Are we good parents? Are we bad parents? Are we neglectful, are we too intense? Are we lax, or are we too strict?
Children may dread parents’ evenings, but honestly speaking I don’t think they dread it as much as we do. Depending on how it goes, these events can lift your spirits to the point that you strut around proudly announcing to anyone and no one in particular: ‘That’s my boy!’
Or you skulk out of the assembly hall, dragging your kids discreetly but fiercely behind you, head down, hoping you don’t bump into any of the other parents you might know, who will obviously be on that loudmouth high and happy to wave their spawn’s ‘A’s and ‘B’ pluses in front of your face, whilst mockingly placating you: ‘never mind, I’m sure he’ll do better next time.’
But between the chest-swelling pride and the embarrassing disgrace, there’s a third even more confusing place that involves a mixture of both of these types of conversations as you do the teacher speed-dating-style table hop:
1) ‘He’s great; gets his head down, is doing good work, is never any trouble and I don’t foresee any problems,’ and
2) ‘Really disappointing, he isn’t focussing, doesn’t participate in discussions, won’t ask for help, something has to change!’
Where does THAT one leave you? Utterly perplexed.
So your kid clearly has the ability to do well at school, but on the other hand he can completely let himself down by not appearing to give a damn.
Then you rack your brains – what could the problem be? Doesn’t he like the subject (but he eagerly chose it), is it too hard (but he’s doing better in another subject that’s generally regarded as more complex and difficult), or could it be the teacher?
Yes, let’s stay with that one. I like that. That’s a good one. Blame shift – always good for the soul that. It’s the teacher’s fault because she’s: not very competent; doesn’t really care about the students; is way too harsh; is far too easy-going; or is just not very likeable.
Any of those will do, and can usually be applied. But this is only a temporary reprieve of the aforementioned nagging guilt – after all if a kid is good at studies, the teacher shouldn’t matter, especially in this age of the internet and online tutorials in everything!
Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that there are many teachers out there these days for whom teaching is just a job – albeit one that offers fantastically long holidays.
Whereas what teaching is really about (in addition to the obvious such as subject and syllabus) is inspiring, nurturing, encouraging, coaxing and motivating a student to determinedly push out the envelope of his or her potential and achieve the best that they can be.
Or at least that’s what I think. But then I’m not a teacher. And I don’t know how to be. I don’t have the patience, sensitivity or counselling characteristics that I believe are essential in a born teacher.
Which brings me back to Problem 1 – how do you, as a parent, cope with a bad or confusing report?
Do you go super-strict? Do you take away the toys and privileges and ground them? Or do you just badger and encourage, until you’re a broken record that isn’t really being heard anymore? Do you punish yourself with regret and trauma? Or do you throw more money at the problem – tutors, books, chemistry sets? Or do you do all of the above?
I don’t really know. I suppose that’s the problem with being a parent. We don’t really get an owner’s manual when we leave the maternity ward. We have to stumble and learn along the way, and hope that they’ll turn out alright in the end. Like we did.
And perhaps that IS the answer. Maybe we do have to let them just make the mistakes, go through the setbacks, suffer the bad days in order to learn how to take the knock-downs, how to get back up, and how to shrug it off and keep going regardless.
Actually I think my kids are already better at that than I was; than our generation was. They seem to carry less emotional baggage around. They seem to be bolder and more confident (if I’m to be truly brutally honest with myself) than I was at their age.
So going back to the beginning, should the real question be: are we too bothered? Should we just let the child get on with it, accept that it’s just part of the process of growing up, and have faith that they’ll find their way and live a fruitful and full life regardless of how they get on at school?
And let the parent peer-pressure be damned!