Friday, November 16, 2007

Parent-Teacher Conferences; A Study in Genetics



I freely admit that I'm an over-achiever. I am one of those individuals who will tell you my GPA, play "high school/college trading cards" with anyone (I'll SEE your editor of the school paper and raise you one with Student Council PRESIDENT), and I won't even pretend I don't want to tell you. It's not something I'm proud of, but, rather, something I'm reassessing--mulling over--studying, if you will, and have been for a long time. Ever since I became a mother.

In all my zest and zeal to raise children the very best I can, I, and every other mother is slapped in the face, sometimes literally, with the fact that none of that ambition matters when it comes to raising children. I have humbly come to the conclusion, several times over the last 10 years now, that the pace of motherhood is slow, there are no awards (and don't give me "endless kisses and hugs," because we all know that's not what I'm talking about), and really confusing, conflicting standards of judgment in even assessing if someone's a "good" (let alone better, or best) mother. And even if you were, in some parallel universe, offered the title of "world's best mom," it wouldn't come with a cash prize and nobody would really care. I mean, what would it give you--a better job? increased benefits? Bragging rights at best, and then you wouldn't have any friends.

All that said, over the last 10 years I've tried to become a recovering over-achiever. I work hard to be the best mom I can be, but so do most (but not all) moms I know. All in all, I think that most (but not all) moms are too hard on themselves. And I think society is increasingly demanding of what mothers should and should not do.

None of that helps, however, when I walk into a parent-teacher conference. All I want to hear is how wonderful and smart, and funny-in-an-appropriate-way my children are. Leave out all that "needs work on" or "at level for." Because even though it's not meant to be a judgment on my mothering, it's the closest thing I've got.

When my oldest son was 2 1/2, he could name the planets in our solar system in order. This was not due to my diligent drilling or insistence by any means. Nor was the fact that he was reading by 3 1/2 all my doing (but if you want to think that, I'll let you), it was just this quirky thing. So, early on, in my mind, he was, naturally, going to be a gifted astronaut who would lead the first expedition to Mars in the near future. Now, at nearly 10, he has absolutely no interest in being an astronaut, and wants more than anything in the world, to be a stand-up comedian. Now, just so there's no confusion, being an astronaut is BETTER than being a stand-up comedian. Yes, I'm putting a value on it--and don't pretend like you aren't either. So now my always brilliant at math kid, doesn't like math, and is, I'm told by his teacher, contributing to classroom discussions, "but not always in an appropriate way." Miles goes red when he hears this out-loud and apologizes, giving me absolutely no time to make excuses in my mind. No time for a single "not MY kid" thought. . . " he just muttles out a timid "I just. . .want. . to be. . . funny."

So this is where I find myself. Not only doesn't he know his audience, but his timing's off. Now I find myself in the precarious situation of judging his comedic talent. I go so far as to suggest that Miles go to a family friend and comedic writer, Eric, for new material. "Or, maybe I could give HIM some new material," Miles retorts. Well, I guess we've got self-esteem down pretty well. That's something.

I'll confess I was nervous when Miles announced he had auditioned for the school talent show. "With what?!" I said, with a little panic in my voice. "Stand up comedy, OF COURSE!" was the reply. It's not my proudest mothering moment, but more of an instinct, really--mothers are wired to protect their children. His stand-up routine, which consisted of a commercial for powdered water seemed to be lost on me, and also suspiciously familiar. But when the neighborhood boys, ages 7-10 came over, Miles had them in the the palm of his hand. There was literal laughing so completely they were falling over on the floor. I guess he had them at "powdered water."

Both of my boys, bright and doing well in school, can work on (read: "needs improvement") "focusing," and "paying attention." The line "absent-minded professor" was thrown around by one teacher, in particular, and I had to laugh because their father is, quite literally, a professor who, just the week before had lost his cell phone charger, then his cell phone, and then all his keys. It's like destiny had its voice. It's silly, silly voice. So, "Yes," I replied to both teachers, ". . . we're working on that."

And I'm working on what it actually means to lower the bar and be awesome for my children's sake and my mental health. I mean, my husband is a successful, talented actor, director, teacher, husband, and father. . .and I bet he never cried in his bed as a 9 year-old because he suddenly realized his library books were overdue. (have I revealed too much?)

16 comments:

wendysue said...

Hey, any time you want to have Miles call me to try out his "material" is fine with me. . .afterall, I did sit and listen ALL about Pokeman for about 20 minutes when you sat us down this summer. . ."Hey, Miles, I don't think Wendy knows ANYTHING about Pokemon!!" (as you walk away with a *wink, wink*)

Kacy said...

Dear Miles, Astronauts are really funny too. They wear really funny outfits and do funny tricks without gravity. Just think about it (for your mother's sake).

PS What do you think will last longer: Chris's modern dance phase or Miles' stand up comedy phase?

Hailey said...

Oh Lisa, I love you, and I love your kids.

Oh, and I love that we played Homecoming/Prom Queen/Princess the other night. You are so winning, because I would have thrown in Senior Class Representative, but President beats that, too.

lisa v. clark said...

Wendy, does it make me a bad mother that my eyes glaze over when he talks about Pokemon and I totally do the "mother" phone in thing: "uh, huh? oh, really. . . wow. . . yeah. . .hmmm, interesting, no I really didn't know that, humm. . . ." Now he's started to quiz me on who morphs into who and I'm screwed.

Kacy, how desperate is it of me to suggest that Miles be the first stand up comic ON MARS!?!? We actually had that conversation.

Well Hailey, thanks for playing!

pflower10 said...

whew...I'm glad I'm not the only mother with these issues.

I think..no, I know that my own eyes glaze over on quite a few different subjects that my kids like to torture me with.

The bad thing is is that I now have a taste of what I put my own mother through. I need to go apologize to her!

AzĂșcar said...

My eyes glaze over when Joe starts talking about stuff all the time.

I am a recovering over-achiever as well (I'll see your Student Council President and raise you a Girls State.)

If it makes you feel better, Miles could have said, "I want to be a prop comedian."

Bek said...

Lisa...this KILLS me.... Miles really is his fathers son (I..just...want...to...be..funny..)
LOVE it.

I have always set the bar low in terms of my expectations for myself and my kids. I guess I will be happy when they actually go to school... ;-) Miles was supposed to be the one that would finance your old age... sigh. There is always Owen... ;-)

Gina said...

Don't worry, you can always still one up your little sister ("You are the oldest girl!") although I was Mayor at Girls State, but never the prom queen ("I am beautiful no matter what you say..."). Oh yeah, and I sew and all you suckas dream about it!

You are a good mother even though you don't care about your kids. Bring over the boys and I'll sick the High School Music/Hannah Montana trivia team (aka Sloane and Sher) on them and we'll have a hotbed of mutual disinterest. It'll be great!

c jane said...

Oh I just can't wait to see what Phoebe wants to be when she is ten. This is going to be good. . .

avalentine said...

well, i laughed me arse off in the backroom of an american apparel reading this. i'd like you to know i'm currently lowering the bar in metallic leggings and a mini skirt. and yes, its awesome.

Julie said...

OH, boy. Miles sounds so much like my oldest, A--. He tries so hard to be funny but just doesn't quite get it. When you wrote, "So now my always brilliant at math kid, doesn't like math, and is, I'm told by his teacher, contributing to classroom discussions, 'but not always in an appropriate way,'" you could have pulled that directly out of my journal (if I was still any good at keeping one) of "things teachers have said about A--." Scary.

I can't compete with you for high school leadership positions...I was never that cool. But I did keep a journal nearly every day through Jr. High and HS. I have at least 10 volumes. (And yes, they are just as frightening to read as you can imagine.)

~j. said...

Li'l ~j.'s report card was great -- she, though, focused on the 4 grades of "S" that she wanted to be "E". My logic to her: "Sweetie, if your lowest grade was 92.8%, I think you're more than 'satisfactory' in Listening Attentively and Following Directions." And then I worried that I raised, rather than lowered, a bar somewhere. Still need to work on Being Awesome over here.

What do I win for being Student Council President my Junior AND Senior years? Or is it all cancelled out by having been Drum Major?

AzĂșcar said...

Chief Supreme Court Justice, Girls State. I will go toe-to-toe with you in a sew-off at anytime, Gina.

Today I lowered the bar by wearing jeans that I have not laundered in a long, long time. Possibly since I bought them.

Emily said...

Can those of us who were HS Student Body Presidents (ahem, ahem) all get together and talk about our glory years? And perhaps throw around our ACT scores while we're at it? Me? A not amazing, but wholly respectable 33, without hardly trying.

That's all I got, though. None of this prom queen girl's state overachiever stuff for me. And, my kids are pretty normal.

Kactiguy said...

I wish you were my mom.

Shawn said...

Great stuff! Aydan told me today that he wants to make a recording on a CD---like right now! So, he can put it on his little IPOD knock-off that he got for Christmas...

Also, since we are keeping record...I was Prom Queen, Homecoming Queen, Newspaper cartoonist, and Student Council secretary----Ok, so it was in the dinosaur age, but read it and weep...

By the by...loved hanging with you---YOU are the bomb!