Life is full of firsts. The first time you roll over, the first time you walk, the first time you lose a tooth, the first time you ride a bike … and on and on and on. The first time I pretended to be asleep was the night my parents came home from my parent-teacher conferences. I had a sneaking suspicion that my reports were not going to be stellar, so when I heard the garage door open, I knew it was time to quickly turn off the lights, get into bed, and shut my eyes like my life depended on it. Because at the time, it did. I am such a delightful human being, it is probably hard to imagine that my teachers didn’t like me. My parents got a lot of “She has such potential, if she would only pay attention.” Or another favorite, “If only she would do her homework, she could really be something.” And then there were the really bad comments, “She doesn’t do her work. She talks back in class. She leaves to go to the bathroom and doesn’t come back.”
I was looking forward to having children in the hopes that they wouldn’t take after me when it came to parent-teacher conferences. Maybe they would take after their mild-mannered father, who was beloved by almost every teacher he ever had in his entire life. That is what I was hoping for. And wouldn’t you know it, with son #1, it came to be. Our very first parent-teacher conference at 3-year-old nursery school was 10 minutes of pure nachas. He davens nicely; yes, even 19 years ago my little rabbi was a good davener. He plays well with others…. Really, it was the perfect first parent-teacher conference.
When the boys started elementary school, parent-teacher conferences became more about the sign-up process than really caring what the teacher would say about your kid. Sign-up was a challenge — you had to schedule meetings for all of your kids within the same time frame or you would be going back and forth to school at three different times during the day to meet your kids’ teachers. That was not going to happen, so I waited until 11:59 for the information to come online and then I made my reservations and danced around the house with glee, celebrating the amazing time slots I had reserved. Ahh, the exciting life of a then, almost middle-aged housewife.
So all of my boys were, and still are, perfect, so their conferences were perfect as well. Except maybe the one where son #2’s teacher told us that he must be going through puberty and that is why he had become so challenging in class. Yes, son #2’s teacher, who himself had probably just started puberty, was telling us about our son. Anyway, our reports were all wonderful, because our kids are perfect. Aren’t yours? So these conferences went on twice a year every year until we graduated out of the school.
Enter high school. One conference, the Monday after Thanksgiving. Three different time slots. Survival of the fittest… The teachers sit in the gym, behind desks with their names on placards so we knew who they were. And we had five minutes to discuss our precious sons. Good reports, not so good reports.… It was all fine until today. Today’s parent-teacher conferences were special. They were my very last parent teacher conferences EVER.
FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.
Who is going to tell me about his potential? Who is going to tell me how he is behaving in class?? My Very Last Parent-Teacher Conference. How can I continue to be a parent when I don’t have a teacher passing judgement on my parenting and how that reflects itself into my son’s behavior in school?
So this was my milestone, and I wanted to share it with the person who cares so deeply about these conferences, husband #1. “Honey, it’s our last one. I need you there with me to share this very special time together.” “Um, Banj, I think you just want me to come so you have a column to write about.” Yup, he busted me. It seems that for every first we celebrate, there is going to a last that we also try to celebrate without bawling, and this was the first of many related milestones to come this year.
Excuse me, I must end now because I need to get some tissues…
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is a big fan of the milestones — developmental, emotional, physical, and, of course, anything that has to do with cake….