I’m a big believer in compliments. I’m also a big believer in people. The strength, humility, wisdom and beauty that I often have the pleasure to witness deserves to be recognised.
If someone has achieved something wonderful, put together a high fashion ensemble, achieved just the right hair tone, finally sorted the tragic brow situation, it should be declared. We are so quick to judge and tear people down or worse still to blatantly ignore their daily challenges or accomplishments.
“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” –R.J Palacio’s Wonder.
Instead we should build each other up, throw a giant neon spotlight over their strengths so that their weaknesses pale into the darkness. We need to remind, not just our nearest or dearest, but everyone that they are worthy and magical in their own right because it might just be exactly what they need to hear at that exact moment.
Four years ago I was cunningly tricked into accepting a job under these exact circumstances.
The job in question was unpaid, unrewarding, with no annual leave, no benefits and very little support.
‘I’ll take it’, I said as I packed my 2 for €5 strawberries into my Lidl bag at the Supervalu checkout. The interview had taken place in the queue at the supermarket, the panel consisted of a Mum (one of the rock solid ones, who makes it look easy, with good hair and very good shoes) from the school and had commenced with, ‘Do you know what you’d be great at…’
I had been flattered into accepting a role on the committee for the…
‘You feckin’ knob’, Sister 2 laughed uncontrollably into the phone that evening when I called to tell her that I had been specially selected from a panel of elite, by a team of parental experts to take a high responsibility role.
‘It’s a bloody nightmare and you’ll be forced to wear big swinging denims super high up under your boobs, a giant functional anorak and carry a clip board. Everyone will hate you. It’s actually illegal to like anyone on the PAC and people will see you coming and they will run faster than Sonia O’Sullivan to get the hell away from you.’
This was in total contrast to my own vision of strutting into the school, Pink Lady bomber jacket slung nonchalantly over my shoulder, with the Grease theme tune playing. I mean I was ok with the clipboard, this could work, but swinging denims that give you a big high arse and anoraks (unless it was Stella McCartney by Adidas) would not do.
I reminded her that she herself had done a year long stint on the ‘rule the school’ committee and she in turn reminded me that this was during the pre-recession heyday and things were entirely different nowadays. According to Sister 2, in the good old day there was so much money floating about that people would stuff 50’s into your knickers as you walked past at the annual fundraiser, they could hardly count the cash that came floating down from the sky and people rarely bothered to claim the prizes pulled out of the giant silver tombola!
Never one to shy from a challenge and relying on the fact that Sister 2 would never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, I decided there and then that I would endeavour to change the image of the PAC, to include rather than exclude, to pull our denims down to an acceptable waist level, unzip the anorak and release the fun.
What a complete and utter IDIOT.
I was falsely under the assumption that it was fundamentally a fundraising committee and with a background in Marketing (Dick Head), sure this would be a walk in the park. The committee itself consisted of very like-minded individuals and no one’s jeans were hoisted up their arse so it was a positive start. We would be the ‘fun’ committee, we would remain calm, we would not judge others on their lack of baking skills, we would not start to believe that we were running an international conglomerate, we would perhaps work in a fashion opportunity or two, we would remain professional and would work as a team to make the year go as quickly as possible so we could swiftly hand the baton to some other poor unsuspecting mother in Supervalu in need of a compliment.
We established our goals (raise money) and giddily called our first meeting, set out every chair in the hall and waited for the onslaught of…oh…the eight people that turned up. As an aside I should mention that every parent in the school forms the actual Parents Association but the committee itself is made up of the people who volunteer (while held down forcibly over the bonnet of a car) to manage the events.
Approximately five minutes into the first meeting I realised the Parents Association was not for me.
I’m far too honest, my face fails me every time I try to hide my feelings, I’m about as organised as my Hotpress and I’m about as politically correct as Spencer Pratt. This was an even bigger mistake than the burnt orange suede frock coat with lace up detailing that ended up filed under, Butch Cassidy, in the dressing up box.
All I had wanted to do was grasp this wonderful opportunity to do wonderful things for the wonderful school community of wonderful parents and wonderfully marvellous children. But this was something entirely different and it dawned on me that no amount of compliments or telling people that you believe they are made entirely of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows would ignite other parents to take part as they are clever, so much cleverer than me and then can run faster, so much faster than me.
After that first meeting I decided that The Parents Association should in fact be called The Passive Aggressive.
Like a cross section of the Universe the Passive Aggressive is filled with all sorts with many varying opinions, ideas and values. It is a melting pot of emotions, especially since you consider we all have one vital thing in common, our kids, and as we all know this is the one area that can bring out the best and the very worst in people. (Think vicious mythical creature, with laser eyes, sharp teeth and scary claws, like the Gruffalo without the mouse.)
A role on the PAC is akin to any typical office role, but without an office. It does however carry the same politics, the same mix of personalities and a sting that I would liken to childbirth but without the baby.
The meetings had a low attendance level and you would cross everything that no one would bring up anything to do with the healthy eating policy as honest to God it’s not that you don’t give a shit what Jimmy will or won’t eat but Games of Thrones is on and you really want to see a dragon hatch.
And it’s not that you don’t want people’s ideas but you just know that Mary is going to come and she has another great fundraising idea…Oh Christ.
Go on so Mary tell us your logistical nightmare of an idea and I’ll tell you what, instead of doing any washing this week, working my part time job, going to the gym, sleeping; I’ll call around every pizza restaurant in Europe and see who does the best nut free, gluten free, carb free, sugar free, dairy free pizza for the family fun day while you go for coffee and get the roots done. Ah Mary, I love you. Why didn’t I think of that?
And there’s Tara and bless her she’s so enthusiastic and I know they did it in your nephews school but I’m just not sure we can do a painted collage of every child in the school and take an aerial photo of it and have it printed onto a flag and march down Grafton Street with it tucked into our jocks to raise money. Maybe Tara you could price it up and let us know if you think it’s viable.
Angry Mum is sure to be there, who has come along to air a grievance. Please don’t. Not tonight.
Lone Man is also present who has been sent with a mission. ‘You go Frank. You go and say that we are not ‘tall happy about the price of the art supplies and the fact that the copy books all went into a pool and I’m after buying Jimmy the good ones and yer one went and bought the cheap shit ones and I’m after seeing Bobby going around with the good Aisling Made in Ireland copy that I bloody bought. You go and say it.’
And it’s not that you don’t really care what people are saying, because they are real and honest concerns but you just really don’t know how to write it in the minutes in a way that’s not going to make the poor sod come across as a total dipshit. I mean the PAC are not the school, we have absolutely no power when it comes to running the school and we really haven’t a clue about anything but we will of course note it down and do absolutely nothing about it.
At the same time as listening to various grievances and hoping that the S.O hasn’t ploughed ahead with Season 2, Episode 6, you are trying to come across as if you are having the time of your life and uphold the sacred pinky swear that no one must EVER publicly complain about being on the committee as we’ll be stuck doing this crap ‘til 6th class, so perk up!
There’s Cake Sales and Communion and Confirmation catering and people moaning about tea and raffle tickets and concerts and emails and Whatsapp groups and Frank is still going on about the copies and so much more…
But look it wasn’t all bad, honestly.
The highlight of the year was organising a barn dance with no barn, the fun of it! We managed to rope an entire village in to help pull it off, all borne out of the fact that I had a red dress I wanted to wear again.
We put up Marquees, managed by a team of strapping lads who we dubbed ‘Team Erection’. This proved the easiet task to raise volunteers for. The local hotel turned an overgrown wasteland into saw-dusted perfection for us complete with hay bales and a bucking bronco.
Together with Rachel (the English to my Irish, the Ying to my Yang, the sense to my nonsense) and the other Pink Ladies we created the essence of Texas in a little village in Wicklow.
I don’t know what it was that made that night so special. Maybe it was the fact that it was so homemade, maybe it was terribly English Rach dressed as a squaw, maybe they all felt sorry for us, maybe it was the theme (who doesn’t love a cowboy hat), but there was a little bit of magic that night as many people turned out to support our little vision.
Unfortunately my dress didn’t allow me to ride the Bucking Bronco but I was happy to let Sister 2 shine that night. She had even brought along her denims to partake in the riding activity, great big swinging ones, pulled right up on her arse. As she gripped on for dear life with her knuckles bleeding with the effort, I looked around and watched a community laughing and dancing together and I felt…well I felt proud.
I can’t remember how much money we raised and no one stuffed any 50’s down my dress but we weren’t totally ashamed with the result. We drank far too much prosecco and our dancing would have made Dolly and Kenny proud.
So there you have it, it was a shite job really and I’m clearly not your typical committee person but I had a great year, made a load of friends, no enemies and I promised myself I would never ever under any circumstances do it again…until I did, again this year.
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?
If I’m honest I probably shouldn’t have gone on the PAC again. It was a bit like getting back together with an ex-boyfriend, it suddenly dawns on you that some things are better left in the past.
But that year we had a drop the mic moment at that barn dance…
In future I just need to remember that you’re supposed to walk away, not come back and pick it up.
This blog is dedicated to Rachahontas, the wonderful Annemarie from The Powerscourt Arms, Enniskerry and everyone on the Parents Association, sure I’m only messin’!