4 Lessons From Hosting A Classroom Party (or, How To Have Your Room Mom Of The Year Award Revoked)
Remember a few weeks ago when I told you how to win the Room Mom of the Year Award? I didn’t want to just write about the craft that would help you win the award, I also did the craft myself, because what kind of person would I be if I just claimed I was sharing the magic recipe for Room Mom success, without even trying it for myself to make sure?
I want to take this moment to update you on the craft, the party, and about that day in general, so you’ll know how it all went down.
Let me start by saying that a few days prior to the party, things were right on schedule and everything was coming together as planned.
The plan was for our party to include - in addition to the cute ornament craft I mentioned in my last post - cookie decorating and a hot chocolate bar.
I put together the signup list of stuff for other parents to bring to the party, but - as usual for me - I wasn’t 100% sure of all the things we would need, so I planned to pick up any items that I thought of later.
Plus, I have a fear of depending on others to come through on things - can you imagine one person signing up to bring all the cookies for the party and no-showing, leaving a half-hour to fill with 20+ fourth graders ready to get cracked out on sugar? - so I usually sign myself up for the essentials.
It would be a big project, but it would be worth it. I mean, how many more times will I get to do this for my son?
I was unusually calm. Too calm.
Here’s what I learned that fateful day that changed the course of my role as Room Mom for the remainder of my son’s childhood:
1. Sometimes the “easiest crafts” are better choices than the “cutest crafts” when it comes to a classroom full of kids. After test-making one of the ornaments, I knew I was in way too deep.
Way too much time-consuming cutting and the need for a delicate touch, which I know for a fact that at least one fourth grader with the last name Braziel does not possess.
I decided I would make the ornaments myself and give them as gifts to the students, despite the fact that this would add quite a bit to my already full party-planning plate. But these things are so stinking cute and I knew the parents and the kids would love them* as much as I did.
The morning of the party I woke up early to put the finishing touches on the ornaments. I had already spent quite a bit of time cutting all the kid shapes out, gluing each cut-out to poster board, then cutting them out again, and today would be covering each with clear contact paper and cutting them out a-freakin-gain.
And hot-gluing twine to them to make them look like they were climbing a rope.
I was slightly annoyed that I picked a craft that was on the time consuming side, but decided surely I won’t be in charge of a class Christmas party again, and if it puts a smile on my kid’s face, then it’s worth it**.
2. Milk takes forEVER to heat up in the Crockpot. You can toss Velveeta in there to make queso and it starts melting in about 10 minutes, but milk? Still barely lukewarm after an hour on High.
It was irritating enough that I’d carted in two gallons of milk for the hot cocoa, because I could have just filled the Crockpot with water from the tap and saved myself carrying in the extra heavy bag at party set-up time.
But I wondered to myself what my kid’s teacher would think of my cocoa if it was just a water-based cocoa versus a creamier recipe made with a milk base (these are the things that keep me up at night. Seriously. Do you see what I'm dealing with?)
Periodically throughout the party, as I weaved through loud, sticky-handed fourth graders carrying around sugar cookies top-heavy with technicolored icing, I’d check the temperature of the milk to see if it was warmed enough, but nope… wasn't warming much at all.
Part of me was begging for more time: we need warm cocoa, for Heaven's sake! Don't let these kids go home and talk about how cold their cocoa was.
The other part of me was throat-punching the begging-for-more-time me, saying not-so-silent prayers for the school bell to ring and this whole nightmare to be over.
“When will the hot chocolate be ready?” I was asked more than once from mouths outlined in red and green frosting remnant, but I kept putting them off, hoping they’d be distracted and entertained by the adorable ornaments I was handing out to each child.
But they weren’t as impressed about the ornaments as I’d fantasized.
In fact, one kid had his ornament sitting on the desk in front of him, precariously close to a glob of icing. I reached over and tapped it away from the icing and said, “Be careful, you don’t want to ruin your ornament.”
He was leaned back in his chair, balancing his tall, lanky frame on the chair's two back legs, playing with something absentmindedly in his hands when he replied without bothering himself to even look up, “Oh I don’t really care.”
I bent down a bit - sure I’d misheard - and in almost the exact same manner Peyton Manning used in this commercial with Brad Paisley, I said, “Hmm?”
He said, “I don’t care if I ruin it. I don’t even like it.”
I'm not proud of myself for envisioning my hip accidentally bumping his chair.
I felt my face flush red because how could he not love it, first of all, and secondly, the memory of me entangled in decorative twine and hot glue, stressing about making these ornaments perfect for each student just an hour earlier flashed before me, and I did not say what I wanted to say, because that would definitely get me permanently removed from school property, so I said, “I made this for you. That is not nice to say to me.” That was the best I could do.
You know what that little blankety-blank said? He said, “Oh yah. I don’t care.” (If you're skimming this, but you're dying to know how this played out, since I'm leaving you with a cliffhanger, scroll down to the PS at the bottom of this post.)
3. Learn to use all necessary tools before “go time.” About two hours before I needed to leave for the party, I had miniature cut-outs of my child’s class spread out all across my kitchen island, with piles of contact paper backing and strips of twine scattered about, strings of cooled hot glue covering the front of my clothes and hanging from my hair, mingling with beads of sweat.
I knew I had to get the icing mixed asap. I would make a big batch and divide it into smaller batches to color and fill the decorating bags that I’d bought the day before.
Have I ever assembled icing decorating bags? No, but how hard can it be?
When I start to doubt myself in any area, I remind myself that there are dumb people all around the world who very successfully manage whatever it is that at that moment is causing me self-doubt.
I did read the directions on how to assemble the God-forsaken icing bags and their corresponding asshole joiner rings and tips, but directions don’t matter with those things, apparently, because one minute I was calmly cutting the tip of the bag, and the next, I was at the ass-end of a giant plastic cone, overflowing with thick, sugary, (highly staining) red syrup.
There had only been maybe a cup, at the very most, inside the decorating bag, but suddenly I was being swallowed whole by an endless stream dripping through the fingers of one hand I had held under the opening, thinking I could catch the sticky goo until I could make it to the kitchen sink, but I wasn’t even moving toward the kitchen sink, I just stood there like a damn fool, yelling my teenager’s name in a high-pitched yowl that sounded like I was frying my own limbs in a vat of grease.
When he came into the kitchen, I screamed at him to get my debit card out of my purse, go to the grocery store, and buy all the cookie decorating icing he could find.
“Go, go go!” I screamed at him, on the verge of tears, my eyes wild, sweat dripping down the sides of my face, which was framed with the unfortunate curls that come out, without fail, when I have the stress sweats.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’d think that a woman in her late 40’s would be so beyond needing approval, that she’d have no problem emailing other parents and asking for their help.
But noooooo, not me! Ugh, my need to be impressive is not only disgusting, but pointless.
I mean, I have enough to worry about with the random sprouting of gray hairs in my eyebrows and how big my carbon footprint is, much less trying to impress a classroom full of fourth graders and their parents.
What with my lukewarm cocoa, store-bought cookie icing, and shoddy decorating... who was I kidding?
And yes, it may seem melodramatic to you, but did I drop to my knees that afternoon, my head turned up toward the ceiling with fists drawn, wailing, “As God as my witness, I will never host another classroom party as long as I shall live!”?
Yes. Yes I did.
*The kids did not love them. They couldn't have cared less. Oh you just wait till you read section titled, "2. Milk takes forEVER to heat up in the Crockpot."
**This is highly debatable. I love my kid's smile. Everyone does. It's a one-of-a-kind that stretches wide across his face and makes his nose and eyes crinkle up, squishing together his freckle-sprinkles. But sweet Lord of all that's holy in this land, I'm not sure the ornament craft idea was worth it. I just don't know.
PS - The smart-mouthed kid who didn't care if his ornament was ruined? I snapped up the ornament and stuck it in my back pocket. I’d be damned if he would have a Christmas tree-repelling ornament of his own. Hmph.
PSS - About halfway through the party - I'd just handed out the ornaments and had the interaction with Beelzebub The Ornament Hater, and had just taken another sample of barely-tepid Crockpot milk, which triggered my anxious boob sweat, so I was fluffing my shirt to get some air flow and to try to cool the eff down, when my son ran up to me and said, "Mommy, this party is awesome! You nailed it!"
Dang it. It's so much easier to say I'll never do this again when he's unappreciative.