Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Ideal Room Mom

The time has definitely come to tweak the role of Room Mom.

The Room Mom is someone who volunteers to help out the teacher throughout the year when it comes to planning and coordinating parent contributions usually for class holiday parties.

Typically, the focus of the Room Mom's input is all on being cute and creative. Cute themes, adorable craft projects, creative foods shaped like a non-food something, that sort of thing. The focus of the other parents' responses and input is primarily to reply to the email wish list with what they can contribute – napkins or cookies.

But there's so much more to consider, really.

Food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities have increased. I've never known so many children to have life-threatening reactions to common foods.

But also just the disruption to the day in general deserves attention. Many children suffer when their routine is disrupted, not just those with more pronounced needs, but certainly kids like my C.S.

My ideal Room Mom would realize these things and so take her role seriously. She would plan parties with the concern of a mother, the organization of a teacher and the grace of the best hostess.

She would get to know the class, the many different personalities and certainly any food intolerances. She'd use this knowledge to plan a party to help her guests feel comfortable, at home and at ease.

My Ideal Room would know that of course, with all the food intolerances these days, it would be difficult to plan a menu where every food item met everyone's preferences, but she would try. She would insist that at least one primary food item and/or holiday item on the menu be suitable to all her guests diets. (In other words, not only would no one have to fear for their life, but also the dairy free would not be relegated to eating grapes at every party)

This Wonder Woman would be sensitive when it came to planning activities. She'd have creative solutions and not resort to "tried and true" old school games that rely upon winning or elimination for the fun, but would create her own party mix. Like the best DJ, she'd be able to gauge the mood of the room. She'd know just when to transition and exactly what it would take to get everyone out on the dance floor smiling and feeling good.

She might even make a party program, perhaps in poster form (or visual organizer as parents like me know them) so the kids would know what to expect and be able to manage their own expectations if needed.

In short, her planning would be so much more than cute trimmings but would add real value to the party.

And I am idealistic enough not only to believe that such a Room Mom is possible, but to even expect that our Room Moms begin to understand this perspective — at least I'm trying.

I signed up as a Room Mom for C.S.'s class. I'm one of three. I'm not the "lead room mom" The one who is, was Room Mom for my son's class last year. She is a Reigning Room Mom Supreme and she is obviously not welcome to my input here. But despite this, I've had a few successes.

I suggested a few changes and additions to the Halloween party. Most importantly to me, that not only would we have a fun allergy-friendly food option but that we not add frozen "eyeballs" to the "blood punch." How ironic that this would come up at the first party. "Eyeballs" was the word the kids used to taunt C.S. mercilessly with last year.

I was left out of the planning for the Thanksgiving party. Without my input, of the 9 food items on the menu, only 1 was dairy and/or egg free. For at least 3 children, that was a problem. So I just made sure to bring in plenty of allergy friendly substitutions including an adorable apple pie. The kids seemed to appreciate having them.

But for the upcoming Christmas party, Room Mother Superior had clearly had it with my suggestions. She accused me of "taking the fun out of everything." So soon after our Sensitivity Day, this and many other impasses I was having in my efforts to be a Sensitive Room Mom was disappointing. I'll be honest. I felt like giving up after that. But I know I won't.

Silver Lining: My ideas may not be popular with the reigning Room Mom. Obviously she felt tweaked. And fair enough, because although I meant nothing personal by it, that's exactly what I had every intention of doing essentially. I may not be making much ground with her, but I think Room Mom number 2 may have come around to seeing classroom party planning from a more Sensitive perspective.

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