I had parent-teacher conferences last week. Having our second and third children spread so far apart allows me to relive elementary school over and over again. Did you ever see the movie “Groundhog Day?” It’s kind of like that, except that things still surprise me every once in a while.
Youngest Son had to make a report card for himself complete with smiley, neutral or frowny faces. If you felt that you did a good job in a category (ie raising your hand), you’d fill in the smiley face. If you didn’t have much of an opinion on how you’ve done, you’d fill in the neutral face and if you need some improvement, the frowny face is for you.
I was quickly scanning the report card when I came upon the seemingly innocent statement “I like coming to school” with a big, blue frowny face circled next to it. Great… another kid with an attitude. I looked to the teacher for some guidance to this glaring red flag. “Well”, she said, “look below. When I questioned your son about why he didn’t like to come to school, he drew you a picture to explain his feelings.” (See visual aid above).
There we were, Youngest Son and me, smiling and eating french fries on a pier at Newburgh Pointe, not far from our house. We were watching people fish and we both looked very happy. There were no books or pencils to be seen. We were school-free and content.
I was floored. I had taken him there only one time, when he was in kindergarten. It was a nice spring afternoon, and I had bought french fries to eat as a treat. We sat on a bench on the pier and watched a few fishermen catch and release. Then we went home. The end.
Now I find out that this is the moment in his life to which everything else is compared. It is the baseline of all his experiences. Nothing was as wonderful as hanging with mom in Hines Park and now he just wants to be home with me and doesn’t want to go to school.
Part of me gets all maternal and mushy when I hear things like this. My little boy just wants to be with his mom. Never mind that I have no intentions of homeschooling anyone, including my dog. He thinks I’m great. Me. Sniff….
The other, more practical side of me, thinks that this is a good lesson for the future. I could have saved an awful lot of angst and guilt in the past if I had just hung out with him. Who needs expensive birthday parties? Just hang out with your kid. Why plan educational and stimulating vacations? Just pay attention to your kid. Kind of reminds me of when you buy an expensive toy for your child and all they want to do is play with the box.
The other thing I realized, as I sat puzzling over this report card of truth, is that it’s the little moments in life that matter. The ones that happen on a whim. The ones that happen when you aren’t really paying attention. The “eat french fries and watch people fish on a dock” moments.
I guess going through elementary school yet another time isn’t so bad. Apparently, I still have lots to learn.