Monthly Column: Because you just never know

©Stephenie Freeman

It’s time once again for Parent/Teacher Conferences at our son’s elementary school. Time to hear about our son’s intellectual progress or lack thereof. The Cheese is cool as a cucumber about the whole thing, doesn’t seem to be sweating it one bit. Apparently, he feels that he has nothing to worry about.

His mama isn’t quite as confident.

Please understand. My sweet boy has given me no reason to be nervous. He’s a second grader who loves to learn and starts off each day by running into school—literally—with what I can see is an unmatched, unparalleled enthusiasm.

Nevertheless, I’m a little worried about what his teacher will say. You just never know what bomb a teacher might throw out there that you’re not expecting.

“Little Johnny is a bright boy who is reading well past his grade level. Unfortunately, he constantly picks his nose and, well, he also cusses a lot.”

Ka-blam! Never saw it coming.

Children aren’t perfect and parents know this better than anyone, but there’s nothing worse than having to be the one to deliver the news. There were several times when I, as a teacher, had to convey information about a child that was, let’s just say, less than positive.

Once I made a mother cry (not on purpose obviously), another time I had a parent threaten to sue me, and my all time favorite was when a mother pointed a long finger at me and said, “I’ll find you in the parking lot when you least expect it.” She never did, thank goodness, but surely you can see why these conferences make me a little skittish.

Now as a parent, my conferencing nervousness exists on multiple levels. At the lowest level, at the bottom of the pyramid, are the Nerves of Discovery. This involves finding out that your child sucks at math, needs a spelling tutor, or is getting an unsatisfactory grade in P.E. because he refuses to square dance. This is the kind of bad news that only adds to your already mile-long laundry list of parental responsibilities and that makes me nervous.

Above the Nerves of Discovery are the Nerves of Insomnia. This level involves getting news at a conference that is so embarrassing, so devastating to your motherly ego, that it causes you to lay awake at night wondering where you went wrong. I can think of nothing worse than sitting in a chair meant for a five-year-old and hearing the news that your child spends most of the school day with his hands down his pants. No wonder he was always so happy to go to school!

And lastly, at the top of the pyramid you will find the Nerves of the Unknown. This final level involves finding out something that is so out of left field, so unexpected, that you do stupid things like threaten to sue his teacher or beat her up in the parking lot. (For your information, the parent who threatened to sue me was upset because I didn’t make his son—who was didn’t speak a lick of English—take the state’s standardized tests, and the mother who wanted to beat me up was unhappy because I made her son stay inside during recess to finish his work. Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up, people.)

Hearing bad news can cause a parent to do and say crazy things. We’re parents! We are Mama Bears and Papa Bears protecting our cubs with a mean and angry growl when necessary! The trick with conferences is waiting to do your growling until you get home. Or better yet, do what I’m doing and pray that there won’t even be anything to growl about.

But that just makes me nervous.

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