Reading between the lines

How to properly decode your child’s parent-teacher conference

October 13, 2017

It’s fall! Which means the football team you’ve loved since age 8 is being used as ugly political currency, your preferred cereal brands are all issuing pumpkin-themed novelty editions that taste like orange garbage and your children’s schools are contacting you about parent-teacher conferences, those annual events in which teachers take time out of their languid, relaxing lifestyles to schedule some time in which they can be directed by parents to pay more individual attention to their daughter’s snack habits.

Sure, parent-teacher conferences may seem like they exist primarily to make you scramble for child care at 6:45 p.m. on a Wednesday, but it turns out the people raising your kids for seven hours every day do have information they wish to impart. They just can’t do that using their grownup words, because as a rule, parents deeply object to negative commentary about their children, forcing everybody to use strange circular patterns of conversation that only occasionally say what they mean. Here now, a helpful translation to what’s really going on.

“Your child is so full of energy!” = WHAT IN THE NAME OF SKIPPYJON JONES DO YOU FEED YOUR UNGROWN CHILD IN THE MORNINGS? Is there a Skittles cereal? Is he just eating smushed-up gobs of Lucky Charms marshmallows? Your overcaffeinated wombat couldn’t remain stationary if I duct-taped his butt to his tiny chair, which I can’t do because of the “school board,” thanks a lot Obama. Look, I’m not saying ADHD, you’re not saying ADHD, but if you guys haven’t worked out a strategy about such things, it’s probably worth a Google. Meanwhile, tomorrow, for breakfast, TRY SOME FRUIT.

“We’re working on learning to handle our emotions.” = There has been a recent episode of playground violence initiated by your child, and you and your spouse’s diverse range of parenting shortcomings are being talked about during our teacher’s lounge margarita breaks. Hitting doesn’t solve anything, unless you’re 6, when it totally does, but we’re obviously trying not to teach that. Help us.

“We’re working on his group skills.” = Do you know how humans wait in line for things? Your child essentially body-checks himself to the water fountain line instead, and do NOT get me started on what happens when it’s time to form a lunch line. (Kid, I promise on the last shreds of your blankie, everyone here will get his chocolate milk.) Unless your child learns the value of patience and respect for others, he’ll … end up being the president of the United States, I guess.

“We’re learning about appropriate times to speak.” = I can make it through about three pages of "Elephant and Piggie" during Story Time without your child hollering something about poop, and there is very little poop in "Elephant and Piggie" books. Trust me. I’ve read them all. Six billion times. Let’s work a little on waiting our turn.

“We’re working on learning to control our bodies.” = Does your child fall out of his chair this much at home, because he does a full-body crash to the tile floor about three times an afternoon. I realize that schools are compelled to confine our frenetic, bouncing children for hours at a time, but he’s distracting the other children, because it’s frankly pretty funny.

“We’re trying to manage our bathroom visits.” = Your child tells me he needs to pee approximately 25 times by 10 a.m., either he’s testing me or you guys pour him a Home Depot bucket full of coffee every morning. Anyway, if he comes home with dribble in his undies this is probably why.

“He’s so curious!” = ALWAYS WITH THE TALKING. If I answered his pathologically torrential flurry of questions, I would have four minutes a day in which to instruct 24 other children on how to draw a triangle. If you don’t mind, I plan to distract him with "Elephant and Piggie" books.

“We’re noticing some occasional attention issues.” = I’m getting the serious vibe that this kid has his face pasted into an iPad from 3:40-9 p.m. Am I close? I feel like I’m close. As the only thing they’ve given me to teach is a giant whiteboard, I’m gonna need your help focusing his attention on things that don’t go blip and bloop.

“He’s not shy about sharing what he knows.” = Your child does not stop talking.

“He always raises his hand to answer questions.” = Your child does not stop talking.

“He’s excited to show off new things he’s learned.” = I cannot believe he does not stop talking.

“Do you have any questions for me?” = Alright, time to shut this down, I’ve got the parents of the kid who pees all the time next, and I’d like to get home before 10 p.m.


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