The slow slide from Mother to Crone *

“I actually can’t believe it,” my husband said to me last night. “You actually ARE stepping back from things at the school.”

It’s true. This week is Book Fair, and for the first time since 2009, I am not spending all day every day at the Book Fair. I have a lovely co-coordinator (HI HAYDEE) who is going to take over when I leave the school, and we are each doing half of the shifts. Therefore, today, when I normally would be repeating “The posters are five dollars. That one too. They are all five dollars. No, that’s not nail polish. It’s a highlighter. The posters are five dollars.” over and over, I am in front of my computer, doing work – and writing this. I’ll be repeating those phrases on Thursday, of course, but as of right now I’ve had an incredibly productive day.

Last Friday was the Family Dance, and again, for the first time I was not intimately involved with the arrangements. In fact, I did virtually nothing whatsoever except donate a batch of cupcakes topped with cookie crumbs and gummy worms.


Is there a child alive who does not enjoy worms and dirt? I think not.

It turns out that all these years of bake sale-ing, I’ve been doing it wrong. Children don’t care if you create something with all natural, organic whole ingredients. They don’t care that you lovingly made dye-free frosting or used organic coconut oil to make caramel corn. They want pizzazz! They want style! They want candy on cupcakes, and they don’t care if the cupcakes came from a mix and the frosting came from a can. Realizing this was a revelation to me. I slapped these babies together and they were gone as fast as they were set out. We are all winners in this situation.

But back to the dance: for years I’ve been very involved, assisting the organizer and arranging the bake sale table, and volunteering for every shift for the entire night. This time, my husband and I went with the kids and paid the family rate, I clapped my hands and said “It’s my jam!” to my embarrassed husband when the DJ played Bust-a-Move, and then we ensured the kids each had money to spend and we booked it out of there. Yes, during the Family Dance my husband and I walked up the street and had a drink at the pub, coming back 30 minutes before the last dance. WINNING AGAIN.

It seems that I am starting the slow decline from Enthusiastic Young Mom Who Is Involved to Tired, Embittered and Cynical Pre-Menopausal Woman Whose Children Are Going To Junior High. I mean, I’m not there yet. I’m definitely not totally embittered and cynical and the kids are not yet in junior high. Yet, I can see myself going down the slope from I’m going to rejuvenate the School Council and we are going to have the best year ever! to I’m just going to make some cupcakes from a goddamn mix and throw some fucking gummy worms on them. But, you know, in my trademark cheerful and happy way.

I need to keep that cheerfulness and happiness, because I sure don’t want to turn into a Bitter Old Crone. Remember the Potato Lady? The old lady at the Co-Op who I witnessed yelling at the produce manager because she wanted a three pound bag of potatoes, not a five pound bag of potatoes, and goddamn if she was going to weigh those potatoes herself? And the produce manager was so kind and patient, it was kind of inspirational for everyone?

SHE IS BACK. I repeat, THE POTATO LADY IS BACK. I was at the Co-Op on Saturday, and I heard a shrill, old-lady voice aggressively ask one of the produce stockers where the manager was, and when he’d be back. The stocker left and returned with that same, patient produce manager, and because I am nosy, I listened in on their conversation while intently looking over the red peppers.

People, it was almost the same exact conversation from six months ago. The Potato Lady had an issue with the bags of potatoes, the five pound potatoes were too much, the very kind produce manager agreed to choose and weigh the potatoes for her, did she want Yukon Gold or red potatoes? And I wondered if maybe, maybe the Potato Lady does this regularly – maybe even weekly –  to get special service in the potato department, in a Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease kind of way. Perhaps the Potato Lady is incredibly crafty; maybe she loves getting attention from the much-younger produce manager. Maybe it makes her feel young and beautiful to have a man bring her potatoes, rather than having to choose her own.

And then I thought, maybe that will be me one day, except that I don’t really like potatoes. Maybe I will be using all my wiles – but hopefully not shrill and aggressive ones – to get special attention from the men in my life, the men being the produce managers and the long-suffering interns at the nursing home. Maybe one day I will be wearing my bright lipstick bleeding into my lip lines, asking the produce manager to reach that kale for me, wink wink, and while he was at it, could he help me choose a zucchini? Not that one, the BIG one. And then the produce manager will go home and crack open a beer and shudder at the implications.

In any case, I think the produce manager has earned an entire crown of heavenly stars for his kind and patient behaviour. He’s going straight to the same place as the marketing people at Starbucks who designed the 2014 holiday cup, complete with snowflakes and ice skates.

*many thanks to Allison for letting me borrow the term “Mother to Crone,” even though she doesn’t know I’ve borrowed it yet. (HI ALLISON I LOVE YOU)


  1. Hahahaha! This is awesome. I am right their with you. For the first 3 years of Evan’s school career I was uber involved (Parent Council Chair don’t ya know) and now I do nothing. I do less than nothing because I RUN away at all costs. Evan isn’t interested and neither am I. I am honestly unsure how I will live through 9 more years of school. Gah.

  2. These last two years I realized it may have been a mistake to have my kids 6.5 years apart (note, this wasn’t actually my choice, Mother Nature and all that crap, but I digress) because just as Oldest went to middle school, Youngest started kindergarten. Due to the parent who was supposed to take over my PTA board position leaving the school at the last minute and the fact that last year’s and this year’s PTA presidents are my friends, I agreed to take over the position for two more years (ending this June). It quickly became apparent that I probably shouldn’t have done this because I am officially Old and Burned Out. Youngest is in 1st grade this year and there are SCADS of new, fresh, young parents who want to take on the district and programming etc etc. They really need to be stepping in because I am just so over it all. All of the events, the planning, the volunteering, the prepping, the fundraising, all of it. I yearn to just pay my money and go to something and contribute nothing. I realize that makes me sound horrible, but 6 years into this and I need to be finished. ANYWAY, long rant short, good on you for stepping back and feeling the freedom!!

  3. Our kids went to a co-op preschool which meant we were in the classroom every week and doing committee work and going to meeting after meeting. I was burned out by the time J started elementary school. I volunteered in her class a few times in kindergarten and never since, though I occasionally volunteer for GeoBowl, assembling packets or marking qualifying quizzes. Meanwhile, now that N is in high school, Beth has recovered enough that she’s on the PTSA board there, which requires considerable work, but still less than preschool did. (But I loved that preschool, I have to admit. It was a magical place.) So it might go in cycles is what I’m trying to say.

  4. What Maggie said. Oldest in eighth grade, youngest in preschool, two elementary kids over here. The young preschool mothers worry preciously about whether the item demonstrating a pattern their child is supposed to bring in should be homemade or not, or how healthy the birthday treats need to be and gather their skirts away from me (metaphorically) when I say, “It doesn’t matter. It really, truly doesn’t matter.”
    To be fair, I am equally crone-ish about the go-getters who are trying to start a middle school PTA. Heck no.

  5. Oh my god, Nicole, how I laughed at this post. I love it. It slayed me, especially all the stepping-back from school bits. Since I resigned from school council in a blaze of “I DO NOT LIKE YOU, VICE-PRINCIPAL LADY” I have no idea what is going on at the school, and damn, is it nice! I haven’t even met the new principal and here it is November!

    This not being involved thing, it’s addictive.

  6. I also laughed and laughed at this one – just the use of the word “crone” somehow cracks me up, in a we-laugh-because-it’s-funny and we-laugh-because-it’s-true kind of way. I hereby officially join you in crone club.

    I gave up my starry-eyed Parent Council position three years ago and never looked back. It’s glorious just *attending* things instead of *running* things. Also: would totally buy a gummy worm cupcake.

  7. THIS. “It seems that I am starting the slow decline from Enthusiastic Young Mom Who Is Involved to Tired, Embittered and Cynical Pre-Menopausal Woman Whose Children Are Going To Junior High…but, you know, in my trademark cheerful and happy way.” Hahahaha!

    I’m definitely tired and embittered and pre-menopausal but may not be all the way to cynical. I think. I (silently) refused to participate in the fall fundraiser (I told my son he was welcome to try to sell the stuff [overpriced junk] in the catalog if he wanted to go on a limo ride or whatever nonsense they were dangling in front of the kids, but that I didn’t need anything in the catalog and so would not be buying. He didn’t care enough to try to sell.) I also did not attend the gala/silent auction/regular auction with prices that go so high that we can’t afford anything. It’s a great school, but I’m basically done supporting it financially (it’s a public school, but you know, the teachers neeeeed iPads and Chromebooks and I don’t know what all. It’s insane.)

    I never could volunteer much when I was teaching (we have to do 10 hours per family at this school) so it’s nice to do it on my schedule. But middle schoolers don’t want parents at their school, even to bring them a hot lunch, so.

  8. You can…leave…the kids…at the dance….
    Mind blown.
    Aspiring to not be the potato lady as well…good on ya!

  9. The mother to crone thing isn’t even mine, and I LOVE how you used it here. “Yet, I can see myself going down the slope from I’m going to rejuvenate the School Council and we are going to have the best year ever! to I’m just going to make some cupcakes from a goddamn mix and throw some fucking gummy worms on them. But, you know, in my trademark cheerful and happy way.” – This made my whole day. I never did the parent council thing because of social anxiety (not sure how Hannah managed it) and laziness, but I volunteered my ass off in the classrooms and library. And now both kids are in high school and do I miss the volunteering? NOT A WHIT.

    Potato lady. Zucchini. *snicker*. I think I’m more likely the be the old lady who wanders around looking for the celery and leaves without it because she’s too embarrassed to ask for help. Maybe I should be AIMING for potato lady status.

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