Day 72: Not storming the parents’ meeting

Speak up for or write about an unpopular idea in a group.

How do you speak up for an unpopular idea at a parents’ meeting?

The meeting has lasted one hour. We have seen a film of cute kids answering cute questions about their cute school, and we all laughed about their cute replies. We have heard the teacher talk about out brilliant kids: they’re way ahead of other classes, they know all they should learn this year already, they know their numbers and letters and everything. Your kids are impressive.

They are very nice to each other as well. They take turns, they don’t fight, they help each other, they do their best to include everyone when they’re playing. They are mature for their age, they are polite and pleasant to be around — just very well-behaved small people. They must have been very lucky in their choice of parents. You must be crème de la crème when it comes to parenting.

OK, she didn’t say that. But that was the general impression we all got: our kids are wonderful (as we know they are) because we are wonderful as parents (which we always doubt and never can hear enough).

And there I am, one hour into this flood of positive words, trying to find a way to go against the stream and be negative. Doing my best to find something to say which will make me unpopular.

You think your kids are smart? You have no idea. My son could read one year ago — in three languages!

I don’t think the teachers have done a good enough job. They don’t deserve all the praise we heap on them, they’re not any better than most other teachers.

I don’t agree with all this talk about “social intelligence” and “being nice to each other”. Boys should be boys: let them fight, let them handle their own problems without teachers intervening all the time. My son came home yesterday with a black eye and a couple of bruises and cuts. Good for him! The other boy had two black eyes and a broken leg. Even better!

I’ll just put this phone here to record you, could you please stay next to it while you talk, my lawyers say I need some evidence.

We wanted to move our son to another school, but it turned out to be too much hassle.

My son went to an international school in Prague, not a common state school like this. You have no idea how tough it is for him, and us, to get used to the standards here. The easiest solution would be if we could use our experiences and insights to help you improve this school to a level where one isn’t worried the kids’ formative years are being wasted on inferior pedagogy.

The teacher’s about my age, but she looks ten years younger. She’s sweet and petite and still manages to have lots of authority — she’s obviously a good teacher. I can’t bash her. And my sons is really very happy at school, he has lots of friends and seems to enjoy every day there. Isn’t one of the goals of this task to speak up for an unpopular but true idea?

The meeting hs lasted one hour and twenty minutes. I sit at the back, looking at the teachers, at the other parents, laughing when they laugh, smile when they smile, feel proud of my son the same way they feel proud of their children. Why would I want to be unpopular? What possible cause would I want to jeopardize my relationship to the other parents for? I’m a foreigner (albeit a very similar foreigner), I am enough of an outsider already, I don’t want my assimilation here to be harder than necessary.

Two minutes later, the meeting is over. And I never said anything even remotely unpopular.

I walk home feeling good. Feeling like you’re belonging to a group will usually do that to you. I agree with them on everything. All of us parents pull in the same direction. Good.

As I step on some gravel, I notice than I’m barefoot. I hadn’t thought about that. And I remember endless discussions with my sons and my wife: should they be allowed to walk barefoot? My sons say yes, my wife says yes when it’s warm enough — but at school they say no. At least that’s what my son says: his teacher won’t let him walk barefoot outside, even though it’s warm. (It’s OK inside, though.)

And there I was, sitting barefoot for over an hour, listening to a sweet, petite woman in high heels, and never once did it cross my mind that this woman stood between my son and his barefootedness. That could have been, that should have been the Cause! I should have raised my voice and told everyone that if my son wants to go barefoot, he bloody well shall go barefoot, no matter what certain authorities think about it.

It would have made me unpopular. But it would have been worth it.

Wouldn’t it?

It would have been a worthy cause if it had been my sons’ cause. But sometimes, I’m not sure it is. They walk barefoot because they like it, but often, they want to walk barefoot mostly because I do it. It’s my thing, and they just happen to be in an age where everything dad does, is worth copying. What if I fight for my son’s right to ditch his shoes only to find out that he doesn’t want to anyway (he really likes his minimalistic sneakers), and that it only makes him embarrassed to see me quarrel with his beloved teacher.

What if I would only make a fool of myself and in the process turn barefootedness into something both my sons want to avoid at all costs?

I step on the smooth pavement, feel the cracks under my soles, some grass tickling me, the cool asphalt…

I want my sons to experience this. But there might be better ways of doing it that making myself unpopular with the other parents and the teachers.

Task not done. I’ll find something to write about instead.

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