Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Wish We Had 22 Just Like Him

Every Thursday, Max goes to our church for school. It’s less “school as education” and more “school as Mom gets the kid out of the house for six hours once a week,” but he genuinely enjoys it. Apparently, the two teachers love having him there as was made crystal clear in our first parent-teacher conference (call). I was going to be at work during the call, but My Fair Lady wanted my help in developing a list of queries regarding his performance.
Me: “Do you really think all that is necessary? Can’t you just ask how he’s doing and let her talk?”

MFL: “No! We have to go over his specific performance indicators to ensure he’s appropriately tracking for his age.”


Me: “What the hell does that even mean? Is he a car? Does this mean if he gets unruly we can trade him in for a newer model before he hits 13?”

*ignoring me

MFL: “Things like, is he passive? How does he respond if the other kids take his toys away from him? How well does he eat?”
So we came up with a list that included the above along with a few other questions. To be fair, I managed to get through it with a straight face. But referring to children in tones similar to Best Buy employees hocking flatscreens unnerves me. I want to make sure that Max is having fun and not stabbing the other kids with sharp objects. I’m less anxious to ensure he’s tracking along a pre-defined matrix for societal norms.

I’m in marketing. I deal with the esoteric enough at work. I don’t need any more of it in my home life if I can help it.

So My Fair Lady gets on the conference call and the tone was set right from the start by the teacher.
Teacher: “I don’t even know why we’re having this call. Max is perfect. I wish we had 22 just like him.”
Our son, for the record. Not yours.

The teacher explained that he’s very well behaved, he listens, minds them both, talks a lot but not too much, and plays well with others. At which point, she switched tracks and went on a lengthy screed about what the other kids do that piss her off.
“Max is the only one who sits there at the table and eats his lunch. The. Only. One. All the rest take their food and walk around. They’re making a mess of the new carpet! It’s a nightmare trying to corral everyone. And Max just sits there eating. He watches everyone walk around but doesn’t try to get down with the rest of them. And naptime? Oh my God! The others run around and we have to coax them into laying down. Max? We say nap time and he goes and lies down on his mat, grabs his blankie, and is all ready to go.”
Game. Set. Match. My Fair Lady and Yours Truly are officially better parents than 44 other people. I may not be a raging success in a whole host of areas, but in the one instance that directly affects the future I’ve scored perfect marks. Booyah.

The teacher then went on another tangent, the gist of which was that it all comes down to the parents and why don’t they take responsibility for this or that and how lax discipline at home results in a nightmare for teachers at school.

This is true. It drives us crazy when parents allow their kids to run wild at restaurants, or sit in the middle of the floor while the parents blissfully drink wine and talk as though they’re back in college with their buddies. If that’s how you’re going to treat your kids, then you’re better off getting a dog.

Has it been a beating getting to this point? Absolutely. There were days when neither of us knew if we’d get through it. Max is still in that “Terrible Two” phase where he’ll throw tantrums if he doesn’t get his way. But you want to know what’s nice? We’ve managed to train him enough so that is never seen out in public.

If he doesn’t get his way in a store, then that’s too bad. He accepts it and moves on. He’ll go nuts in the house when it’s just the three of us, but that’s fine. He knows we love him and that he can absolutely push his boundaries as much as he wants because regardless of whether or not we break out the Taser and shock collar, we’ll merrily read him three books every night before he goes to bed.

We love him dearly, but there are limits. We’re flexible on things and have reached a nice compromise with him. For example, instead of simply telling him that every drawer in the kitchen is off limits, we tell him that all but two drawers are not “Max Drawers.”

Those other drawers are filled with tuperware which he loves getting into a throwing all over the floor. It’s a pain to clean up, but I’d rather him do that than reach into the knife drawer and start throwing those. Apparently the cumulative effect is a dream child at school.

It’s so nice to have a great report. Once he gets to high school, I’m going to dig up this old post and compare it against his current status. We’ll see if the two mesh, or if Yours Truly is going to want a do-over.