For the first time my vote doesn’t count in family events

January 15, 2012

VANCOUVER, BC, Jan. 15, 2012/ Troy Media/ – It’s as if she’s suddenly speaking Italian. I must have misheard. Turning my head towards my 17-year-old daughter for clarification, she repeats her assertion as if I’m suddenly deaf. ‘MOM. You and I are NOT working the dry grad fundraiser tomorrow.’

What? I’m confused. It’s not tomorrow? Dragging my behemoth 16-month calendar across my lap towards me, I cast my eyes on tomorrow’s highlighted notation: Meredith’s dry grad bottle and clothing drive fundraiser – 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM.

Yes, that’s my handwriting. Surely I didn’t get the day wrong?

Message not getting through

Meredith stops tapping on her iPad, obviously discerning her verbal message isn’t getting through. ‘My friends and I have decided we do enough for the school already. It’s time for the others to step up. OK?’ She smiles distractedly and returns to her beckoning email; matter settled, mother forgotten.

Our living room, in which we are sitting mere feet apart, grows somewhat smaller and warmer. I lean back in my armchair stunned. That’s it? I’m dismissed without a say?

It’s then that it hits me. For the first time my vote doesn’t count in family events.

Oh, I’m aware that it’s only one instance and there are bound to be lots of times when I’ll still be consulted. It’s just that this is the first time and, judging by my daughter’s casual manner, she’s completely unaware of its impact on me. How can she not notice?

To be fair, perhaps I haven’t expressed much interest in her high school graduation year. I have yet to attend one of the monthly dry grad parent meetings. However, this is due to pure self-preservation on my part. My two children are 20 months apart in age and a grade apart in school. If I step up now it’s a dead certainty that I’ll be handed the running of the whole dry grad program next year when her brother Henry enters grade 12. No thank you. Years of co-chairing the Parent Advisory Committee, running the Sparks program and coordinating school fairs during the elementary years have cured me of the desire to head up any more school endeavours.

Still, I’ve always assumed Meredith would inherently know I’d be more than keen to help with tomorrow’s event. The key fundraiser for the booze-free grad celebration (a three hour boat cruise this year), the yearly bottle and clothing drive is the one event that welcomes full parent participation. Indeed, it is viewed as the last high school opportunity for parents and children to work together towards a common goal. How can she not want to do this with me?

Something niggles at my conscience. I look over at my daughter and find myself forced to consider her reasons for making this choice. She’s right. Her involvement in student government activities is tireless. Perhaps it is time for others to take up the torch.

On further reflection, I concede to being a teensy bit pleased to be spared the delight of a six hour shift in a drizzly parking lot. The concept of not having to spend my Saturday huddled under a leaky canopy, jamming chilled fingers into wadded balls of latex gloves, and pawing through sticky green garbage bags, separating discarded pop cans from their boozy beer cousins, fills me with quiet glee. Perhaps I can give this job a miss.

No. I can’t. There’s the tiny matter of our donation patiently waiting in the basement. It must be delivered. A dread creeps over me. Who will I meet in the parking lot as I drop it off? Worse, will they question our lack of attendance?

Meredith, sensing my hesitancy, smiles. ‘Don’t worry Mom. You won’t know anyone.’

Reason to smile

My wise girl miraculously absents herself to a hot bath. Henry, rolling his eyes, hefts the heavy wooden wine crate and schleps out to the car. I stagger behind carrying the lighter cardboard box overflowing with empty juice cartons and bottles; the frigid air seeping into my light jacket.

Five minutes later, I swing into the parking lot. It’s just possible to make out a group of kids and parents huddling under a dripping canopy. The unmistakeable clink of empties rings through the mist. A huge truck waits to haul away the clothing donations.

A scowling grad appears out of the gloom. Nope, I’ve never seen her before. Meredith will be thrilled. After she snaps her gloves in place, I hand her the box and smile.

There’s always Henry’s fundraiser next year.

Kelly McKenzie delights in writing about the minutiae of everyday life. Widowed, mother of two active teenagers, she is awash with material.

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