The scariest October date of all has been looming large on the calendar for some time now. No, not Halloween. That’s not scary in the slightest. I’m talking about something truly terrifying: we’ve just attended our first school parents’ evening for Isaac.
No matter how well we know our children, I suspect most parents have a fear that going to school will uncover some hitherto unobserved fundamental flaw in their child. In Isaac’s case it’s only been five weeks since he bounded delightedly into school for the first time, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a teensy bit nervous that we would be on the receiving end of the kind of carefully worded teacher-speak that you really don’t want to hear as a parent. You know the sort of thing: coded phrases which range from the merely disappointing to the downright alarming, such as:
- “Little Jack/Jill is taking a while to settle in.” (Which means: “They have no friends and don’t speak to anyone.”)
- “He/she likes to take his/her time with their classwork.” (“They’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer, are they?”)
- “He/she struggles with classroom routines.” (“Don’t you teach them any discipline at home?”)
- “He/she can be a bit disruptive at times.” (“We’re veering into ASBO territory and our staff have all had to be armed with tasers for protection.”)
After all, the last thing any parent wants to be told is that their special little angel is anything less than some perfect combination of Richard Branson, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein and Usain Bolt who is going to go on to rule the world, or at the very least not spend their entire adult life on benefits, subsisting on a diet of Special Brew and rooting around in dumpsters for unused lottery scratchcards. (Okay, I know it’s way too early for that kind of negative feedback, but you know what I mean, right?)
At such an early stage in their lives, we want our children to believe that all their aspirations (or, equally, our aspirations for them) – train driver, scientist, Olympic athlete, prima ballerina, reality TV star – are still within their compass. We want them to be complimented on their progress with literacy and numeracy, their artistry and creativity, how they’re the kid everyone else wants to be friends with. We want to be told by their teacher – while we perch uncomfortably on the kiddie chairs – about how well they’ve settled in, and that they’re not traumatised by the whole school experience. Ultimately we just want to know that they’re okay.
So, how did it go? It was fine. Isaac has apparently taken to school like the proverbial duck to water, although he’s rather less keen on after-school club (which we knew already). Reading and writing are progressing well, as we had already observed from his enthusiasm with homework. A few pointers to keep his linguistic development on the right track. And two of his distinguishing characteristics are that he has embraced rules and routines (as I’ve said elsewhere in the past, he’s destined to become a health and safety inspector) and he’s a highly tactile child. (Thankfully, the girl he’s become almost obsessively best friends with hasn’t issued a restraining order or been heard running off screaming “Stalker!” Yet.)
No shocks, no surprises. Just a normal, well-adjusted boy who is receptive to teaching and eager to learn. Nothing we didn’t already know, but it’s still a relief to have it confirmed by a teacher. Our boy is doing well – and by extension I guess that means we must also be doing something right as parents. And that’s maybe the best news of all.