Parent teacher conferences always make me nervous. Something about sitting down at a tiny desk with another adult who essentially is going to judge my child feels extremely uncomfortable. It’s probably the tiny chairs; I mean, who could be comfortable getting information of any kind with their knees hiked up to their chests. Our daughter is a well behaved kid, so I know I’ll never go into a conference and hear that she’s a disrespectful twit to her teachers or that she runs with scissors or throws rocks at her classmates. But I also know that I’m not going to hear the teacher rattle off all the unique and fabulous traits that make my daughter the amazing 4-year-old that she is. It’s just not going to happen because my daughter
is an introvert, and only those closest to her, those with whom she feels the most comfortable, get to see the depths of her – the impeccable comic timing, the introspection, the sass, the wit – that make her so special. Everyone else sees a bright, shy, happy 4-year-old and maybe catches a glimpse of what lies underneath now and then. So a teacher who spends a few hours a day with her isn’t going to be able to tell me anything revelatory about my daughter, and isn’t that why you go to a parent teacher conference – for a big reveal? “Really, I did not know that,” you want to say. “How extraordinary my child is! It must be a thrill for you to have him or her in your class!”
Last fall we attended our first conference and we found out that our child was attentive, loved reading time, was kind, respectful and compassionate toward her classmates. Great! Again, not revelatory, but nice to hear. But we sensed the teacher was giving us the good news before she dropped the bomb of bad news. And then we got it: Our daughter sucked with scissors. As evidence of the suckage, her teacher presented us with a construction paper STOP sign that was supposed to be cut into an octagon. Our kiddo had cut it in half. I thought this was so precious I immediately took a photo of it and texted it to our friends and family, receiving a bunch of “LOL” responses in return. We don’t take scissor work very seriously in our family. I suppose that’s why we suck at it. Take-away from Conference #1: “sucks with scissors.”
At the next conference in the spring of last year, I learned that our child had been doing a good job with calendaring and had been showing some pre-reading signs. Good and good. She had also made a new friend named Mila, her teacher said.
“What’s that you say?”
“She’s been playing with a girl from another class on the playground,” her teacher explained. “Her name is Mila.”
“Mila is a real person?!” I exclaimed.
The daughter had been talking about Mila for weeks, but I knew Mila wasn’t in her class, so my husband and I assumed she was imaginary. For three weeks or so we had been treating her as “her friend, Mila.” “Oh, you played with ‘Mila’ today, honey? That’s nice.” My darling daughter, we’ll laugh about this someday. Take-away from Conference #2: Mila is real. Also, don’t be so quick to write off your kid’s friends as imaginary.
Last week I headed in to Conference #3 with a different attitude. The kiddo doesn’t love her teachers or her class as much as she did last year. We’re not as happy with the school as we were last year. So I felt a little feisty going in, and, at this point, I don’t feel the need for her teachers (or anyone else for that matter) to know exactly how amazing she is. It’s okay if they don’t see it all in the few hours they spend with her every day. The conference was pleasant enough; it was welcome news that my daughter was doing great at writing her letters and numbers. Of course I want my daughter to be thriving in school, but it’s okay if she sucks with scissors, or paints or play-doh. She’s 4. And it’s okay if the world doesn’t know how fantastic she is. Few of us walk around displaying all of our best qualities to everyone all the time, and let’s face it, we kind of secretly hate those people who do. My daughter is an introvert. She is shy. She takes her time warming up to people. The people who know her casually will see her as that bright, happy 4-year-old, and the people who get to know her will be treated to so much more – the same as getting to know anyone – it takes time to reveal the best of them. Why should my 4-year-old be any different?