After many years of participating in Back-to-School night as a teacher, tonight I attended for the first time as a parent. While surrounded by alphabet posters, new crayons, and other anxious parents, I contemplated my new, unfamiliar role as a parent of a school-aged child. Because of my interactions with some over-zealous parents during Back-to-School nights in the past, at least I knew how not to act as a parent.
I ran through my mental checklist: Do not ask tons of questions in front of the group that really only pertain to my child. Do not interrupt every point the teacher makes to relate it back to my own child. Definitely do not corner the teacher at the end of her very long day to outline the life history of my child.
Knowing all of this, it came as quite a shock to me that during the next thirty minutes I struggled to avoid doing all of the above. Here are four of things that I desperately wanted to do … but didn’t:
1. The teacher informed us that there will be no newsletters this year because she discovered that parents weren’t really reading them. Instead, she will send text reminders. I immediately wanted to object, “Wait! I will read them. Please! I want to know about his day! Newsletters will be my only way!”
You see, it is very likely that I will never know what happens during my son’s school day because the only thing he managed to tell me about his three days at kindergarten camp this summer was: “I peed in the bathroom.” Because of this, and the fact that I know that much, much more goes on during a school day, I really wanted to voice these thoughts and request a detailed newsletter … but I didn’t.
2. The teacher then explained her discipline policy. The classroom does not have a time-out chair, but instead there is a “re-fill station” for students. Students who struggle to cooperate or interact with classmates appropriately take a break in the back of the room to re-charge and calm down. At this point, I wanted to jump in with, “Do you think you could put some dinosaur books back there? I’m sure my son will be visiting the “re-fill station” on occasion, and he really calms down when he reads his dinosaur books.” I wanted to offer my input … but I didn’t.
3. When the teacher mentioned that there will be opportunities for parents to volunteer, I wanted to stand up, wave all of my volunteer clearances in the air, and sign up immediately for each party and event … but I didn’t.
4. At the end, when the teacher asked if anyone had any more questions, I desperately wanted to raise my hand and ask, “What will you do if my son looks sad? What about if he takes too long to answer a question? Could you please just wait a few extra seconds? And, what if he falls and gets hurt? Will you give him a hug?” I wanted to ask all of this, and more …but I didn’t.
There are thousands of things that I want my son’s kindergarten teacher to know because suddenly I feel that my son is completely unprepared to function in a classroom (despite a very successful year of pre-school!). For instance, during kindergarten orientation earlier in the day, the principal introduced herself and reached down to shake my son’s hand. My son looked quizzically at her hand, reached up with his own LEFT hand and gave her an awkward T-Rex claw grip. How did I neglect to teach him this?
And earlier this week during library story time, a guest speaker came to play a dinosaur quiz game with the kids. My dino-loving boy was in his element, quickly identifying obscure dinosaurs such as Baryonyx and Zuniceratops. However, during the “meet the players” section of the game, he couldn’t answer the question: “What’s your favorite cereal?” He froze, mumbled incoherently for a bit, and then answered, “Sticky and dry.” What?! How about the Lucky Charms you beg for every time we are in the grocery store, kiddo?
Logically, I know that he is ready and that kindergarten, and this gradual letting go is a natural rite of passage (for him and for me). He will be fine in kindergarten despite not being able to identify a favorite cereal. And, his teacher – his enthusiastic, smart, and kind teacher with 29 years of experience! – will guide and encourage him to succeed to the best of his abilities.
But, it is hard to be the quiet parent when every inch of me is suddenly screaming, “Wait! Not yet! I don’t think he is ready for this.” Of course, what I really mean is: “Wait! Not yet! I don’t think I am ready for this!”
Trusting someone else to teach and care for your child is a giant leap of faith. I know this, and his teacher knows this. So, as I stood to leave the classroom, I restrained myself from telling her about the time my son counted to 199 all by himself. Instead, I simply smiled, said thank you, and waved good-bye. I know this will get easier as each day of school passes, but right now being the quiet parent is so very difficult.