After-Conference Cocktails

A funny thing happened after parent-teacher conferences last week.  Upon my return home, I cracked open a malt beverage and basically slammed an alcoholic beverage for the first time since college.  OK, graduate school.  Well, OK and maybe that one time in Mexico, but Mexico is the home of tequila, so tequila is part of the cultural experience, people, so shooting tequila was key to becoming culturally competent, see?  I see you rolling your eyes back there–stop it!  Still.  It’s not my standard operating practice to drink anything with a kick on a Tuesday evening, but I did.  And then another funny thing happened:  I immediately tore into a second Redd’s Apple Ale (I feel like they should probably slip me a Benjamin at the very least for all the free advertising I’m giving them here, right?  Hello??), and pounded that one down nearly as hard and fast as the first.

My husband looked at me and asked, “You gonna keep going?”  I do love this man–for many reasons, and even a little squeeze extra this time because he didn’t ask with even the slightest note of judgment in his voice.  Probably because he was gonna try and get me all drunk and stuff and see what would happen.  But I was all like, it’s 6:45, Honey, and the kids have homework and piano practice and what would happen is sorta inappropriate with the kids moseying around.  (Editor’s note:  I may have projected a bit here.  The actual exchange ended with his for reals non-judgmental query because my husband is a swell guy who loves me and hasn’t tried to get me drunk since before we were married.  I assured him then that I didn’t need a third margarita, that I was a sure thing after only two.)  Sorry.  Sometimes my mind drifts.  But surely you know that already if you’ve read so much as one paragraph of anything I’ve written previously.

I didn’t keep going with the booze therapy, but I did send a picture of my nearly empty bottle of brew to an online group of friends, saying something along the lines of celebrating having survived parent-teacher conferences.  And how I love my friends for thinking that I was celebrating the end of parent-teacher conferences where I’m the teacher.  No, no.  I was celebrating surviving my own child’s parent-teacher conference where I was the parent!   And how I love my friends all the more still for saying it’d be OK if I had two more or ten more.  They get me.

Wearing my professional hat at conferences often leaves me filled with wonder.  Sometimes shock.  Sometimes awe.  I work with children whose family’s lives include extreme poverty, street violence, substandard housing and homelessness, poor education, unemployment, underemployment, and pretty much every other trauma known to limit education outcomes.  My students live the kind of neighborhoods about which people intone, “THOSE” neighborhoods, the kind you see on the news, but wouldn’t dare to dip even your pinky toe into.  This is where I work.  Every day.  Often but not always, their basic needs of food, shelter, and love go unmet.  But it’s not always, and I hate hearing mass judgment of the poor as “THOSE” people.  It’s inaccurate and it’s unfair.  My students teach me every day, but most recently they’ve been kicking my ass (and by ass I mean psyche and heart–anatomy is hard).   In my therapy recently and at conferences last week, these are actual exchanges I had or overheard.

Student to me:  I met my daddy last week.  He in jail.  Is he my blood?  (She’s nine)  My mama stabbed my daddy, but only on his hand, so it wasn’t no big deal or nothing.  But she had to go to jail for awhile, but not as long as my daddy and then I was livin’ with my granny and she told me that my daddy was from the block, but I don’t think he know my mama.  Like she never knew him.

Me to her: I’m pretty sure she knew him.

Her:  Nuh-uh

Me:  Well, she knew him for at least a little while about 10 years ago.

Her:  My daddy say that that they make you drink pee when you in jail.  I don’t wanna go to jail.  That nasty.  I ain’t drinkin’ nobody pee.

Me:  Let’s work on getting you smarter so that you can avoid jail, OK?

Parent to a fourth-grader:  Put your fuckin’ shit in your bookbag and LET’S GO!

First grader with an intellectual disability to me:  My uncle killed my dog Saturday.

Me:  WHAT?  WHY?

Him:  He didn’t like him.

Me:  WHAT?  WHY?

Him:  He didn’t like him.  You can hear me?

So, despite having a two-drink minimum after conference for my big kid, I’m reminded that it could be worse.  A lot worse.  The gift of a good education is one whose importance and value cannot be stated strongly enough.   This is part of what made me nuts about my big kid’s conference–and it’s not that it was BAD, but it wasn’t GREAT.  My kid doesn’t understand how critical it is to get his work and words on the paper–how you write and (I HATE THIS) how you test is how you’re judged.  It’s how you get into a good high school.  It’s how you get into college.  It’s how you do better than the other guy you’re interviewing for a job against. He doesn’t get the why.

My son struggles with problem-solving and reasoning.  We’ve known this, but now we KNOW this. In some ways the universe has smiled upon him, providing him financial stability (sort of), safety, and love.  We don’t struggle in the same ways the families of my students struggle, that I can say for sure.  This is not to suggest that we lead a charmed life either.  If you’ve read more than one paragraph of anything I’ve written previously, you know that too.  But he needs help improving reasoning and problem-solving skills, and that is something he does have in common with the students I serve.  How could I have failed to notice til just now?  Christ, talk about being asleep at the wheel.

Education is the single best way to rise against ignorance.  Says the mother who slammed a couple drinks after conferences. . .




17 thoughts on “After-Conference Cocktails

  1. We have my sons’ conferences tonight. Maybe I should get to the store and stock up! I can’t imagine how teachers do it, truthfully. My husband and sister both work with populations similar to what you describe in this post, and there’s never a shortage of stories that make my mouth hang open. I love that teachers give kids a chance in this great big world. Thanks for what you do!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hope your conference went well! Thanks for saying something nice about fighting the good fight. It’s never easy, often inexplicable, and sometimes so, so worth every heartache.


      • My husband teaches special ed in a classroom for students with significant behavioral issues (as in biting, kicking, throwing furniture), but he has such amazing moments with his students, too. It’s powerful to see! Teachers make such a difference!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A couple of things:

    1. I’m surprised you didn’t drink _while_ in the conference. Good use of restraint and reasoning
    2. The fact that the beverage of choice has “ale” in it’s name makes me think it’s _almost_ beer. Jesus. What’s happening to you.
    3. Thank whoever y’all want to you are in these kids’ (including your own) lives.
    4. I wuv you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds like a rough conference, but in the end, a good one. As an educator, you know the point of the conference is to help parents see things they may have missed in their everyday interactions with their kids.

    I had a rough one about my absolutely terrific daughter, who was having a lot of issues with reading comprehension. I had done all the “right things”, but she just wasn’t getting it, and I was in denial about the whole thing.

    After that conference, she attended an enrichment class during school time for the next few years. She didn’t like it, but it made a world of difference for her. Without the conference, she would have continued suffering in silence, feeling dumber and dumber, and me none the wiser, thinking she’ll grow out of it. I’ve stopped beating myself up over not seeing it (Ginger Stapp, B.A., Early Elementary Education) , and I hope you won’t beat yourself up either. Big old hugs and empathy coming from just south of the Mason Dixon Line!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I just love your comments & insights, Ginger, and I’m so grateful you share them here. You’re so wise about lots of things, and I really appreciate knowing that someone else has felt something similar. You’ve given me hope too.


  4. Maybe it is not a mum’s job to notice such things about their kids? Maybe it interferes with loving them? Maybe that’s why there are teachers, too?
    Just a few thoughts, I have no kids and I’m no teacher.

    One thing has alwas baffled me: How can you explain to someone how to follow an explanation if they cannot follow your explanation?

    Doesn’t sound *exactly* like your son’s problem, but I bet your teaching skills will still come in handy, and that’s something not everyone can do. (Me, e.g.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, that first paragraph just made my heart swell. Thanks for that perspective. I’m a speech-language pathologist, so I’m full of strategies, supports, and scaffolds to aid comprehension. It’s very time-consuming for the individual needing those supports, but it can be done. Small steps is a start. It’s highly individualized by each kid’s strengths/weakness profile. I’m not doing a clear job outlining this, but I would need volumes to put it on paper vs. a comment here. Thanks for such a thoughtful response!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay, one comment sent prematurely, one eaten by the continuum, next try, I was going to say:

    No need to tell me everything about *IT*, because I know it takes years of training and education to learn these things, and even with that I wouldn’t be good at it.


  6. I think you get extra credit for stopping at two. Sometimes, as moms, we need to drink a bottle to just make it. Mind you, this comes from a person who doesn’t drink much (because I did enough of that in college) but who likes the idea of doing the whole bottle so we can forget how much loving our children can sometimes hurt! Not that I would trade the parenting, but escaping it every one in a while helps! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “I’m a sure thing after two…”, that’s funny. Mixing liquor and beer would have done me in. My husband always teases me, “2 beers and a glass of wine and she’s done!”
    The things kids say, right?? No filter for them, they say it just like they hear it. I wonder what age do they start to keep family secrets a secret? Anyway don’t beat yourself up regarding your son. Every mother has the most beautiful and perfect child because they are hers- (I don’t remember who said that but it is a real quote from someone).
    Hey thanks for what you do. When I was younger I had to take a speech therapy class because I said my R’s like W’s and no one understood me. We went for a drive in the car yesterday to see my grandma would sound like: we went fow a dwive in the caw yestewday to see my gwandma. Sometimes I wevewt back to it just fow fun!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re very welcome! Often, and especially from children in speech tx, the understanding that SLPs do an important job comes later in life. It’s always wonderful to hear that someone made that difference to you, and that it mattered. Yes! My children are the most beautiful and perfect–just like you described. . . I love them like crazy, I sure do. Burps, farts and all, I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe just a few. . . 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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