I am often out of my element. Just a perpetual fish out of water, even when technically still in the water. So when my friend Melissa asked me to help out at our kids’ school fundraiser, I couldn’t think of a place where I’d fit in less.
For one, I am less a parent than I am just three bewildered 12-year-olds standing on each others’ shoulders in a trench coat.
Two, I am new to the school parent game. My oldest just started kindergarten. I’m still shocked I managed to fill out the 167 pages of paperwork it took to enroll him.
And three, school parents who have it together enough to help at a school fundraiser are on a whole other level. A somewhat intimidating level. A level that usually involves packing a snack for their kid that isn’t leftover french fries.
So when she asked me, it was essentially like asking a fish to climb a tree with a bicycle. Or worse, asking a fish to put on pants without ketchup stains and to not curse for two hours straight. Absolutely not, I immediately thought.
She then casually yet cruelly mentioned that there would be beer at the event.
So I said yes.
You know, come to think of it, maybe fish out of water is the wrong terminology. Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome? Where a person constantly feels like they’re faking it? It’s like I have that. Or like I’m a confused fish with that. Five-and-half years in, and I’m still faking being a parent. Every single time I drop off and pick up my kid, I’m convinced I’ll be found out.
Any Other Parent: “Hello. How are you?”
Me: “Good. Great. Mostly because I have kids. I’m totally a parent. The hospital just handed them over to me. I didn’t have to take a test or anything.”
Any Other Parent: “OK then. Nice meeting you.”
*awkward edging away by all parties involved*
But there’s strength in numbers (and in craft beer alcohol content), so I bravely put on my last unstained pair of pants and walked directly behind and slightly crouched behind Melissa into that bake sale like a boss.
Unfortunately that slinking courage lasted for all of two minutes before they put a money box in front of me.
“So, everything on the table is a dollar, except for the bracelets, which are five dollars,” the beautiful school mom without undereye bags and tangled hair affably told me.
“Awesome. Perfect. Could you repeat that?” I replied because I am always too busy thinking about what an idiot I am to actually listen to people.
“Absolutely. All the baked goods are a dollar. All the raffle tickets are a dollar. And the bracelets are five dollars.”
“Yup. Got it. Thank you.”
I then turned to Melissa.
“Did you catch any of that?”
Melissa, however, was busy being rudely competent by already tending to our first customers and figuring out the mobile credit card swiper on an iPad.
I was about to feel super sorry for myself and steal a brownie to sad-eat in the bathroom when another impeccably put-together mom appeared and started asking me about my kids. I made a few awkward jokes at first (“my oldest is five and my back-up auxiliary kid is three”) but she seemed genuinely interested. So I kept talking. And as I kept talking, something magical happened. I relaxed. And as I relaxed, I started asking her questions about her kids. Soon we were having a full blown conversation about our kids. And then other people joined in.
And BOOM. Suddenly I was humaning with the best of them.
As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Not because I abruptly became a fully functioning adult. But because I was surrounded by them. People who were good at making conversation. People who were warm and approachable. People who were really good at ignoring the yawns of the new school mom who suffers from insomnia and include her despite her overall vibe of “they think I’m a people, just like them!”
But most importantly, people who love to talk about their children as much as I do. Because the one thing I never have to fake is how much I love my kids.
And how much I want to murder them when they ask for spaghetti for dinner and then throw a tantrum at dinner because they just remembered that they hate spaghetti.