms who are, ahem, 39 or so did not have the opportunity to play organized sports as children. My perception is that the leagues for girls were just getting started in the 70s.

It's a lot to ask of the women (or other) coaches already volunteering, but I think a formal women's coaching mentoring program would go a long way. I think if there were even one or two "pre-meetings" for potential women coaches, women coaches could then be integrated more easily into the regular training meetings for all coaches.

I know I could go out and buy a book on soccer to learn the rules, then volunteer to coach. It would seem a little less intimidating if I new there were other newbies to soccer taking the plunge too. I know I shouldn't, but I think I would feel awkward walking into a coaches meeting full of men and maybe two women who had played the sport since childhood. Certainly, the manner of the really nice guys coaching the girls has done nothing to contribute--I imagine they would be welcoming to anyone willing to put some time in.

My guess is that sports like field hockey do attract more women volunteers. They have a longer history of women playing. I have no idea if this perception is accurate. When it comes to almost anything to do with sports, I'm really speculating.

Posted by: marian3 | January 4, 2008 11:00 AM

I never hung out with the PTA. They met on Tuesday nights and I had something else that night.

I directed my efforts at Sunday church school. With another woman I taught 3-4th graders for 15 years. It wasn't a huge group of kids, usually 5-10 per year.

I like to think that there are 100+ plus kids out there with a clue about what's in the bible, and 100+ parents who may have reached a happier spiritual plane because they could go to services while I sweated it out with their kid.

Those kids were from many different walks of life. I heard about divorces, new babies, school stuff, brother/sister problems. Maybe because it was a small group and a continuing community that helped it be more meaningful for me.

Posted by: RedBird27 | January 4, 2008 11:03 AM

I agree that coaching clinics would make me more likely to want to coach. I played field hockey and found teaching it at a sports clinic was a lot different than playing it -- it required rethinking a particular skill and being able to break it down into smaller steps/parts. A generation of women who want to coach will have to be built over time -- we should encourage MS/HS female athletes to work with the younger girls.

ArmyBrat: does oldest DD show signs that she would be more likely to consider coaching than your wife? It could be a generational thing...

Posted by: tntkate | January 4, 2008 11:30 AM

Army Brat -- Hey, nice to know you are fighting the good fight.

My experience is with soccer, so there may be some differences. But in five years coaching peewee soccer (along with another mom as co-coach), I encountered mostly male coaches on opposing teams. A lot of them were overly aggressive with the kids (and we are talking 6 year olds!) and assumed I knew nothing about coaching, which was true, but they had no way of knowing that by looking! And many of them knew nothing, as well.

Our team had a high number of girls, which was rare. We encountered nasty parents cheering relentlessly from the sidelines, adults (including coaches) screaming at children until they cried, kids who teased us that we had lost because we had so many girls on our team, players who punched ours instead of shaking hands at the end, and coaches who ignored rules and sportsmanship when they felt like it. Like many others, I was shocked and disgusted by parents and coaches who took winning far too seriously.

Three things helped me over the years.

One -- an incredibly supportive group of parents, who vocally supported the fact that I was great at teaching sportsmanship and love for the game to all the kids, regardless of ability, and despite my lack of pure soccer skills.

Two -- the volunteer infrastructure, also committed to an all-kids-play approach. They showered me with support and appreciation (when they were actually doing the heavy lifting in terms of dealing with problems, organizational details, and difficult parents).

Three -- the kids themselves were a joy to coach.

So keep up your enthusiasm and vocal outreach to and support of female coaches and I bet you will persevere.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 4, 2008 11:36 AM

marian, maryland_mother, thanks for the thoughts. Part of it probably is that a lot of the mothers did not play sports growing up - they didn't have the opportunity, or the interest, or whatever.

(marian, IIRC, St. Tammany Parish, LA introduced girls' sports in high schools while I was in high school, so there wasn't much before that. DW is from the DC area; her all-girls Catholic high school had sports teams but she was strongly discouraged by her parents from playing because that just wasn't something nice girls did.)

So I can somewhat understand a shortage of coaches, but we also need a lot of other volunteers - organizing, fundraising, etc. You don't have to know anything about the game to do that. And yet it seems that a lot more of the moms jump in to do that for their sons' teams than for their daughters' teams. Maybe it's just because the sons are expected to play sports, while with the girls it's "just a hobby."

Part of it could be just that the more competitive/sports-oriented people wind up in other sports like soccer or lacrosse and we get the less sports-crazy ones. (Girls' lacrosse is king around here; my daughters' high school made national news last spring because they actually lost a game. The high school averages something like 5-10 girls a year getting college lacrosse scholarships, so a bunch of the most competitive folks gravitate toward that sport.)

I don't know, but anything we can do to make it better would certainly help out.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 4, 2008 11:36 AM

Army Brat: Many fathers I know that coach do/did so because their wives "volunteered" their time. I did this to my husband and he is coaching his 3rd flag football season and loves it.

A lot of moms I know are "behind the scene" workers, myself included. I help out at practice (run drills, keep the coaches other kid's occupied), organize the all important snack schedule and end of the season party and help the coaches keep track of equipment. Coaches have assistants and they are usually a mom.

Posted by: cmac | January 4, 2008 12:09 PM

ArmyBrat -- my two cents. I played softball in college (Division III, not the big leagues -- I was able to walk on after not having played in high school). But I would never think to volunteer to coach, because I would just presume that there were a lot of other people who knew the game, and how to teach it, much better than I do.

Example: I was a pitcher. I'm probably pretty qualified to teach some girls the fundamentals (especially on the younger end). But my own form isn't perfect, so I'd be scared I'd mess them up. I get the sense that a lot of men have more "sports confidence" than women do -- even if they don't know it, they think they do, and are happy to go tell everyone else that (my dad was certainly that way -- taught me how to swing a golf club 30 years ago in ways I'll never straighten out!).

Maybe things will change if/when my daughter plays ball -- maybe I'll get so PO'd at some coach that I'll actually realize I could do it better myself. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | January 4, 2008 12:13 PM

Army Brat, I think the best thing to do would be to specifically ask the women to participate, ask them if they want to coach. Coaching has always been such a traditionally male thing that many women may have a little trepidation about coaching. I coach both my kids soccer teams and am almost always the only mom coach. There are more assistant coaches who are women. I played soccer my whole childhood and in college so I'm pretty comfortable teaching but I'd remind people who haven't played that all of my assistant coaches have never played soccer so for someone new that might be a good place to start. Also, when the kids are younger, it is more supervisory and guiding. Almost everyone knows more about baseball than a 5 year old.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 4, 2008 12:30 PM

ArmyBrat,

Maybe there's a regional difference or maybe it's the sport, but our experience has been very different from yours. In our experience with soccer and basketball, in a variety of leagues and levels of competition, we've always seen a slightly higher aggregate number of female volunteers than males. There is no gender imbalance in the Triangle in terms of parent support for girls' sports leagues, LOL. I don't know a single mom who didn't play a sport in highschool and/or college and we are all equally invested in our daughters' physical fitness and encouraging a competitive spirit. Every team in which we've participated has a team "mom", and women volunteers are largely running the concession-stand volunteer list, setting the game schedule, establishing the snack schedule and rides list, etc. Coaching, on the other hand, is different than volunteering to do something you can time-shift - there are more male coaches in all the leagues in which we've participated, primarily because being a coach requires a "wife", LOL, e.g., someone who takes on all the at-home, after-school responsibilities for your own kids thus freeing up the coach to be at all those mid-week, during dinnertime practices. Fewer men take on this responsibility and free their spouses up to coach. In my experience.

So maybe there is some self-selection in that women may more often tend to volunteer in ways that keep the trains running on time and men tend to volunteer in ways that let them demonstrate their expertise with a particular sport. Maybe.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 4, 2008 12:40 PM

NewsLinks, FYI: Your 10:51 flattered me, but to answer your questions:
I use a voice synthesis program called Jaws. Jaws is software that reads me the text on the screen. It can't read pictures or graphics.
Also, I use a regular keyboard, no braille, no voice recognition. That's why my spelling and punctuation is so terrible, in reviewing the text that I've typed, I have to go 1 letter or character at a time. Extremely tedius.
If I have to fill out forms or any paperwork, I have this most wonderful office wife (or office mommy as I call her) that helps me out. She's one of the most hands-on charitable person I know.

Changing the subject a little; Last summer while I was in the hospital for a few days, I asked if somebody could read me the comics. Everyday, a pair of teenage volunteers came up to my room to read me the WashingtonPost, then we would just gab until they got their next assignment. What beautiful kids they were! One girl had a brother fighting in Iraq, another was adopting a 2 year old into his family, we talked about instant messaging, blogging, sports, partying, parents and more.

Spending personal time with them was more interesting than the articles in the WaPo. Did I say that? Yes, I did. Hahaha!

Newslinks, how did the ceremony at St Raymond's go? I missed it, I hope to make it next time.

Posted by: DandyLion | January 4, 2008 12:50 PM

Hello everyone!

I am not saying anything about the PTA. However, as someone who works for a non-profit and who was always very happy to help other people, I do not think schools should force children to volunteer. It is my job to raise children who want to go out and do good things for the world. I don't feel that it should be forced on people.

off topic to Fred,

I have to travel for three days at the end of the month, please ask Freida for some tips for keeping my baby on the boob! I am worried that he will not want it after having a bottle and I have worked so hard to be able to breastfeed this time around.

thanks

Posted by: Irishgirl | January 4, 2008 1:07 PM


Thanks to all for the comments. I think one of the things that we're going to do once things get under way this Spring is to directly appeal to the Moms - let them know we want them/need them to volunteer, whether it's coaching or organizational work.

Leslie, re: the poor sportsmanship: we strongly discourage that and in fact have dismissed two coaches mid-season during my regime for actions that crossed the line. (We probably should have done it last year, too, but I got wrapped up in other things and let some things slide that I probably should not have - namely, adult coaches yelling at teenaged umpires.)

I don't have hard data, just anecdotes, but what I've noticed is that the male softball coaches who cause the most trouble don't have sons, only daughters. I'm not sure why that is, but these guys are the quickest to go overboard.

However, the three most egregious problems we've had in my 12 years coaching have all been caused by mothers. One decided that taunting the opponents was fun - nothing like watching an adult woman yelling at somebody else's 8-year old daughter that "you can't catch and you're too slow; you'll always be a loser." (Yes, we kicked her out of the program.) Then there was the mother who didn't like a rough tag that was put on her daughter, so she came out on the field and flattened the girl who made the tag (she was kicked out, too). And best of all was the one who continually showed up drunk, "flirted" with all the men and loudly berated her daughter every time she made a mistake. (gone, as well.)

Fortunately, those come instantly to mind because they're so rare; it's been a really great experience in general, with 98-99% of the people being fantastic, and that's why we want it to grow.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 4, 2008 1:35 PM

off topic to DandyLion:

Thanks for asking!
The special Mass for the Grieving at St. Raymond's was really great. There were about 40 people there, which is high for a weeknight Mass. Some people there were obviously deeply in mourning and seemed so grateful to have a place to bring their grief. I cried all through the service, but in a good, healing, letting-go kind of way. I was both deeply grateful to the church for providing exactly what I needed on my expected due date and also proud to have caused something that clearly meant alot to all the people there.

Father Gould (the head priest at St. Raymond's) is honestly the most fabulously loving person I've ever met. I'm a new Catholic, so he's the first priest I've really ever known, but he's just been remarkable in so many ways. Apparently I'm not the only person to notice this--he's been featured in a book on prominent Catholics...

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 4, 2008 1:36 PM

Army Brat, I also think more dads volunteer for sports because it is a way to interact with their kids that is both fun and entertaining for the dads. It is likely something that a lot of dads have imagined when they had kids. I only coach teams that my children are on so they are with me. The one who isn't playing sits on the side and plays with the siblings at practice or colors or plays Leapster etc... I also think that coaching is one of the activities that happens after working hours so in the past, that was really the ONLY way for dad to be involved. I think having a woman coach is a wonderful example for both boys and girls. I have heard that many parents that appreciate having a mom to coach. Esp. when they are little (U8), I'm more "mommy" with the them. I will pick them up and hug them if they get hurt, sometimes they run on the feld at practice and hug me - that's something that I know a lot of dads are uncomfortable with lest some touch be misconstrued. I think if you appealed to the role model, more moms might give it a shot. They may not think they are welcome. BTW MN, I'd rather poke my eyes out than volunteer at the concession stand! My 2 cents. Good luck Army brat,

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 4, 2008 1:47 PM

Irishgirl,

Freida has about 20 questions to determine the best strategy for continuing BF.

The questions revolve around bottle nipples, pumps, current frequency of feeding, your schedule and on and on.

The main issue is keeping up your milk supply for the 3 days. You need to pump milk on the about the same schedule you have at home with your baby to maintain the supply.

This is worth a good chat with friend who have done this, a LLL leader or lactation consultant. Someone who can give you specific advice knowing your complete BF background.

Freida had a similar experience when she was hospitalized for 1 week and not able to bf her DD. DD went right back to the breast after the treatment was completed.


Posted by: fred | January 4, 2008 1:51 PM

My DD played soccer for 4 years. During that time, I volunteered "teaming" -- putting the children onto teams according to request, geographic area, etc. My unscientific observation from those years is that we had a lot of women coaches for the younger children, but the population became more prominently male as the children aged and became more skilled.

I was never involved in sports growing up and would not be comfortable coaching, so I volunteered where I felt my talents would be most appreciated -- on the administrative end. I'm with MoxieMom though -- I avoided the concession stand at all costs, LOL. I also picked up and dropped off many of DD's teammates as most came from families with multiple children, all with games/practices on the same day, so their parents understandably needed some extra help. Army Brat, the league in which my daughter played providing coaching clinics every season and it was a great recruiting tool for both reluctant moms and dads.

My sister was/is a great athlete and went to college on an NCAA soccer scholarship. She has coached both of her children's soccer teams and been president of the league as well. I think a woman's experience with sports (as a teen especially) really plays a huge role in whether she agrees to coach.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | January 4, 2008 1:58 PM

moxiemom, you're probably right with dads coaching because it was the "natural" activity to share with their kids. (Assuming that dad played sports of some kind, that is.) I know that team sports were things that I always enjoyed growing up and wanted to share with my kids, so when oldest DD said she wanted to try sports, I let her and then agreed to help out the first time I was asked by her coach.

But I've found that it's really good to have women involved, particularly as the girls get older, because they're great role models. That's true whether they're moms or not. Last spring we really lucked out; we had a 24-year old woman who played college softball call us and asked if she could get involved in our program - her way of giving back to the game. We made her a coach in our 14-year-old league; it was great because the girls really looked at her as a role model. When she taught them something, they paid much more attention to her than to those of us who haven't played softball at a high level.

We do have the coaching clinics; I think we need to improve them in a number of ways, and I'm hearing some good suggestions here about things to cover. (In other words, focus not just on the basic softball skills but also on working with kids in the program.)

Somebody asked up-thread if I thought oldest DD (now in college) was interested in coaching: maybe, but it will most likely be volleyball. Right now, she's not interested in coaching because she wants to enjoy this part of her life, but maybe in the future. I'd like her to, because I think that I have a relationship with the kids through all those years of coaching, games, driving to tournaments, etc. that DW has missed out on.

(vegasmom and others, Our concession stand employs teens who are paid minimum wage - there are two adult supervisors - so we don't have to worry about getting volunteers for that. Thank Heavens!)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 4, 2008 2:18 PM

Hey Irishgirl, good luck with the nursing. I really admire your dedication!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 4, 2008 2:18 PM

Thanks Fred and Moximom

My boy really loves the boob. He spits formula out the few times he has had it and hugs the boob during feedings.

If he didn't like it so much, I wouldn't worry, but he does, so I do.

Posted by: Irishgirl | January 4, 2008 2:58 PM

Congratulations Irishgirl!

For what it's worth (nothing), my firstborn "got" the little joke in the original "101 Dalmatians" movie thanks to breastfeeding. You know, the one where the cow goes "Oooh!" when one of the puppies is a little too vigorous about the free meal.

Or at least that's what I think that's why. I mean, the kid picked up that little joke REALLY young.

Maybe there's no correlation though, as the next breastfed kid needed to have it explained. Oh well, that's the child I worry about the most. (Please child, please have more ambition and brains than is currently in evidence.)

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 4, 2008 3:20 PM

maryland_mother

I feel the same way about my live in nanny/nephew. I just pray that he is just being a 19 year old boy.

Posted by: Irishgirl | January 4, 2008 3:29 PM

Feels wrong to call a 19 yo a "boy", doesn't it? Very young man with need a brain/ambition transplant?

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 4, 2008 3:40 PM

My sister teaches in a public school in Florida. The PTA is run by right-wing bible thumpers who try to impose their agenda on the school.

Some things they have done:

- Stopped all halloween parties
- Surveyed the school employees on their faith
- Tried to have a church rally for the students
- Petitioned the school board to do away with music, drama, and art
- Asked to review all lesson plans (that did not happen)

There are a lot of PTAs that do good, but some are there to push their own agenda.

Posted by: dandemain | January 4, 2008 3:46 PM

My PTA is Maryland is the reverse. DD is taking an art class starting next week.
She will be walked to the class and then to after care if I am not the door of the art classroom.

The PTA helps with Halloween and Valentine's Day parties and we have been to resturant night (we eat out a lot anyhow) to help support our school.

Yes, at her school the school, PTA, and after care all seem to exist in harmony. DD is only in kindergarten but everyone has tried to make it a pleasant year. I have asked a lot of questions and have been guided to the appropriate person.

Posted by: shdd | January 4, 2008 4:21 PM

I just want to weigh in on the forced community service issue. I don't have kids, so many of you could make the very valid argument that I don't get a say. But I think it's a great idea.

Kids are influenced by their environment. Sometimes they have parents who are not community-minded, and if they are heavily influenced by those parents, they may not become aware of the personal benefits of helping others, as well as the benefit they can bring to others. They may not become aware of others in less fortunate positions who might need their help...people who could help them develop a natural sense of helpfulness, charity and selflessness, not to mention a sensitivity to others who are different.

I agree that schools often overlook practical factors, such as students who must work to help out their families, those who don't have transportation, or a dearth of volunteering opportunities. But without requiring them to volunteer, a student who may enjoy volunteering might not otherwise discover it. Let's face it, kids are pretty selfish, and sometimes you have to guide them into thinking of others. A community service requirement starts out selfish ("I can't graduate without doing this" or "This will look good on my college application") but may end up becoming a truly selfless endeavor. Sure, it'd be nice if kids just naturally developed a community-minded personality, but it doesn't usually happen that way. Community service requirements can help to develop it.

Forgive my rose-colored glasses. My New Year's resolution was to be more positive. :)

Posted by: Monagatuna | January 4, 2008 4:31 PM

"My sister teaches in a public school in Florida. The PTA is run by right-wing bible thumpers who try to impose their agenda on the school ..."

Uh hello. This is AMERICA!!! Love it or leave it. Thank God these people are out there testing our teachers to make sure they don't even mention the word "evolution". Do you actually think we evolved from lower beings such as monkeys??? What are you, an idiot. God created this world in a week and if you don't believe it now, you will be FORCED to believe it once The Huckster becomes our President. God Bless Religion. And may all so-called "scientists" go to the hell that they deserve.

Posted by: antipATRICK | January 4, 2008 5:33 PM

Oh, by the way, "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength." I love you George W. Bush. Thank God the surge is working.

Posted by: antipATRICK | January 4, 2008 5:37 PM

Oh Mike Huckabee, if there were a God, would he really have allowed you to develop that gigantic bald spot on the back of your head???? We all know you speak for the Lord our Savior, but really, don't you think he would have saved your hair before he saved the human race???

Posted by: antipATRICK | January 4, 2008 5:40 PM

Just my two cents - back from vacation (had a great time in the mountains).

We have a jewish community center that is NOT in Atlanta (outside) that they keep telling us is for the city, but those of us who live in the city keep telling them it's too far out for us. Well, there are plenty of Jews in the city, but the JCC conveniently forgets or creates programs that will fail then says how no one is interested.

So I got tired. I wanted my kid to play soccer. I didn't want him to play on Saturdays. Although we are not incredibly religious, I know that there are plenty of others who would be interested, so why isn't there a league that plays on Sundays?

So I eventually called the YMCA in the area and they helped to organize a Sunday league. My husband (no previous experience) coached. With very little advertising, etc, we got 30 kids or so. And probably will have more next year.

I still think I don't do enough.

Also, the whole idea of forced service is not so great, I think. The schools need to spend more time teaching the basics, getting the kids who don't want to learn out of the schools. They used to do that. But not anymore. We have to be accepting.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 5, 2008 8:14 PM

You don't have to like all the personalities to appreciate the work of a PTA. Some valuable work at our school: helping seniors fill out college apps (many parents have never applied before), funding and running a free after-prom party to keep kids safe, grants for teacher's extra project ideas. Organizing Taste of Einstein where we celibrate our multiculturalism. The bottom line is that every child can benefit.

Posted by: kirstenpaulson | January 7, 2008 10:26 AM

"Just my two cents - back from vacation (had a great time in the mountains).

We have a jewish community center that is NOT in Atlanta (outside) that they keep telling us is for the city, but those of us who live in the city keep telling them it's too far out for us. Well, there are plenty of Jews in the city, but the JCC conveniently forgets or creates programs that will fail then says how no one is interested.

So I got tired. I wanted my kid to play soccer. I didn't want him to play on Saturdays. Although we are not incredibly religious, I know that there are plenty of others who would be interested, so why isn't there a league that plays on Sundays?"

You're kidding me right??? My God, this is Mike Huckabee territory. You do realize that if the second coming of Christ, excuse me, Mr. Huckabee is elected, there WILL BE NO ACTIVITY AT ALL ON SUNDAY!!! And you Jews. You will be forced to convert to the only real religion. And yes, that is Christianity. And yes, all of you will be UN_CIRCUMCISED!!! You will have foreskin re-attached to your penises. It will be fun. REJOICE!!!!

Posted by: antipATRICK | January 7, 2008 7:52 PM

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