Last night was Spring Parent-Teacher conference time. I was going to write a list of 5 things you should never do the day of teacher conferences. But yesterday, I opened and read a letter from the IRS telling me my business is being audited and thought, well, my list was simply one entry: “Never open and read any letter from the IRS that same day.” So with the wired call to my CPA a fresh memory, and the realization that I was now fully awake and probably did NOT need the 5Hour Energy sample I’d ingested just minutes before said-letter, I was ready to head to the school. I really couldn’t tell why my heart was racing… the letter or the vita-shot or the fact that I was lined up for 4 teacher meetings in a row. In any event, I tried my best Lamaze breathing, which was tricky since I haven’t been pregnant ever. I adopted, so my whole Lamaze knowledge is from TV, like the way I kind of know the Miranda warning because I have my doctorate in Law &Order.
My teacher meetings last night were pure exercises in acting. In the midst of it all, I took solace that a career change into acting just may work, because I could clearly pull off emotions in front of a live audience that I was in no way feeling. Were I on Candid Camera, I would have been cut as the boring clip in which the woman was presumed comatose and showed no reaction. Don’t get me wrong~ on the inside I was 110% verklempt and ready to string my son up by his Chuck Taylors. But on the outside, I was cool, composed, and well, maybe talking just a wee bit faster that norm which is scary really since I already have the rapid fire Jersey-pace known and loved by Joe Pesci fans everywhere. But enough about Joe. This is about me. Joe can get his own blog. What follows is “Parent-Teacher Time: An Evening in Four Acts.” I’m submitting my performance for consideration next awards season. I’m so nominating myself for a Tony Award. I was that good.
Act One: Son2's Language Arts, Room 115
Have some small chat with teacher, and prepare to be handed “The Green Folder.” The Green Folder was its own artistic triumph, so much more than a mere prop or paper container. You see Son2 is highly artistic, so when faced with a green folder into which he was to place his papers this close to St Patrick’s Day, The Green Folder had to be crafted into a work of art on par with all great Irish creations… like the simplicity of St Brigid’s Cross, the beauty of Waterford, Guinness. And so my eyes were bright as I beheld it’s splendor and was then faced with page after page of jaw dropppingly bad grades hidden in the locker since Christmas. I wanted to drop The Green Folder like toxic waste, but that would tip off the teacher that I had NO clue he had these grades. What kind of parent doesn’t know her 5th grader is harboring these scores in his locker for 6 weeks, sharing only the 90’s. Son2~ your night was now in peril… not for the grades themselves, but rather for sweet talking me through the past few weeks and trying once again, as you did in 2nd grade, to sign the papers “for me.” As we said to you then: A) DON’T forge, and B) Don’t use crayon. It’s a big tip off. And yet I did not scream out “WTF!!!!” I remained calm, to maintain the appearance of a woman better informed, thus better aware. Did you see Helen Mirren in “The Queen”? I was that contained. Maybe just a touch of Pesci.
It was now time for the Son1 Teacher Trifecta…
Act Two: Son1's Social Studies, Room 105
This was the one I had dreaded. Knowing Son1 has been less than successful on his research for a large term paper, I was ready to discuss with/ pepper the teacher with questions about the lack of IEP adherence such as supply of written study guides and other supports leading to his grade unraveling from 95 to 60 in 2 months. Son1 clearly told me over and over again that all work was being done in school, none of this was take home, and he was right on top of things. The Child Study Leader was a little concerned since she had gotten radio silence from the teacher. How could you leave a kid with off the charts ADHD out to dry with nothing supplied in writing? So channeling Helen/Queen Elizabeth, I took my place. But this teacher had an ace up his sleeve for our meeting that threw me the minute I sat. He had Son1’s signature on form after form acknowledging he A) had the assignment instructions and B) hadn’t done the night’s homework. And Son1 really did sign them, not Son2 in crayon for him so I couldn’t even have the evidence thrown out. Right there, in print, proof Son1 was scamming me with every “uh, no Mr. W didn’t say we had any homework.” Or “uh, yeah, I’ve like got everything like in.” Uh~ like hell no! Do you know the dramatic skills required to look like Dame Helen when you really feel like Sigourney Weaver with the alien ripping out of her?!??! Tony, baby. I’m winning that puppy.
With a very hush-toned, “yes, of course, we’ll speak with Son1 regarding his homework,” I took my leave. Poker face in tact, 5Hour Energy in full heart-racing swing, documented proof I had 2 little weasels at home. And yet, we were only ½ way through the teacher meetings.
Act Three: Son1's Language Arts Room 106
The second stop on my Son1 tour brought me to the other teacher involved with the aforementioned way-past-deadline research term paper. To this teacher’s credit he has been very communicative so surprises were few. Not that they weren’t big. They were just smaller in number. I think it was somewhere in Room 106 I first felt my right eye twitching. Again, grace under fire was called for, and I rallied. I am of English-descent after all. We do that very well. Tossing aside my eye twitch to the teacher as “just some contact trouble,” I pushed on. He may have seen right through me, as he stared perplexed at my eyeglasses. I tried to do everything in my power to move calmly through the meeting, knowing the Math teacher was still looming.
I was so embarrassed to admit how much B.S. my sons had been throwing my way, I wanted to screech. How could this be happening? How could both of my kids so blatantly lie about why they were after school like I had done for years until my parents found out I had actually racked up in excess of 60 detentions the first 3 years of high school? (BTW, Mom, if you read that… just a little hyperbole on my part. I assure you, it really was just 10 like I copped to in 1986. Ahem) This is the crux of what was pissing me off: I was being PLAYED! And for the love of God, I of all people should have known the signs!
Act Four: Son1's Math, Room 107
Wishing they at least built 60 seconds between the conferences so I could run outside, scream, and run back in, I went on to my final stop. Another Lamaze breath series (at least the way Rachel did when she had Ross’s baby), and I sat down. I was greeted with, “Yes, Son1 can be a challenge and we do need to talk...” (Dear God, is that my left eye twitching now?) “…but by and large he’s doing well and there are no real surprises.” Au contraire, mon amie, for that alone was a surprise. For the final time that night, I was forced into the acting craft. You see, to indicate relief would have tipped my hand there that I expected anything other good news.
I stood, politely thanked the Math teacher taking the deepest yet most subtle cleansing breathes I could and took my leave. While jonesing to peel back my own face in anger, my icy performance only needed to extend until I was out of ear shot. I held it together until off school grounds to serve as my encore. And then, it was complete. (drop curtain, enjoy applause)
This Pesci-paced, eye twitching, livid mother returned home to the comfort of my home. What was all that noise and shouting you heard coming from my home after I entered, you ask? I assure you, just the cheers and screams of my adoring fans. Really. I promise.