When Your First Parent Teacher Meeting Feels Like Confession

Bless me teacher, for I have sinned. I have let my kids watch too much telly, and most of all I have been too soft. I have wavered, and never been hardline. And now it seems things have caught up with us.

I had no idea what to expect of my first parent teacher meeting. It has been a weird first few months of trying to fumble through the beginnings of school-going, staying on top of the homework, the word charts, the attempt at extracurricular activities, the navigation of a new childcare set up – jettisoned from the cocooned world of Montessori ease, where we got daily updates about progress, a cosy two-minute chat at the start of the day on how your little one was doing.

Now, thrust into the rigid structure of school there has been very little feedback for months, just an email to say she wasn’t enjoying afterschool and could we explain to our daughter that her parents had to work and maybe offer a reward for toughing it out. I did not feel like sending back a smiley face. Now given the opportunity for some private time with the only other person who spends as many hours a day as I do with my daughter, I wanted to have a full on therapy session. I wanted to explain why things are the way they are, and talk all about the different idiosyncrasies that she has. I wanted to figure out the best way to do things, with them.

But the reality is we have have five minutes to cover it all with 25 sets of other parents all looking to do the same. And as the feedback unfolds, I scarily realise I am listening pretty much to a dossier on myself. Loves words, enjoys playing and her friends, but doesn’t listen and is away with the fairies. Also, does not mind her belongings. Signed sealed and delivered with an Identikit stamp.

Suddenly it seems we are at a juncture. I don’t want her to go through life losing her favourite pencil, finding a mashed banana at the bottom of her bag and always looking for her other glove.  In short, I don’t want her to be me, not in that way. I realise, too, that I spent much of my school years looking fondly at other peoples' perfect pencil cases and well kept folders, as they sat to attention without a hair out of place or a smudge on their shirt.

Their school bags were organised, categorised even in places. Mine, a jumble of bits and bobs, crushed up notes, and pieces of apple. I carried on in this way all the way through school, and college, and my twenties, and my thirties. I never really reflected closely on how I managed to escape any proper organisational training but I realise that if you came into this world, legs slightly akimbo, you might need a bit of a hand in the methodical department.

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I know that, as a child of a single mum with two other older kids to manage, the time was just probably not there to instill it in me, it didn’t come naturally to her either, and the fact is I was also probably a hard case. My mostly absent dad was more of a minimalist, and precious about his things, but I was never exposed to his methodicality long enough for it to significantly rub off on me. Much to my partner's regret. When I turned 21 my father, generously, gave me his much-treasured record collection, only for it to be loved, but also slightly abused, in the years subsequently. I have though been doing better in that department more recently.

So the time has come to reckon with these findings, if not for myself, for my daughter. To prevent her from going through life with those burdens would be a gift indeed, and one I would love to instill in us both. So we are both on a programme that I hope at least results in a new way for her, even if this old dog finds it hard to learn new tricks. I am determined to help her out of our collective organisational chaos into some kind of calm, and so to end the cycle that started before even I arrived. After all, as Tom Robbins said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood,” surely then, it’s certainly never too late to have an organised one, too.

 

Photo credit : JJ Thompson, Unsplash

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