Friday, May 29, 2009

"Dear New Mom": School Etiquette for Grown-Ups

Lisa Hendey's recent article at Faith and Family Live could not have been more timely. Her advice as an eighth-grade mom to the mothers who were newly joining the school reminded me of some recent drama at my kids' school.

It all happened suddenly, and blew over just as quickly. I'd been wanting to do something tangible to show my support of my kids' school. And so, when I heard that the Boosters were in need of some fresh fund-raising ideas, I decided to run for an elected office. (Boosters is the group that raises money for the school so our kids can have little luxuries like school bleachers and pizza lunches and chess club and a tuba for the school band.)

As I had not been active on Boosters until then, I was unaware that (a) nominations had closed a few days before and (b) it was actually the Vice President's job I wanted. (The VP handles fundraising, the P handles committee meetings, which are not my forte.)

Naturally, I was concerned about who would take the top slot; the leader of any team needs to be positive, encouraging, motivated, creative, and people-smart. I knew the woman who was running only casually; after talking to her about her goals for Boosters I became genuinely concerned about her ability to do the job. But I figured I'd just let things sort themselves out.

They did, though not as I'd anticipated. Next thing I knew, vague insinuations were being cast about regarding "some people" (pointed looks in my direction) who were ruining the nominee's reputation by discussing her private life in a public forum. I fought the urge to defend myself, knowing that I hadn't done anything wrong -- but that making an issue of this would only fuel the fire. I contented myself with the thought that, as people got to know me, they would realize how ridiculous it was to accuse me of such a thing. In the meantime, there was work to do.

Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are profuse." I thought about this verse a lot in the days that followed, how in the name of friendship we can come alongside someone who is struggling and either give them a hand up . . . or push them farther down. We can allow them to wallow, or urge them to detach; perpetuate the lie, or face the truth. In the name of sympathy, we can hand them the water of life, or a deadly draught. Gossip, like lust, comes in all shapes and sizes, and cuts both ways: Sometimes it is overt, malicious; other times it comes from a place of weakness and desire. More often than not, it takes on a life of its own, striking at the souls of friend and foe alike.

Lisa said it best. "Be friendly, but set the bar high for your kids and yourself. Try to be a role model for the type of positive, uplifting person you hope your children will become." Stay out of the snake pit. Keep busy. Stay focused. Work hard. Seek truth. This is the recipe for the kind of community we all want to build, of which we all want to be a part.

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