Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Family picture

I had my first-ever parent conference yesterday. I've been ignoring them for three years because I imagined they would go like this:

Year 1:

Z.'s First Teacher: Z. is great. She's your first baby and I've had three and been running this class for a million years, so let me tell you, you're doing everything wrong.
Me: (cries)

Year 2:

Z.'s First Teacher: Z. is great. I am dying of cancer and I'm here on time every day. What excuse do you have for being too depressed to get her to school on time?
Me: (cries)

Year 3:

Z.'s Third Teacher: Z. is great. We sure wish she didn't miss play time every single day.
Me: (hems and haws. Manages not to cry until returning home.)

None of these scenarios happened, you understand, *because* I imagined them, and that gave me the foresight to avoid them. I never even signed up for a conference before this year. Also, until this year, all the times were in the morning, and in the winter I don't do so well with mornings.

This year, though, I signed up. Valiantly, I persisted in signing up, time and again! I missed the first two, because they were in the morning (see winter mornings and me, above), and then I asked if I took an afternoon appointment (they were right there on the schedule) whether Z. would have coverage. Z.'s current teacher said fine, so yesterday I showed up and Z. went to after care for a bit, and everything zipped along. It helped that Current Teacher had written up a two-page, single-spaced evaluation of Z.: it was organized by category like "Social Development" and "Cognitive Development," and she gave it to me in advance and I loved it! It was like getting to spy on my kid in school, and what mom doesn't long for that chance?

The conference was parent catnip, I tell you. Z. is a knockout, an artist, a dancer, a performer, a compassionate friend, a champion of memory feats, full of Yiddishkeit. What could be better?

Well. Her teacher had put aside a picture Z. made of her family. In it, all of her grownups are color-coded. A. is blue, Uncle Donor is red, my father is yellow, etc. In it, my mother, Z., and I are all purple. And I'm vast. I take up a third of the page, and Z. has herself nestled up against me, and we are looking at each other, and everyone else looks into the center, the constellation of her family revolving around us. Z.'s a little too little to make faces that smile, but the lines that represent our mouths are clearly doting ones.

I know I will become more and more peripheral to her. I know that process will be painful to me in lots of ways. But oh, oh, oh. This week my Doodle filled my heart to overflowing.


Jody said...

Awwww! Love it!

(We were late every single day of nursery school and pre-K, and the nursery-school teacher only reiterated the schedule, and the pre-K people said that's what pre-K is for: getting used to schedules. Different ball of wax, but I'm guessing that your imagined scenarios would not have happened that way. Just saying.)

Co said...

Parent catnip, indeed.

My parents used to schedule my and my brother's conferences so my brother's was first.

His conference would cover... your son is very distractible and impulsive, he has behavioral issues, he doesn't turn his work in on time, he is behind in reading and math...

Then they would follow it up with my conference... your daughter is a pleasure to teach, does all her work on time, so respectful to her classmates and teachers... My 4th grade teacher once told how every Tuesday, I would come to school with 25 cents for a hot pretzel at lunch and every Tuesday, I would decide that needy children needed that 25 cents more than I needed a pretzel and put it in the little charity box at school, not making a big to-do about it and never telling my mom what I did...

The conference scheduling was what kept my parents from melting down... having that dose of parent catnip after my brother's conferences.

Neither was a reflection on my parents, really. My brother and I were always going through hard times with my mom sick and/or dying and my dad drinking. But, I lucked out in terms of personality and academic aptitude and such, and my brother most likely got saddled with ADHD. He would've had a much easier time if his home were stable, sure, but, I suspect he would've struggled no matter what, and I would've been a shining star no matter what (actually, maybe if I came from a different background, I wouldn't have felt the need to shine so much at school, but who knows?)

My point... did I have one... is that I'm glad you went and got some parent catnip. Z. is an amazing kid. And her world does revolve around you and A., and it should... for now... sniff sniff...

Magpie said...

Aw. I wanna see the picture!

Songbird said...

That's great!

jo(e) said...

This post made me smile.

susan said...

I'm sitting here with a big grin. What a sweetie.

elswhere said...

Such a great story! That is a conference from heaven. What a delightful kiddo you have, and what a thoughtful and observant teacher.

BTW--it's infinitely harder to get to school on time when you are the parent trying to get your kid out the door, vs. when you are the teacher and it's your job and you're getting paid. Even when you are sick. I've been both, and speak from experience.

E. said...

Thanks for sharing this -- it's a great story.

S. said...

Els, so true: this morning Z. woke up when A. did (A. wakes up at 5:20, and this time of year Z. and I usually wake up two hours later.) A. teaches: she completely missed her train. But then, she usually takes the train before the one she absolutely has to be on, so she can get some quality time in with the xerox machine.

Magpie, I need to get to a scanner! But then I'll put it up on Twitter.

Naomi said...

I'd love to see the picture, too! XO --Naomi

Julia said...

It never even occurred to me that the conferences were optional. I have no idea what I thought they would do to me if I didn't show up, but, you know...

On the other hand they all went pretty much the way yours did, so after the first one I was hooked. :)

What a lovely post.