Could do better!

’Tis, apparently, the season to find out how your small darlings are doing at school. And our parents’ evening starts out auspiciously enough.

Inhaling that unique aroma of disinfectant, stale PE kit and photocopier toner, the FOB and I stride into the hall where our son’s work is neatly packaged in his drawer for us to peruse. We wade through 10 whole pages of ‘Me and My Family’ trying to spot the similarities between his vision of ‘home sweet home’ and our own, and fearing the family truths that might have been divulged during its fabrication. We balk at a sea of numerical equations methodically laid out in his numeracy file – already too complicated for my strictly non-mathematical brain. We squint helplessly at the tattered literacy book full of the almost unintelligible whirls of a seven year old’s attempts at cursive handwriting. Eventually, we abandon his drawer and head for the serving hatch, where school dinner pizza has been set out to sample.

‘Mr and Mrs Evans… Miss X will see you now.’
Gulping down our morsels of Margherita, we enter our son’s classroom and drop like overgrown stones onto pint-sized chairs. ‘So, about your son…’ she begins.

What is it about entering a classroom that transforms a competent mother of three into a shivering, quivering eight year old, anxiously fiddling with a twist of her hair and picking at non-existent spots on her nose? Palms slightly moist, we lean forward expectantly as she delivers her verdict.

‘He’s doing very well… loves school, loves learning, he’s enthusiastic.’ We smile, basking in his reflected glory. ‘In fact…’ – my heart lurches – ‘in fact, you could say, a little too enthusiastic. We do have to remind him occasionally to put his hand up and let others… ’
I interrupt: ‘But surely that’s a positive quality?’
‘Miss’ fixes me with the piercing stare of one who is used to dealing with wayward infants.
‘Let others speak!’ she finishes firmly, as I stand (or rather crouch awkwardly) corrected. I can feel a flush flood my cheeks.

Out of the corner of my eye I see the FOB sneak an impatient glance at his watch.
‘Anything else we should be aware of?’ he prompts, glaring at me and daring me to interrupt again.
‘Well, he does have a bit of a tendency to rush – very eager to finish a job which is good, but sometimes it’s to the detriment of quality. He can’t wait to move on to the next activity, it can be a struggle to get him to slow down.’ I meet my husband’s uncomfortable eye and we exchange sheepish grins. Three children in just over three years could, by virtually any normal person’s standards, constitute a bit of a ‘rushed job’. Not to mention the other high-speed aspects of our multi-faceted lives.

Our allocated ten minutes over, we rise stiffly from our seats, thank our son’s teacher and head silently for the door.

‘Well that was interesting,’ says the FOB as we leave the school.
‘Hmm,’ I agree non-committal. ‘At least we know what we… I mean he needs to work on.’

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree and it’s not, I think, called ‘parents’ evening’ for nothing. Next year, I vow silently, we will do better.

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