Suburban Turmoil: PTO bound

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 11:45pm

“CA-rol! How ARE you?!”

“MAR-gie! I haven’t seen you in for-EV-er!”

Walking into my daughter’s new school on Parents’ Night, I might as well be the new kid myself. With all the squealing and hugging going on, it’s like watching sorority sisters at a 15-year reunion, except these women aren’t ZTAs. They’re PTOs.

Holding three enormous bags of classroom supplies, I weave my way through the clumps of women in search of the kindergarten wing. It takes a moment, but I finally find my daughter’s classroom, where moms and dads huddle on munchkin-sized chairs in the center of the room. I smile nervously and hunker down over an empty seat.

I guess I’m tardy, because the teacher already has started talking. She’s dimply and sincere, with an endearing lisp that reminds me of Drew Barrymore. I look up at her for a moment and then glance around at the books and lockers and ABC charts and finally, down at the bright rug where in two days, my daughter will sit with 18 other children.

And suddenly, without any warning, I feel tears spring to my eyes. On Parents’ Night. In front of all these grown-ups.

God help me.

For years, I’ve dreamed about this moment, only in my fantasies, I’m wearing a smug smile and seem right at home. You see, I’ve sat in these classrooms before. I’ve attended this school’s many festivals and eaten scores of lunches in its cafeteria.

But that was eight years ago, when I was a brand new stepmother. Back then, I could barely get the other moms to make eye contact with me, let alone smile. I might as well have had “Second Wife” embroidered on the butt of my Bebe jeans.

I wished desperately during those days that I could fit in with the mothers of my stepdaughters’ friends and classmates, and I couldn’t wait for the day when my own children came to this school and I was a bona fide, birth certificate-carrying mom.

Now, though, sitting here among parents who are far more friendly than the ones I encountered eight years ago, what they think of me no longer matters… I’m too busy fighting back an ugly cry.

Two days later, I return to the school building hand-in-hand with my 5-year-old for her first day of school. When we arrive, she runs ahead of me down the sidewalk, ponytails flying, never once looking back. But once we get to her classroom and find her seat, she grows silent.

“Mommy,” she solemnly whispers, “I’m not sure if I’m ready for school or not.”

I try to comfort her but my words ring hollow. I know exactly how she feels.

Half an hour later, I return home alone and let me just say that you don’t really need to know what happens when I walk into the kitchen and see Punky’s cereal bowl sitting at an empty table. I’d prefer it if we just end that scene with the lights dimming as “Sunrise, Sunset,” swells in the background.

A few hours later, I wash my face and arrive at school 20 minutes before the final bell rings, only to find that there are at least 75 cars ahead of me. Apparently, I’m not alone in my anxiety.

After waiting for 45 minutes, I finally collect my pink-cheeked daughter and strap her into her booster seat.

“How did it go?” I ask expectantly.

“It went great!” she says. “Kindergarten was fun, Mommy!”

“Oh good,” I say, relieved. “What did you do?”

“I made three friends,” she says, “and my favorite thing was when the teacher read the Gingerbread Man story. I really loved that story.”

“Terrific!” I say brightly. “Well, the good news is that tomorrow is Saturday and the next day is Sunday, so you don’t have to go back to kindergarten until Monday!”

In the rearview mirror, I watch as Punky frowns. “I don’t get to go to kindergarten tomorrow?” she asks.


“But I want to go to kindergarten tomorrow!” she pouts. “We’re going on the playground!”

“Well, you’ll just have to wait until Monday,” I tell her. Punky exhales loudly, crosses her arms, and looks out the window. I stare at her for a moment. In just three and a half hours at school, the child has aged 10 years.

I want my baby back.

But it’s too late for that, and I’ve got the bills from a brand new Standard School Attire wardrobe to prove it. Besides, this morning I joined the PTO. Soon, I’ll be squealing in the school halls right along with everyone else.

I’m a mom now. I might as well enjoy it.

Read more of Lindsay’s columns at

Filed under: City Voices
Tagged: Lindsay Ferrier | PTO

17 Comments on this post:

By: Carenann on 8/20/09 at 11:01

Good Lord Lindsay. I'm getting teary just reading that as The Son starts Kindergarten on August 31st. Good luck to you and Punky this school year. I also must add that the pictures of Bruiser gazing longingly out the window were also enough to break my heart, poor little guy.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

By: geishaschooldropout on 8/20/09 at 11:48

My son starts kindergarten in a couple weeks, and I'm already ugly crying vicariously through you + Punky, so I'm in for it! And yes, what is up with the insta-attitude at this age? My son, if he could write, could probably start writing angst-ridden emo poetry while smoking cloves and rolling his eyelinered eyes already.

Julie Kang

By: momtothree on 8/20/09 at 11:58

My daugher just started her second year of kindergarten yesterday. We "did" KG last year because she made the cut-off date within one day and she REALLLLY wanted to go. So, we let her "practice" last year, and this year is the "real" kindergarten.

I was crushed when she started phasing in last week.

Last night, we were skimming thru the new Taylor Swift CD.
There is a song on there called "The Best Day." If you can, google the words, go to or just listen to it.

It rips my guts out.


By: sixbelinskis on 8/20/09 at 12:11

This is such a tough transition. Stay strong :)

And watch out for the PTA/PTO!! It's like a time sucking vortex. Once you dip your toe in there you'll never pull out...

By: marywritersblock on 8/20/09 at 12:16

Mary@The Writer's Block


I "ugly cried" last year at parents' night, too, while the teacher talked of the lunch schedule and bringing sneakers for gym class.

This year, walking to 1st grade, I was fine until I saw our sweet kindergarten teacher from last year. I "ugly cried" again and couldn't talk. My husband goes, "Are you crying????" Seeing our K teacher was another reminder of "no turning back."

Gosh, it probably never gets easier.

By: jenc17 on 8/20/09 at 1:16

My son starts kindergarten on Monday. I had a hard enough time getting through orientation this morning...I am not sure how I am going to drop him off in car line and walk up there by himself...booooo. Reading your articles and your blog have helped me ease my way into being the mom of a kindergartner.

By: ewe_are_here on 8/20/09 at 2:54

My 'oldest' boy starts in his reception class (kindergarten equivalent over here) in just three weeks, two days after we get a home visit from his teacher. I'm still not sure how I feel about it: he's too young; he's ready; he's excited; he'll miss his part-time nursery program...

I suspect I'll be tearing up on the first day of school, too.

By: teliason on 8/20/09 at 6:27

I had tears in my eyes when my 3 year old went on the roller coaster at Sesame Place for the first time. I can't imagine what school's going to be like. I'm sure I'll be ready for him to be in school, but it will still be bittersweet.


By: hattahall on 8/20/09 at 6:49

Also, prepare to tear up during parent teacher confrences when they pull out the progression of art and other activites. My son will start 1st grade next week and we will start bussing, (I meant to do it last year but couldn't bring myself to force my baby on a bus that took a whole extra 20 minutes to get home).
Good luck to you.

By: CarolynGrona on 8/20/09 at 7:03

That is *exactly* how I felt going to my son's school at the beginning of the last school year! I remember so many mom's knew each other and knew the teachers and it seemed like a pretty hard clique to break into.

And the tears I cried the day I left him there! The tears I cried waiting for the bus to bring him home! It's like you turn around and they've grown up. It's just not fair.


By: socalledsupermom on 8/21/09 at 7:04

OMG - I have 2 weeks until Grace's first day of kindergarten and I am terrified. She has been in day care since she was 3 months old but school is different....I am NOT ready but she is so excited for it to start.

I am getting all teary just reading this post and thinking about it all.

SoCalled Supermom

By: WisconsinMommy on 8/21/09 at 7:53

You are describing exactly what I will be going through in two more weeks. And I'm terrified!

Maureen/Wisconsin Mommy

By: brookefuller on 8/21/09 at 12:58

I love your reference to "ugly crying." I will SO be an ugly crier when my girls head off to K, its such a bittersweet time! I am excited to hear that you will be on the PTO. I am sure you will be an amazing addition to the PTO and the PTO will provide some amazing reading/writing material :)

By: Kylie on 8/21/09 at 1:46

I am gearing up for my oldest's first day of preschool on Monday! Other mom's make me nervous :) I'm taking all sorts of advice from you- I love the latest on the mom attire to wear to the school!
you can read about us taking our kids on a crazy trip to africa this summer :)-

By: bakenate on 8/21/09 at 3:09

aww i know that we are looking foward to the start of school this year. I was hesitant last year as it was a new teacher. Not this year though we know both well until we move in a month or so...

By: motherreader on 8/21/09 at 10:36

These transitions are so hard, and in most ways harder on the parents than the kids. I wanted my youngest to stay little, and now she's throwing text speak around at me. It goes so fast.

I've always held onto the yin and yang of each stage of their lives - how each age brings a new challenge and a new joy. I miss my little girls chasing fireflies, but I don't miss hauling two young kids to the grocery store. I love my new "Lost" watchers, but I don't love the tween/teen eye rolling maneuver.

By: knewman4 on 8/22/09 at 9:35

Good luck, Lindsay! Between the car line and the clique moms and the emotions, it sounds tough!