In addition to the whirlwind that is a quick family visit (into which you feel like you really OUGHT to be able to cram a good six month’s or so worth of time together, even if it’s only a few days), the kids are having conferences this week at school. I love school conferences, because they represent a unique opportunity for me to embarrass my children.
Oh, I kid. About the embarrassing part, anyway. I mean, if Chickadee is to be believed, I can turn anything into an opportunity to embarrass her.
[Aside: One day before something at school she came upon me applying some mascara. “Why are you putting on MAKEUP?” she asked. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Oh, I just figured I’m so embarrassing to you just by existing, I’d at least make sure I looked okay, is all,” I told her.
“You look fine without it,” she said, and for a moment I smiled, until I heard her muttering on her way out, “It’s not like mascara is going to keep you from being embarrassing.”]
We keep in pretty close touch with Monkey’s teachers, so there’s never any real surprises there. Plus, with Monkey what you see is what you get. He is equally adorable and infuriating at school as he is at home, so it’s not as though there’s revelations to be had, there. Maybe that will change some as he gets older, or maybe it’s just part of his essential Monkeyness, but either way, that’s how it is for now.
Chickadee, on the other hand, is well into that developmental time when she needs to be separating from her parents, and that separation is generally accomplished via behaving as though our sole goal in life is to ruin hers. This is less disturbing to us than it sounds, most of the time, because it’s what she’s supposed to be doing, I guess. On the other hand, it’s MORE disturbing to us than it sounds, occasionally, because sometimes her behavior makes it hard to believe that she’s basically a good kid (even though she absolutely is).
One of the things I’m beginning to see very clearly through my daughter’s eyes is that there are things you need from your parents and things you need from other people. She needs me to tell her I think she’s beautiful, but she doesn’t believe it until she hears it from her friends. (“Because you HAVE to say that, Mom!”) When I tell her she can do better, it’s reproach in her ears (whether I meant it that way or not), whereas when a teacher says the same, it’s a challenge she feels buoyed to meet.
I can think back to various teachers in middle school, high school, and college who changed my life in all kinds of non-academic ways. I can also remember, I think, times when one or both of my parents may not have been delighted by my allegiance to this teacher or that; and I wonder, now, how it might have felt to them when I was being rotten at home but good as gold for a relative stranger.
Anyway, we went into Chickadee’s conference and were handed her interim report card and told she’s an excellent student, a delight to have in class, and as we clowned through our standard, “Chickadee, did you bring us to the wrong room? Is there ANOTHER Chickadee in this class, maybe?” schtick, the teacher added, “She’s just a good person.”
My daughter—steadily emerging from her shell over the last few years, but with vestiges of her former shyness still clinging to her sharp edges—ducked her head and tried, very hard, not to look thrilled. She failed.
And I was glad.
If I have to just be the “meanie jerk” (her new favorite indictment; I blame Kira‘s Tre for that, by the way; THANKS, TRE!) who’s always demanding that she get up, pick up, snap out of it, move along, be nice, try harder—and I DO have to be that person, because that’s my job—I am eternally grateful for all of the other adults in her life whose relationships with her are less fraught, less tied up in history and longings and differences and sameness, who can say the things to her which she will not hear from me. I am grateful that I had people like that, growing up, and twice as grateful now that Chickadee will reap the benefits of those sorts of relationships.
And I will never, ever resent those easy dynamics she has with others, either.
I certainly didn’t follow up such a nice statement by pointing out that one her teachers had marked down that she talks in class, and then when it was confirmed that she is “a little chatty” triumphantly declare, “I’M SHOCKED!” Nor did I then feel like a total asshole when the teacher followed it with a small chuckle and, “At this age, I don’t worry when they talk a little in class. It’s the ones who are silent that I worry about.” Nope. Not at all.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone. May we all get the love and affirmation we need along the way, in whatever form makes it something we can really hear.