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I Didn't Expect to Fall In Love At a Parent-Teacher Conference

Photograph by Twenty20

I was nervous the morning of our son's first parent-teacher conference. He's 2-and-a-half and started preschool earlier this year. It has been an exhilarating change to drive him to school every morning, monogrammed backpack and lunch pail in tow. I wasn't sure what to expect from our conference, but I was anxious for the day that entire week.

We were the first conference of the day. I had signed us up for the earliest slot as soon as I saw the preschool director's email, because I wanted her to know that we are good parents. You know, the kind of parents who don't forget things. I needed to show that I am definitely not the mother who leaves the house without diapers, forgets to order diapers, or the type of mom that one time forgot to strap the baby into his car seat. Nope. Not at all.

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I dressed nicely that day because, again, I am "together" mom on this day. I'm pretty sure dad shaved that morning, because he indulges my craziness in this way, which is of course one of the many reasons I love him.

We walked in and sat in tiny chairs and proceeded to listen to the preschool director and our son's teacher talk to us about our child. We discussed his "strong-willed" nature, which we both agreed he gets from me. We also discussed how he has progressed since transitioning from being cared for at home by my mother to being in a another setting. They said our son follows directions and engages well with others, which was music to our ears. We looked at each other longingly. Of course, we had birthed a near perfect child.

Having a baby with someone is like jumping out of an airplane with no equipment. There's no one to rescue you, and it's terrifying, but sometimes all you can do is cling to each other and just enjoy the ride.

As we sat there, eyes glued to the teacher, I thought about when my son's father and I were in the early stages of our relationship four years before. We wouldn't be caught dead at anything requiring us to wake up before 9 a.m. After our son's birth, our lives changed so quickly that it can be hard to remember a time when we didn't discuss speech therapy and parenting articles on a regular basis.

After the good news came the other part. You know, where they tell you the things they are still "working on." Our son embodies the best things about us but, as he progresses, we also see elements of our own areas of "improvement." In those scenarios, I tend to be the more analytical one, and so I made mental notes like a diligent student. I noticed how his father, meanwhile, tensed up slightly when we received feedback on areas for improvement.

Having a baby with someone is like jumping out of an airplane with no equipment. There's no one to rescue you, and it's terrifying, but sometimes all you can do is cling to each other and just enjoy the ride. I admit that, at times, he does the less fun parenting things: diaper changes, strapping him in the car seat, running after him in public places. I pack bags, plan meals and do other things that are needed to keep the house running. But my partner is the one who knows our son's favorite ice cream flavor and how to elicit his infectious laughter.

I expected a lot of things from our parent teacher conference. What I didn't expect was to fall in love all over again.

I thought about the people we used to be: so carefree and young. It feels like we've aged 10 years in only 2 and a half. Looking back, I had absolutely no idea how parenting would change me. I didn't know parenting would burst my heart open while also uncovering a layer of anxiety I will carry with me forever. There's been so many happy moments but also moments of sadness, panicked calls, text messages about schedules, cute photos. There has also been the throwing of things (by me), and a lot of love and patience on my partner's part.

As the conference continued, he spoke in longer sentences like he tends to do when he's nervous. He explained in detail how we try to reinforce the things he learns at school at home. He listened emphatically. He admitted to things I am would normally withhold for fear of being judged.

But there he was, loving, patient and always seeing the absolute best in our child. I've been having some difficulties coping with our son's possible speech delay. In my perpetual state of anxiety, I obsess over missed milestones and scrutinize every interaction.

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But in that moment, I saw another layer of depth to my partner's character. When I step back and stop trying to control things, he is actually much better at certain parenting aspects than I am. It's hard to admit that because, as mothers, we want to believe we always know best, that we are the best equipped, that we don't need help. In that moment I felt comforted and reassured.

Then I felt my heart expand.

I expected a lot of things from our parent teacher conference. What I didn't expect was to fall in love all over again. I fell in love again not just with the man I always knew my partner, the father of my child, was, but with the person he has become.

I was reminded that I had indeed chosen the best partner in life and in parenthood for me. In all the ups and downs of parenting, we will always have each other.

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