I had a conversation the other night, a short one, with a fellow working mother. We met up at a fundraising meeting and discovered at the end of it that our daughters were in neighbouring classrooms. We got talking about how we don’t really know any of our kids’ friends because we work and aren’t in and out of the school often enough to see them day to day.
It made me a little sad. Like I’m missing so much about this non-academic portion of my daughter’s school life. Bella is a very social girl, has lots of friends and is very easily recognized in the few times I’ve been in the hallways with her. She has brought home a fistful of phone numbers with various names I’ve heard in conversations and she gets a lot of phone calls herself. A few playdates here and there have been organized and it’s always a thrill for her to be able to go back to school and talk about it the following Monday. But that’s really the extent of how much I know her friends.
Further to that, I don’t really know her teacher either. Bella’s teacher happens to be the staff advisor on the Parent Council with me, otherwise I could count on one hand the number of times I’d ever laid eyes on her. She communicates incredibly with us, make no mistake, but that added connection of physically standing at her classroom door is something I just don’t get.
We hear a lot of rumblings about communication with daycare providers- parents want to know the owners of their centres and the teachers their child interacts with. It’s of utmost importance to mothers and fathers that their nap logs and food journals are kept up to date and filled in with as much information as possible. We all want to know what our kids were doing when we weren’t there. We want to feel like the level of care and attention is as high quality as possible. I expect the same from my daughters’ teachers…but it’s less acceptable for me to demand the same feedback. Right? I wonder though, would I get it if I was picking them up at the door every day?
If I wasn’t a working mother who walked in the house hours after her daughters get off the bus, would I know more about my kids’ days? One time I picked Bella up early by chance. Her teacher told me that she had been fussing a bit about a stomach ache and a tooth ache. None of this was in the agenda where all communication is kept. It wasn’t entirely relevant, Bella was mostly faking out of attention/sympathy for her sister whom she knew was in the hospital that day. But it was extremely helpful to know. If I was the mom who parked her minivan and collected them from their teachers every day, would I feel like school was less of a blank spot in their day?
I know they learn at school. I know they love school. Their teachers are both excellent and I am 100% confident in their learning environment. It’s not the school that has the shortcomings here…I fear it’s me. And it’s by choice. It’s one of those things I have to give up unwillingly while I willingly make the choice to work. Yin and yang and…oh who even cares? It makes me mad, ok? Cue temper tantrum and arms crossed and harrumph and all of it. I WANT TO PICK MY KIDS UP FROM SCHOOL, OK?!!? But I can’t. And I have to trust that the fact that they’re doing well means just that: they’re doing well. The rest is maybe just none of my immediate business. I will press them for information at home around the din of dinner table conversation. I will pen a note to a teacher asking for some insight into why Nika won’t tell me why she’s mad at her friend. But mostly I just have to let it go.
Because school happens to be one of those things I can’t control (I don’t like those things) and better yet: I shouldn’t. Eventually the cost of parenting means you have to take your hands off those strings and let them filter through your fingers, hoping against hope that they choose the path you want for them. And staying just enough in their good graces to earn the right to hear about why they chose that different one. I make a lot of noise about why I chose to work. And I have to stand behind that choice, even when there are parts of it I don’t like.
But I still just want to sling their little backpacks over my shoulders and hold their hands in the hallway. That’s not so wrong, right?