I’ve been paralyzed by my anxieties lately. The current state of the economy has been the root of these anxieties; it touches everything from our schools to our little local recreational summer swim club, which are what what concerns me locally. What also worries me is everything from the future being laid for my children to the stresses of today that my parents have to wrestle with in what is supposed to be the relaxing twilight of their days.
I know I bring a lot of this on myself. Like an ambulance chaser I can not keep myself away from Internet sites that spell out the hidden catastrophes that lurk around every corner, how the green shoots of the present recovery are an administration’s cheer-leading in the face of a jobless recovery. Jobless recovery? How do people recover in a capitalist society without a job? I don’t get it.
I make it worse through the volunteer work that I do. I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up steady work from one of the clients I have had for years, and thankfully the work I do for them allows me to continue with much of the volunteer work that I had been doing before. Though I wonder how thankful I should be for that flexibility. For my personality it might be better for me to have to give up all of the volunteer duties.
I’ve limited my volunteer obligations to being President of our elementary school’s PTA, and as co-Director of our little local recreational summer swim club’s swim team.
Recently the office manager of the elementary school asked me if I was enjoying being the PTA President, and if it was hard. I have actually enjoyed the role, and it has been hard, but not for the reasons that I expected or she thought. What has been hardest about being involved with the PTA has been my exposure to the workings on what I like to refer to the other side of the fence.
When my oldest first started elementary school I was a parent like many other who was not intimately involved with the school. I dropped my son off at school and I picked him up after. I spoke with the teacher. I had my opinion about what I thought was going on with my child, which was solely based on the work he brought home from school, and the few short conversations I had with his teacher after school.
As my children continued with school I became more involved and began to learn more about what decisions were made to keep the school operating, and in what circumstance those decision were being made.
Now with the PTA I’ve seen budgets for the school, and the district, and understand how much money we get from the State, and where the State plans on getting that money, and how much money we didn’t have for this school year, and how little money our school will get for the next school year, and I’ve found myself getting really depressed.
As my wife noted tonight, I do have a knack for being somewhat reactionary about these kinds of things when I first open my eyes to them. At this juncture, however, I’m nervous about how we are going to get around the soon to happen financial catastrophe. Yes, catastrophe.
Will we get through it somehow?
Absolutely. But what is that somehow going to be? How are people going to react if the only option is to lay-off countless teachers and raise class sizes from 28:1 student teacher ratios to 35:1?
Are those official numbers? No. Just my own exagerations. But what if? And it’s this exposure to what’s coming over the horizon that has been the hardest for me to deal with as the PTA President.
OK, maybe this is part of my reactionary condition, but on a smaller scale the same concerns swirl around that little local recreational swim club. You become a director in an organization like that and you see the budgets, and the trends, and equate that to the local and regional economy and realize that some not so attractive times are ahead for even little clubs that are supposed to be small refuges from the regular day-to-day, when kids get together, play, swim, and enjoy being kids soaking in the joy of summer vacation.
The weight of this foreknowledge can become overwhelming, but thankfully I have my kids to remind me that its the simple free things that really matter.
After watching the Super Bowl tonight the boys were uncharacteristically excitable, bounding around the house, pretending they were NFL super stars. There was a little leverage to get them to get to bed early, however. They had both slept very little the night before, both having had friends sleep over, so suggesting to them that they needed to get ready for bed early was actually easy. Reminding them that they both had had less than seven hours sleep the night before for some reason made them realize that they were actually tired.
As I was in brushing my own teeth, getting ready to sequester myself to write, I heard my oldest go into his little brother’s room. He apologized for calling his little brother a name when they were goofing around before. They then talked for a short bit – the little moments of small talk about things important to a seven and ten year-old – and as my oldest was about to leave his little brother’s room, I heard him say “I love you.”
His little brother replied, “I love you too.”
I wish I had paid more attention to their small talk because as I came out of my room to go down the hall to write, my youngest was coming out of his room with his pillow, and his stuffed animal frog. Think about “Hobbes” in the cartoon “Calvin and Hobbes” and you’ll understand the relationship between my youngest and his frog. He tip-toed past me and into his big brother’s room. He climbed over his big brother – who was already reading, lying in his bed – and cozied his way in next to his brother.
My oldest looked up at me and said, “he convinced me that this would be best for both of us.”
They both looked at me with wonderful smiles of contentment, smiles that took all of the anxieties of the past weeks and whisked them away.