Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Volunterin' With Betty

There's a reason Betty teaches college students and not little tiny children.

Oh, Betty tries to be sweet, good, kind and patient with large groups of little children. In fact, I can go for about ten minutes solid on a good day and not say something that may psychologically damage one of the little under-construction adults.

As the youngest of five children, I did not grow up taking care of other children. I wore the crown. I was the sweetheart who got carried about and tended to. I did my share of babysitting, but only for the bucks it brought, not for the love of taking care of tender little ones.

I always knew I wanted my own children, but harbored fears that I really didn't know what I was doing. After the birth of my first child, I stood in the halls of the hospital and looked around at the doctors and nurses. Was it true that they were just going to release me? With this helpless infant? I had been a student nearly all my life. I wanted someone to come administer a test, or at least a short quiz, before they passed me into this program of child-rearing.

They did indeed release me, and even without a test, I am quite happy to say that Sonny Boy and I did just fine. I loved being a mom, and while I did make some mistakes, (another LONG post) we both survived and then along came Evan to make the picture complete.

Then came the school years. Since our house backed up to an elementary school, I had watched for years when the parents and kids gathered for events. Once I was walking down the sidewalk and I saw a beaming mom walking toward the school carrying a cake creation that I will never forget. It was an old west scene, with a dusty main street that had detailed stores and sidewalks, and going down the street was a horse and buggy complete with detailed riders and reins made out of skinny licorice whips. My stomach seized up. How would I ever fit in with the other School Moms? I had no idea how to create such items. The last batch of cupcakes I had made looked strange, melted aliens.

The school Sonny Boy enrolled in was indeed the school back of us. It was an alternative school--one with an open philosophy. We had to enter a lottery for it, but he got in and was more than ready. I was not. The school required two hours of volunteer time per week and there were some hard-core Mommies who lived, breathed, and loved their school volunteering duties.

As I signed up for my volunteer hours, memories of my insecurities in the hospital and of that damn horse and buggy cake came back to me, but I decided to get in there and be a Dedicated School Mom Volunteer. Patient. Good. Kind. I could do this. For two hours a week.

I was working full-time by this time and Evan was an infant (Read: I was tired, stressed, bedraggled, and smelled funny most of the time) but I managed to juggle my schedule, get a babysitter and show up on time. The classroom was full of teeming, talking, moving, wiggling little children. It was overwhelming. I helped out by patrolling for wayward students in the classroom, overseeing lunch bag distribution, and helping children wash their hands after recess. It was, to say the least, not exactly my thing. I did my hours and then left the school, barely masking my impulse to run back to my car and tear out of the school's driveway.

On top of it all, I found some of the children to be, well, a little annoying.

Some were very annoying.

I have very little patience with annoying children.

However, I took my cue from the Good Mothers who were also in the room--the ones who said kind and loving things to the annoying children. The ones who were willing to repeat instructions in level-tones and with just enough sugar in the voice to sound like the nice Mom on TV who serves her children Jeno's Pizza Rolls as an after-school snack.

It was about the fifth week into my Good Mother Volunteer role that I found myself in charge of one of the crafts stations with construction paper, scissors, glue and about five children. Our mission was to cut out cute clown heads and then decorate them with happy, happy, fuzz balls and pipe cleaners too!

It all started well, until one boy decided to mess with Betty. He was one of the repeat offenders--the kind of child other parents refer to as a "one hour kid," meaning you want the kid at your house for no more than one hour.

No matter what I did, he wouldn't cut out his clown head. I finally started it for him and urged him to take over. He looked around, he kicked the table, he broke crayons, he wheedled the kid next to him. All the while I was patient, urging him to cut out the rest of his clown face. "Won't this be FUN?" I said. He looked around the room and then at me.

He asked me where I got my weird shoes.

He told me my shirt looked old.

He began to play with the scissors, opening and shutting them rapidly.

(Now, I know all you good Mommies out there right now are diagnosing this boy with a syndrome. Believe me when I say there was nothing medically wrong with him. He really was just a horrible, annoying child.)

I decided to ignore him and focus on the other children. That's when the Annoying One held his scissors aloft and said, "I am going to stab myself in the leg with these. What would you do if I did that?" he said.

"Oh!" I said, in a sweet voice and large eyes that I hoped conveyed concern and shock to any other mothers who might have overheard the little monster. "You wouldn't want to do that! That would hurt you and you wouldn't be able to run and play."

"Well, I am going to and then you'll probably get into big trouble."

(Betty's Blood Pressure Rises.)

Using my sweet voice, but in a slightly higher octave, "Oh, but why would you want to get me in trouble?'

"Because I don't like you."

Voice now Concentrated High Fructose Corn Syrup Sweet and at a pitch not often heard in human beings: "Oh! Well, I like you very much and I sure don't want to see you hurt!"

"I'm going to do it. I'm going to stick these scissors into my leg and then it's going to bleed."

Silence from Betty. (Never a Good Sign.)

"I'll do it!"

More silence as all traces of Betty as Good Mother Volunteer leak out like grape juice in a bogus knock-off Glad Sandwich Bag purchased at the 99 Cent store.

"I'm going to do it and then you'll be in a lot of trouble."

Betty turns to other children and is overly nice to them for the next 30 seconds just to show Annoying Child how other children love Betty.

"I will do it," he says.

Betty turns to him, smile plastered on her face, bearing a disturbing resemblance to the clown faces on table. She speaks through the frozen, open smile.

"Fine. Go ahead. Do it."

"I will!" he says in a flutely, jeering voice, his eyes locked on mine.

I look over the table and pretend to enjoy gluing fuzz balls onto constriction paper. I tap the glue bottle rhythmically on the clown's hat and my voice matches in a sharp staccato.

"If stabbing scissors into the flesh of your skinny little leg is your life-long dream, your mission, your raison d'etre, then you should do it. I do not want to deny you this all-important, though painful experience."

He wavers a bit and says nothing, the scissors poised in mid-air above his leg..

I smile like a crazed circus performer at the other children at the table and then suddenly swing around to him, my face about two inches from his and whisper, "Do it! You should just do it! But when you do, put them in deep enough to make it worth your time and mine!"

I turn back to smile maniacally at the other children and ecstatically reach for some MORE colorful fuzz balls and glue!

At this time the teacher shows up and asks how our clown work is going. I look around to see one of the girls who was at our table, standing slightly behind the teacher, looking at me with widened eyes.




The next week I was put on Poetry Cube Duty--cutting milk cartons down, covering them and attaching poems to the sides. A solitary task. "Should I come up to the school and get the milk cartons and work on them there?" I asked the teacher.

"No! No!" she said hastily and I began to pick up on that tone of voice, that frozen smile on her face. "Since your house backs up to the school, I'll just throw the sacks with the milk cartons over your fence. There's no need for you to come to the school."

"Well, OK! But I'll sure miss working with the children!"

Time to celebrate! Pass the fuzz balls and the glue and let's get started!

Two Yellow Slides Diverged in a School Yard and I Didn't Take Either One.
I Went Home and Watched TV Instead.


liz said...

That story was great! I was rolling after the knock-off Glad sandwich bags from the 99 cent store. That kid was awful! Sounds like you got the best of it in the end, though. Not having to go back there 2 hours a week.

Alexandra said...

Oh, Bossy: that was SO funny. You know what, there is a new website up where you send in your "funniest" post and they'll put it up.

THis one is that kind of post. The link is at my website, on the top . It's called Laughoutloud. Please send this one over there , to LOL.

THis one has got to be there...

and I"m not brown nosin' here..:)

My Mind's Eye said...

Betty you are hilarious....I loved the story...and oh did it bring back volunteering memories. I also volunteered at my daughter's elementary school. I also worked but signed the volunteer sheet. I had no idea what I'd do but I expected to read to the children or help with crafts....which I felt very able to do. Guess what I was assigned to do? I was 'swish Mom'. This was back in the mid 70's when once a month the children swish to promote oral health. I gave each child a Dixie cup with a lovely green-blue liquid. They were supposed to swish for 30 seconds then spit it back in the cup. Do you have any idea how many children did not know how to swish nor did they ever learn that year. Thanks for the volunteer memories.
Madi and Mom

BNM said...

LAMO! im going to school to teach the lil ones but in that case I may have done the same thing!

Ally said...

Betty you're too funny. I remember when I worked at a nursing home doing recreation activity (playing BINGO, etc.) the patients would say things like, "Hey Fatty, come here!" or "What kind of shoes are those, I've never seen anything like that." Each day was a new adventure.

Visit me at

Anonymous said...

When you first wrote, "I'll Do it", I thought you meant you told him you'd stab his leg FOR him and I was thinking, You GO BB. Loved this story and well done with the bratty boy. I always tried to do my time as a library volunteer. That way, if anyone said anything annoying, I could go all cross-eyed and say "ssshhhhhhh"

Lola Sharp said...

Funny stuff!


Lindsey said...

Hilarious! I would have done the exact same :)
Go for you for refusing to go down the slide!!

Writing Without Periods! said...

So funny. Thanks for the laugh.

Karen M. Peterson said...

And this is exactly why I never became a teacher!

Marlene said...

Oh, you are my hero!!!! A woman after my own heart!! I can't standy whiny annoying brats - and I likely would have laughed had that brat actually stuck himself in the leg. Yeah, I'm evil. Brilliant way to get out of being around the pests! GO BETTY!

Copyboy said...

That scissors showdown had me rolling!!!! You should think about applying for a negotiator of sorts – corporate or hostage.

Beth Zimmerman said...

THAT was truly hysterical! I LOVE kids but the longest year of my life was the one I spent as a teacher's aide! NEVER again! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Ahh ha ha! You are one of a kind. Your posts always make me laugh. :)

Well, maybe you're my mom's twin. She was never very fond of other people's kids either. She would definitely have told the snotty-nosed little punk to stab himself. :)

I am looking forward to having my own kids someday, but I'll never be one of...Them.

essbesee said...

hilarious. other people's kids are often annoying. and that wild west cake makes me want to slap the lady who made it. with her licorice reins.

Brian (not the cat) said...

I wonder whatever happened to that kid. I'll bet he has a lot of piercings.

Ashley King said...


I am SOOOO just like you!
I NEVER thought (or felt) like i fit in with all the other mommies.... i just couldn't do it....
i was the one dropping my daughter off at school, curbside, in my pjs and glasses and messy hair, while all the other mommies were holding their children's hands (and backpacks) and walking them to the playground to play before school... and then waiting with them until the bell rang.... the other mommies would wave to their children as they walked in a single file line into the classroom while i was blowing kisses to my daughter from the car.... then speeding off to get back home and into bed.... (or get ready for work, depending on the day).... her Kindergarten year, i got this great idea to volunteer once a week for 3 hours.... the teacher was so sweet and needed volunteers, and somehow being in the whole "back to school" mode, i signed my name on that stupid STUPID list...
and i went.... all i remember were the boys picking their nose, looking at the boogers.... some would eat their boogers, others would roll and flick them.... i remember one "repeat offender" taking the crayons and putting them in his underpants!!! i didn't know what to do except get the teacher involved because my blood pressure would rise INSTANTLY and i just thought, "ugh! my daughter doesn't act like that! why do you?!" how horrible of me, right? then i started coming up with excuses about why i couldn't make it.
"work is short-staffed and they called me in." (lies)
"i don't feel well and don't want to get the kids sick." (lies)
then finally, i just had to come clean and say, "i'm bi polar and may flip and hurt one of these children." okay so not really.... i just said that i don't think it was working out quite the way i'd had hoped it would. i only had that day to squeeze in my errands and dr appointments and that i could grade papers or sort things at home....
she took me up a few times about the doing stuff at home....

i haven't volunteered since....

Cheeseboy said...

Ha Ha! Honestly I don't know how you teach adults. Kids actually do what I ask them... sometimes.

Also, garbage brand lunch bags are the best kind.

Lidian said...

Oh, Betty.

Yeah. This brings it back to me, all right (pours drink quickly and gulps). I am an only child and equally not at ease with little kids/volunteering/ etc. Was the worst ever and never wanted to do stuff like go on school trips (everyone else was just desperate to go and I was like, fake-smiling and fuming inside at the whole thing) - trying to manage five or six agitating little boys (plus maybe a girl or two who were kind of stunned-looking) on the subway (we always spent about 2 hours on public transit, I used to say that the field trips really were Going On Three Trains) with the boys running around everywhere - so that you could go somewhere to glue linty stuff on a sock and call it a, no. Not my cup of tea.

Not even my glass of sherry!

Now mine are teenagers and boy do I not miss it.

Your post made me smile. A lot. It's nice not to feel like you're the only one :)

One Photo said...

Oh Bossy this is absolutely hilarious - your descriptions are so different and funny like the line about the knock off glad bag.

I well remember the afternoon it came time to leave the hospital with my new born daughter and how I felt absolutely terrified. I wanted to stay at least another week there, until I at least felt I had some idea of what to do next! What a daunting moment it is.

Great post today

Ann said...

You lasted longer with that kid than I would have. I never was one of those happy cheery moms and I probably would have not handled that boy as well as you manged to for a

Shannon O'Donnell said...

That was too hilarious for words!! OMG! I had to read it TWICE before I could even comment. :-)

Roxy said...

This post is so funny, and some of your comments remind me of me. I have six kids of my own, but I don't always like other people's children. Thanks for a happy smile, Bossy Betty.

Crystal Cook said...

Oh my gosh that is SO funny!!! I wish I could say I was the kind of mom who loved to volunteer at my kid's school. But I don't. :)

some kids really are annoying little buggers.

sarahjayne smythe said...

LMAO! That was hilarious. Great story. Just perfect. :)

sarahjayne smythe said...

LMAO! That was hilarious. Great story. Just perfect. :)

Ms. A said...

I had a tiny tad of patience, when I was younger. Not so much now. When we go out to eat, or shopping and kids are misbehaving, my poor husband has to hold me back. I embarrass the ever loving crap out of him. Of course, he's usually relieved that for the moment I'm not ripping into him about something.

Anonymous said...

Betty, with this post, you just got into my must-read blog list. I LOVED the humor. Much needed. I actually laughed out loud. You are good! and You know that!

Jordan said...

This is awesome! Yay for you doing what i would dream about but lack the testicular fortitude to do!
And I agree, some kids are just horrible, annoying things. Why do you think there are so many horrible, annoying adults?

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

That is AWESOME! You rock!!

One Photo said...

For your wonderful post today and all your lovely photos, poems etc I have an award for you over at my blog to bring you a little sunshine in return

Julie said...

Oh my gosh, Bossy Betty, you and I would get along splendidly!

Bonnie said...

hahahahahahahaha I LOVED this! I will have to share it with my friends. Just too funny. The way you handled that situation is priceless AND the way you told it. You are one heck of a storyteller! I was hanging on to every last word. :)

Love your last little caption along with the photo. Brilliant!!


Miss Fit said...

Oh my goodness! Idk what I would have done! This is funny and disturbing. That's one way to get out of going to school!

Yaya' s Home said...

Help me, Betty; I'm rolling on the floor, laughing my silly self to little pieces. I'm laughing so hard, I can't get off the floor. Help me, Betty.

I absolutely loved this post. I'm gonna' email you about it. Very, very important. Please watch for my email. Thanks.

~ Yaya
Yaya's Changing World

The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

OMG that was funny and brought back memories!!! I volunteered a lot in my daughter's kindergarten class and there was this one boy who I am sure is going to grow up to be a serial killer (his eyes) and he drove me bonkers!!!!

Lindy said...

Great story, Betty! If I have to deal with half-pints, I'd rather it be the milk carton variety. LOL!

By the way, you have been tagged. The info is on my blog if you'd like to play along. =)


LittleSilkDress said...

This made me laugh so hard! I love your writing. It always brightens my day.

Susan Fields said...

That is hilarious! You handled it well - I probably would have started running down the halls, looking for the teacher.

Rebecca said...

I love it!!!! Does being a college tutor count as a quasi volunteer mommy? I've always wanted a "towanda" moment. Coolio, that was really great. Thank you for sprinkling my day with laughter. :)

Miriam in KS said...

I keep coming back to read this because of two things: First you have me laughing incredibly hard at the visuals you've presented. Second - I will teach the little ones and you can take them big 'uns. K? K. :)

Holly Renee said...

This is a hilarious story. I am not good with some little children either. I'm always scared that I will not like my own children. I think I would have done exactly what you did. And I would have been thrilled for milk carton duty. Also, that kid is kind of creepy. Who says that?

Bitsy Baby Photography said...

HILARIOUS!!! enjoyed this very much!

Tgoette said...

LOL! Aren't little children so precious! Little angels all! Of course there are always those few that get confused about proper behavior and for that we need to push for schools to allow tasers to help teach good manners. Great post, Betty!

Shan said...

I *love* this story. I'm with you on annoying children, especially when they're someone else's. No matter what Corey's put us through, I'd still choose him over just about anyone else.

And by the way, thank you for the comments you leave for me. Some particular ones lately made me feel reassured.

Unknown said...

Hilarious! "This child didn't need medical attention, he was just horrible." HAHAHA!

JennyMac said... this story! Come and help me volunteer for my cookie decorating project with a room full of 3 year olds? :)

Anonymous said...

This was great. I'm such an awful person, but I really wanted to read that he ended up stabbing himself.

Maggi said...

Ha! I worked in a day care, have a one year and I still find certain kids irritating. I'm definitely not an All-Star mom. lol Great story!

Powdered Toast Man said...

I was on the edge of my seat reading that, I was like "is he going to do it?" I would of told that kid to do it to. A little reverse psychology always does the trick.

Unknown said...

OMGoodness - So funny had to share with Hubby! :)

VKT said...


This is hilarious!!! I only wish I had been the teacher. That little boy would have been out of that center before he could blink an eye and sitting in the "thinking chair"....after he and I had had a heart to heart. I don't think the school should have required so much time from the parents. Some parents just don't enjoy little kids. My daughter who is in college is like you....she will babysit for money....but forget anything else.

I am happy if a parent comes once a year for lunch. There are plenty of parents who love to come in. My parents know...if they show up....great....if something comes problem.

This really is too funny. Thanks for the laugh. I can just picture you at the class party I had for my students You probably would have locked yourself in the

Hilarious post!!!!!!!

The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

I remember reading this one and I am super happy you chose it!!! I am cackling with delight because it is something I would mutter.

Loved it. Thank you for sharing it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!