1. Everybody is smiling.
2. That teacher is wearing Ann Taylor
3. There’s a child there
4. They don’t show you how your kid can read at conferences.
5. Those chairs are grownup sized
I had Child’s parent-teacher conference last Thursday.
I love her teacher. She called herself a bitch because she demands excellence, and she doesn’t let those six-year-olds rule her. She is legitimately awesome.
But as I walked to the school, my palms were sweaty and my heart was racing, and I was experiencing intestinal distress.
Outside Child’s classroom, this chair that’s like three inches tall is designated as the waiting area. There are sweaty moms in pink track suits and gaggles of young children exploiting the halls while their parents get their talking-tos. There’s a book fair.
I am so nervous I don’t even look at the books. And I love books. I sit in the stupid short chair and sweat and listen to my tummy gurgle.
I feel like I am on parenting trial. I have these shuttering visions in which a white-wigged principal slams his gavel and sentences me to mom prison for not reading Child enough books.
Child is without question one of the best things about my life, and she saved me. I love her more than I ever thought it was possible to love anything. But I never wanted to be a mom. This mommy thing stresses me out. It is exhausting and hard and anybody who says otherwise is either preternaturally wired for parenting, or lying their faces off.
So even though the conference is all good news, or at least nothing terribly surprising, I feel like I’m on a first date. I keep making bad jokes and interrupting her teacher. Her teacher has a sexy voice, so I try to concentrate on that, then I try to figure out how her teeth are so great, and how much shorter than I am she is. She is a short woman. I think about her prettiness.
I have this unique-to-parent-teacher-conferences ability to hear myself as if I am talking into a jar. I sound like I’m begging for approval; I sound defensive and desperate and like I am making excuses.
There is nothing to make excuses for. My kid is developing well and doing great. She’s got some problem areas, but every kid does, and anybody who says their kid doesn’t is setting herself up for eventual, certain parent-ruin.
And Teacher notices. She likes my kid and she talks about how neat she is, and how even her trouble spots are reasonable for her age and developmental prowess.
I feel the need to apologize for being a bad mother.
I curb it.
Teacher seems pleased that I anticipated the only complaint she had, and was already working to address it at home.
I latch onto that unstated encouragement and start this narrative for myself about how Teacher tells other Teacher at a water cooler how “If only every mom could be like Child’s mom.”
I leave the conference feeling nervy and pleased. After I pick her up, I tell Child that she has to work harder to focus, but that she’s doing well and I am proud.
But I don’t want to go to another parent-teacher conference. I want to have coffee with Teacher and tell her how pretty I think she is, and how glad I am she’s Child’s teacher. I want to meet her in a normal place without dwarf chairs and with coffee or something else to put in my mouth so I don’t open it.
I wonder if I could break up with parent teacher conferences: “Teacher, I think you’re excellent, but I hate parent teacher conferences. No, no. It’s not you. It’s me. I’m anxious or something. How about we just get coffee. I have bad hips. I can’t sit in those little chairs. Oh, against the rules, huh? I swear I won’t tell…”