RR’s new school asks for a lot more family involvement than her old school did. There are potlucks and picnics. There are fundraising events and volunteering opportunities. There are classes and committees. We routinely see and stop to chat with other parents in the grocery store or at the park. Reflecting on our previous experience, that’s about 1000% more interaction with the school and the families in it.
It’s a good thing. Of course it is. I’m delighted to see other parents. Last weekend I chatted with a stranger at the park whose son we recognized. She was having some of the same anxieties about hours (they are tight when both parents work a full day) and the adjustments she was seeing her child try to make. We are both coming from excellent daycares in the area and it was nice to feel like Debra and I weren’t the only ones watching our child melt down day after day. You might say, wouldn’t it be great to have a new parents group? But I would die at the sound of it. Another commitment? No thank you.
I’m an introvert with more than my fair share of social anxiety. It has taken me years to recognize that the excellent social skills my mother taught me are an incredible gift. Without them I would struggle every day. But, it’s still work, keeping anxiety at bay. I promise, you’d never know it if you met me, but I pretty much died right before I said hello to you. Thanks to my mother, I have an extrovert’s script and a few acting skills. It doesn’t mean I like it.
Work takes just about as much out of me as I can afford to give each day. From the moment I walk out the door, I need to start recharging for the next day. Soothing the nervous spots, rehearsing for lunch, steeling my nerves for that meeting with people I don’t see often. In a really good week, I can set myself up for a party or potluck. In a normal week, those commitments are just dread. Pure, gut-twisting, dread. Heard of the spoon theory? It exists not only for illness, but for any way a life is limited, including introverts and people with anxiety.
And so you see, our community has blossomed, but so have our commitments and obligations. I can only send my wife alone to events so often. I’ve never been comfortable saying, “I can’t help with/attend/contribute to that. It just takes too much. I’m sorry.” I just do the best I can. Between you and I, sometimes I wish that the school would stop planning potlucks and picnics and service days. But they are good. Community is good.