I always take my seat (in a teeny tiny chair) in the
meetings at my kids’ schools and hope for the best. I hope the other parents don’t ask too many
questions that make the meeting run on forever,
and I hope the refreshments served afterward are not stale. Invariably, my hopes are dashed, not by crackers
that expired during the Clinton administration, but by the other parents. You know, those hyper, anxious, type-A
parents who have endless questions about the math curriculum at the kids’
Am I seriously supposed to sit there unfazed when a mother
raises her hand to tell the teacher that she “contacted the U.S. Department of
Education and was told that children over the age of 3 must be exposed to
47 minutes of math every single day”?
It’s hard for me to see the upside of parents who seem so controlling
and competitive about education for 4-year-olds. When they start grilling the teacher I feel
uncomfortable, like I just walked into an interrogation room instead of a
meeting about how a preschool teacher hopes to instruct our kids on how to play
without hitting and how to eat snacks without spitting.
Without them, we have no way to assure ourselves that we are balanced individuals with reasonable expectations for our children.
It takes a lot of willpower to keep from
rolling my eyes with contempt at the parent who gives a preschool teacher the
third degree about how prepared the children will be for their SATs in 11 years. In fact, I don’t possess that
degree of willpower.
But there is an
upside to those parents. Actually, those
pushy parents are vital to me having a successful school experience. We—the rest of us well-adjusted, normal
parents—need those aggressive, my-kid-is-superior parents to make us feel good
about ourselves. Without them, we have
no way to assure ourselves that we are balanced individuals with reasonable
expectations for our children.
And there are tremendous social benefits to being in a room
where other parents are making asses of themselves. It gives the rest of us something to bond
over. Those parents can serve as a focal
point for a budding new relationship on the preschool campus. For example, at last school meeting, I looked
around the room when the teacher interrogation was taking place and saw a
couple roll their eyes at each other. I
knew they were my people, because they were thinking what I was thinking: Why is that father haranguing the teacher about how and when the children are going to learn the quadratic
I waltzed up to them after
the meeting and made a casual remark that “some people seem kind of intense,”
and together, we rolled our eyes one more time. Then we strode to the snack table and enjoyed
some fresh crackers and watered-down punch—it was the start of a great