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?)