Our son started pre-school this year: a program for two-year-olds, two days per week, for just two and a half hours.
So, it’s starter school, or, as I like to call it, pre-pre-pre-K.
I think it’s great that they have parent-teacher conferences for these little nuggets, even though they’re mostly just playing, making some “art,” and learning how to follow basic directions. I, for one, am curious what’s going on in that classroom: curious how he’s doing with the other kids and with his developmental skills, etc.
I was excited about this meeting and slightly nervous. The teacher, I should mention, is a kind and wise woman who is practically legendary in our community.
That day, I asked my husband, who wasn’t nervous in the slightest:
“Do you think she’ll tell us that he’s disruptive and un-teachable?”
“Do you think she’ll tell us he’s ready to skip ahead to seventh grade?”
“I doubt it.”
Basically, I was ready for anything. That’s not true: I wasn’t ready to get all emotional and for my eyes to fill with tears while we were in that room. That’s not entirely true either: I should have known I’d spring a face leak because this happens fairly often these days.
Without going into too many details, our son is on track. He’s making some “good choices” (like playing pretty well with the other kids) and some “not-so-good choices” (like sometimes refusing to put on his jacket when it’s time to go.) In other words, he’s a normal three-year-old, he’s doing fine, he’s doing great, he’s….an AMAZING CHILD WITH IMMENSE GIFTS! (Okay, that last bit might be my own interpretation.)
But none of this was why I started to cry.
Like so many parenting milestones, I just couldn’t believe I was in a parent-teacher conference.
I met my husband on the late end, at age 36, after most of my friends were married and well into their parenting careers. In retrospect, this sounds melodramatic, and like a weird form of self-flagellation, but I had started to call myself a “spinster” in my head. I was pretty sure I’d never have a husband, a house, a family to call my own. Cue the violins: I didn’t think I’d find anyone to love me or anyone to love.
After I finally met my husband and we quickly got engaged then married, it took us a while to conceive. By the time I got pregnant (at 40-years-old), I was, at that age, high-risk-and-then-some. So I was concerned that the pregnancy wouldn’t “stick,” that something would go wrong at any point along the way. I was terrified of the birth and also of caring for a newborn.
But here we were, approximately three years later – we’d gotten through all that beginner parenting stuff fairly well – and now we were discussing our child with a professional educator, and finding out how he was conducting himself in the world when we weren’t around.
I have come to accept recently that we are really “one-and-done,” that this is the only time we will be going through these milestones as parents. I am trying to absorb it all, be present for it all, to soak up every drop of this experience. And in this process, I get overwhelmed sometimes…with fear, with pride, and with gratitude. And my eyes: sometimes they spill salty water onto my face.
It didn’t help, of course, that, as the teacher was talking to us, I looked over at my husband, and his eyes were about to do the same thing.
This post goes out to all the parents who still feel amazed that they get to be parents, no matter how long they have been doing it. And this also goes out to all the educators who believe in seeing the best in every kid and every parent no matter how many years they’ve been teaching.
Have you cried at a parent-teacher conference? Or to teachers: is this common?