Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Parent-Teacher Conference

Today is the first parent-teacher conference of the year. Normally I look forward to these. I have a sweet and intelligent child who does well in school. I still have a sweet, intelligent child who does well in school, but this year we are confronted with the homework issue. We've had phone calls from every one of his teachers about his not doing homework and how it's going to affect his grade. Sigh. Last week, he was grounded the whole week. We have insisted that he do his homework before doing anything else. But if he doesn't bring a book home or doesn't write down the assignment, there's not much for us to do. He's being punished at school (lower grade, no recess) and he's being punished at home. I'm not sure what else can be done. I've thought of a reward system and my son even suggested one and we might give that a try.

But what I dread about the conference most is that I know I will be blamed. It's my fault for not being there more, for working instead of staying home. The teacher will not say this directly, but there will be hints at it. I've been here before. (We experienced a similar problem in 2nd grade. Turned out the teacher was obsessed with neatness and that other parents and students were having issues with her.) And what I think when these kinds of things come up is, "Am I doing the best I can? Am I just making excuses about it being harder because I work?" And frankly, I'm also a little miffed at Mr. GM because he finds ways to not be as concerned. Somehow it's more okay for him to put work first than it is for me. If I say something about maybe he should be more involved in the day-to-day stuff--like homework, like getting stuff ready for school--that would go a long way. And he is sometimes, but it's inconsistent. Often my ideas about what to do in these situations get vetoed. But it's me who is going to the conference, not him, and I am going to do my best not to be defensive and guilty and to look for real solutions and implement them and not let Mr. GM get in the way.

And it is harder for working moms. I can't be as involved as I would like to be. I can't go to things that take place during working hours very easily. I'm often tired at the end of the day, which makes it harder to deal with things that my kids need me for. I find myself easily irritated sometimes because I've brought my work stress home with me. If I take time for myself--and I do--it seems like that's just when things break down, reinforcing the notion that if I'm not involved every minute, something bad will happen. This is not to say that stay at home moms have it any easier. I know they don't. It's just that school schedule and the ideal for how education works is built around the idea that someone is home at 3:00 p.m. When you get home at 6:00 p.m. and homework wasn't done at the after-care program and probably won't get started until 7 or 7:30 after dinner, that means it's 9:00 at the earliest which means very little family time. You start to get resentful about it. Yes, one of us is there while our son does his homework, but is this quality time? I don't know. I resent not being able to just sit and have a conversation or play a game--and yes, we really do these things when we have time. I think this affects our son and his performance in school.