J is for Jenius

On Thursday I had the brilliant idea to deploy a sunken avocado languishing in the fridge onto my hair; certain I’d seen a similar suggestion somewhere on the internet. I sat in the glorious fall sun with chunks of brown-green avocado in my hair (and on my face, because I’m pretty sure I’d heard of using avocado as a face mask) and thirty minutes later I rinsed off the ‘ugly’ as Percy called it, and shampooed my hair.

The end result was soft, limp hair that looked as if it had been soaked in motor oil, reminiscent of a teenager with overly productive sebaceous glands who does not yet understand that daily, not weekly shampoos are the way forward. Alas, I couldn’t bear the thought of washing my hair twice in the same day so I tried to hide the grease in my de rigueur ponytail.

And that was my look-of-choice as the professor and I headed over to the younger boys’ school to attend the dreaded, beginning-of-the-year, parent-teacher conferences.

Perhaps I’m the only person who’s simultaneously intrigued by and leery of the opportunity to sit down one-on-one (or two-on-one when both of us go) with a teacher. One-on-one conversations are my favorite thing. And talking about my children is one of my other favorite things. So why do these conferences always leave me wanting (to never do them again).

In this, my sixth year of having children in school, I’ve probably done about 20 parent-teacher conferences. I have tried all manner of approaches: demure, [trying to be] funny, seriously-ambitious and always leave feeling like I talked either too much or too little and failed in adequately conveying just how spectacular (though, of course,  imperfect and completely malleable) my children are.

We sat down with the Hen’s teacher for our 10 minute audience. My opening line – thoroughly unrehearsed, I should add – was: ‘you know who he is, right?’ Which I’m pleased to report garnered a few laughs from the teacher. But in all seriousness, I’ve been in at least one such a conference where it was evident the teacher was talking about someone other than my child.

And it’s understandable, I suppose, in the same manner that it’s understandable when someone else’s name gets copied and pasted onto my child’s report card, but still it irks. Because my child is spectacular and 2.5 weeks should be more than sufficient time to recognize this.

Senorita assured me she was certain she knew the Hen, though this may have more to do with his habit of having viciously bloody noses at school than his obvious-to-all aptitude.

More awkward chatter followed including my sharing a useless anecdote about the Hen’s latest fixation with bringing birthday treats to school. (Even though his birthday was 3 weeks ago.) He’d initially requested one full-sized donut for each of his classmates and I declined, fearing I’d trigger some sort of insane 7 year old sugar-fuelled mutiny.

Even as I write that, I can’t fathom the need for sharing such pointless information, but I’m just a socially awkward mother, sitting in front of a teacher, asking her to like my son. After 9 minutes, I ended the conference. Because keeping the teacher on schedule is the least (possibly only thing) I can do well.

A short while later we found ourselves in Percy’s Kindergarten classroom. It being a classroom for 5 year olds, the chairs were of the miniature variety and the teacher had stolen an adult-sized chair from the hallway since parents don’t exactly fit in tiny yellow plastic chairs. But that left two adults to sit on tiny chairs and there was a minute-long discussion about who should take the big chair and somehow I ended up sitting in the large black office chair on wheels while the professor and the teacher each took una silla (muy) pequena.

My opening line was something along the lines of ‘so, this is what Percy has told us about Kindergarten: he’s not learning any Spanish, he sometimes sits on the floor (which doesn’t have a carpet!) and there is a girl named Radar in his class.’

This, too, elicited a few chuckles. But truthfully, my main goal for this meeting was simply to find out if a parent in southwest Calgary had actually named their daughter Radar. (Not quite, as it turns out. It reminded me of the Hen in Kindergarten who insisted there were 2 Noah’s in his class: Noah B and Noah Student. Stewart, as it turned out.)

‘So what after school activities is he involved in,’ the teacher chirped with a notepad in her hand, ready to record our answers.

Awkward silence followed as I thought about saying ‘Lego and fighting with his brothers.’

‘We’re lazy,’ I attempted to minimize our laissez-faire approach to parenting. Which is probably partially true, but does a 5 year old, youngest-of-three boys really need ‘after school activities.’

‘What are his responsibilities at home?’

Umm. I mentioned the chore chart on his bedroom door. Though I also had to share that he’d stood by the chart with a (Sharpie!) in hand, asking me what the various chores were. (Because he can’t read.)

‘What does this one say?’ he asked.

‘That says make your bed,’ I explained. And he began to check off ‘make your bed’ for every weekday morning. ‘Umm, I’m pretty sure you only did that once this week,’ I shook my head.

‘Let’s say two times,’ he disagreed and proceeded to make two thick, black checks on the page.

The teacher asked if we had any ‘concerns’ and I said something like ‘well, you’ll probably notice that he doesn’t wear any socks and only wears shoes with the word Crocs on them. If you could somehow convince him to wear socks, that would be great.’

As we walked home, the professor said, ‘do you think we should brag more about our kids?’

I thought about it: would teachers rather listen to parents tell them how amazing their children are, or to nonsensical anecdotes from ‘verbally incontinent’ mothers with greasy hair?

Next time I’ll just ‘forget’ to schedule a meeting.






5 thoughts on “J is for Jenius

  1. The joke among hs’ing families is that parent/teacher conferences can lead to a rise in attendance numbers…..

    But anyway, had my first experience with this over the summer. We had one-on-one conferences with the big girls’ counselors after two weeks of sleep away camp…. how do you do twice a year?? So stressful – and I too have the need to fill the silence with awkward conversation….. Oh my….. might just “forget” to sign up to do that next year…..

  2. My child was taught someone else’s phone number all year in Kindergarten. I didn’t notice until I walked in the classroom once and saw the chart. She still has trouble remembering our real home phone number.

  3. Nonsensical anecdotes from a woman with greasy hair EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And I wouldn’t ask you what after-school activities your child is involved in.
    After hundreds of these conferences I can honestly say yours would have been my favorite. 🙂

  4. Liz, I love the teacher perspective – especially when it makes me feel better about my crazy self! Tan, that is kinda funny. I can just picture it. Kristen, every year I think of skipping out and then I find myself dutifully signing up. I’m a rule follower at heart, plus I don’t want the teacher to think I’m uninterested 🙂


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