My daughter and I volunteered at a pet expo yesterday. We had signed up to help out at the German Shepherd rescue's booth. The plan was to stay until the end of the expo and then help load up all the gear. That morning, before church, my daughter saw that I was wearing a logo shirt for the rescue and asked if she could get one, too. I tried to put her off and said, "Yeah, eventually" or something along those lines. But, she was insistent. So, I contacted one of the other volunteers and she said I could pick one up at her home and then just pay for it later. She was already at the expo but her husband was at home. After church, my daughter and I drove over to pick it up. The drive was out of my way, but she had her red shirt. Mission accomplished.
Now, I need to back up for a moment. My kid loves all animals, but she particularly adores reptiles. We have a local reptile club that sets up education tents at many events in our area. My daughter has been hanging around them at their events for so long that most of the volunteers recognize her and fully trust her to hold snakes and such. A few months ago, I decided to see what it would take for her to volunteer in a more official capacity. I visited their website and learned that since it's a club, you have to have a membership to join. I also learned that volunteers are obligated to buy one of the club's green tee shirts to be worn when volunteering. I filled out the form and sent in $20 for a family membership. Since my daughter is obviously a minor, I would need to be with her at any volunteer events. No problem. I am neither afraid of nor overly interested in reptiles, but as a mom, I do what it takes to help my kid do her thing.
After a couple of months, it occurred to me that I hadn't really heard from the club since we'd joined. The website referenced a newsletter that volunteers evidently receive (but which we have not received). Apparently the newsletter lists events and such. Yesterday morning, I sent an email to the lady who runs the club. I asked about volunteer opportunities. She said we should just check the website and/or Facebook and just show up. I thanked her for the information, made a mental note to start checking for such events, and mentioned that my daughter and I were signed up to volunteer for Shepherd rescue that day.
The kid and I arrived at the pet expo at around 12:30 and found the rescue's booth. Within five minutes, she spotted the reptile club's booth and was off like a shot. She came back about 15 minutes later and put on a fleece jacket she had been wearing earlier. It became clear to me that she wanted to cover up her Shepherd rescue shirt to fit in better with the reptile people. I didn't really say anything because I have learned to pick my battles.
About a half hour later, traffic through the Shepherd rescue booth was light so I decided to walk around and check out some of the other booths. I was pondering the merits of some Dog is Good tee shirts when my daughter found me. She put her head down and pushed the crown of her head against the side of my rib cage. I could tell that something was very wrong. I got her to look up at me and I could see that she was fighting not to cry.
"A girl told me I couldn't be there," she said. "She said that I'm not 15 and I don't have the tee shirt and I can't go behind the table."
I gave her a hug and felt my inner Mama Bear kick in. "Don't worry," I said. I started to walk towards the reptile club's booth.
"Mom! You don't have to say anything!" I knew she was worried that I would beat up a teenager and make things much, much worse.
"It's okay, Sweetie, I'm going to talk to the man who runs it, okay?" I found the gentleman who I have seen at all of the events. It was his wife who had responded to my email earlier. I've talked with both of them many times and they are very nice people.
"My daughter has been coming to your events since she was little," I started. "She has been desperate to volunteer for you guys for as long as she can remember. We are members - I sent in the form and paid the fee. I know we need to buy the shirt but I don't want anyone kicking my daughter out of here."
He asked me who had kicked my kid out and A pointed at a blue-haired teenaged girl. He shrugged and said not to worry about what other volunteers say. He told me that his wife would be back later and that we could talk to her about getting a tee shirt. I thanked him and then walked with my daughter back to the Shepherd booth. I could tell that she was still really upset so we stopped mid-way so that I could give her a hug and so that she could work out the tears that were hanging out behind her eyes. We made a detour to a sign-maker booth. They had metal signs with vinyl lettering - all made to order on the spot. So, I dropped $23 just to cheer up my kid. She now has a sign with her name on it and some musical notes. She wanted it for her bedroom door.
A little while later, we were back in the Shepherd rescue booth. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a volunteer from the reptile club come over and retrieve my daughter, taking her back to that booth with her. I was so relieved. Later, I walked over there and gave them some money for a tee shirt. One of the volunteers happened to have a youth tee on hand. The lady was back by then and seemed fine with my daughter being there.
I had one more talk with my daughter after that. I mentioned that maybe the teenager who was mean to her was having a bad day. Or was just being a teenager. Or whatever. I also reminded her that since she is a very young volunteer, she needs to prove that she is mature enough to be there. She needs to be someone who helps, not someone who requires supervision and makes life harder for the reptile club's volunteers. She spent the rest of the afternoon in their booth and was positively giddy about having that green tee shirt so that she could be official. Ultimately, I think she will be an excellent volunteer for the reptile folks because truly, my kid is great with people. They won't find a better ambassador for all things scaly.
In case you are not keeping track . . . yesterday, I bought my kid: a Shepherd Rescue shirt, a Reptile Club shirt, a personalized sign, and an order of fries. Mama Bear is also Sucker Bear.