Parent Teacher Conferences–that’s what they were called when I was a kid–are now called SEP Conferences. I have no idea what that stands for. I went into them expecting the same information I always get and received an unnerving surprise that added to my already abundant supply of parental guilt.
I was already feeling guilty because I could only attend Middle H and Little H’s (my two daughters–ages 10 and 5) conferences because I was going on a business trip to Washington, D.C. during Big H’s (13 year-old son) conference. While my husband is always willing to cover anything, school stuff is typically my domain and I like to be in the know at all times. He just doesn’t ask the two-dozen questions that I typically ask.
Middle H is a perfectionist and a straight-A student. I didn’t learn anything new from her teacher and just wanted to move on because we were running late for Little H’s conference.
Since this was her first year of kindergarten, I’d never been to a conference for Little H before. I expected she would be a great student, just like her brother and sister. Her teacher first showed me her performance on the standardized test and it took me a moment to grasp the fact that she was far below average–nearly at the bottom of the scale. Apparently she is really behind on recognizing her letters. And of course it is all my fault because I work full time and don’t spend the time that stay-at-home moms do teaching their kids letters while providing them with hugs and cuddles. The teacher didn’t actually say that, but I’m sure it was implied. Actually her teacher was very kind and supportive, but I coated myself with a thick layer of blame.
We sort of worked on letters over the summer and I assumed she was learning them in her preschool. No one at her preschool ever mentioned she was having trouble remembering letters. It did seem like she forgot them quickly, but I still figured she was just like every other five-year-old. As is typical for me, I was in denial of any sort of problem.
So then, rather than being able to jump right in on teaching my daughter the most basic information she is going to need to thrive in school and in life, I had to leave on a business trip for three days. I tried to be rational about this information and tell myself that she would pick it up quickly if we were diligent and consistent. The teacher said to just provide her lots of extra help at home with flashcards and games and not to worry for a few months because it will probably click all of a sudden really soon. But I felt like I had failed her. I kept picturing her sweet little face as she sat on the tiny chair beside me, not having any idea what was going on and just wanting to get to the book fair to buy a new book. Did I mention that I’ve read to her every night since she was a few months old? I thought that was the cure for everything. I was lied to.
I’ve been back in town for three days and we’ve bought computer learning games and pulled out the flash cards. My husband has jumped right in and we both work with her, trying to keep it fun and not let on that there might be a problem. We’ve enlisted the nanny who spends time every afternoon on cute little educational Halloween worksheets.
I won’t have evidence for about a month to tell me whether it’s working. Her teacher is going to do a baseline test and then another one in a month to measure her progress. I wish it was like the movies where I could have a video montage of us having a wonderful time bonding over letters with pictures of apples, bears, cats, dogs, elephants and foxes that lasts about 30 seconds and then shows us celebrating that she has become the smartest kindergartener in the world.
It’s all making me nervous, but then if I weren’t nervous about something related to my kids or job 24/7, I wouldn’t be a working parent.