Monday, October 30, 2006

Light at the End of the Parenting Tunnel?

Last week Hubs, DD#2, and I had conference with DD#2's teacher, who greeted us with a hug and, "It's your last parent-teacher conference!"

Yes, it is. This particular teacher is the only one to have taught all four of our kids. Her oldest daughter was in DD#1's class through high school and part of community college. In fact, I knew her as a mom before I knew her as a teacher.

We've been through a lot together.

DD#2 is having a terrific year. We can all feel it and the evidence is in--except maybe for math. But DD#2 seems to have found her niche. She has her core group of friends to hang with. She seems more relaxed. She's smiling and laughing more. She's being more responsible, even if she did have to stay up until midnight to complete her book of poetry, finishing up the illustrations and binding the book.

And why am I concerned that she didn't pack everything on her list for Caritas Creek this week? Why am I a bit worried that not everything will come home? Because I'm still her mother, she's still my "baby," and she's still a blonde.

There seems to be a pattern in our family: we don't come into our own until high school. It could be that it's tough to find classmates who share our interests in the relatively static population of a Catholic grammar school. It's easy to get stuck, especially when you've been together for eight years.

However, when I was growing up, kids were expected to work out their own social problems and the adults only intervened in cases of blood or where the ostracism was truly blatant. Now it seems like the adults jump in all too quickly.

"She doesn't smile enough. She doesn't play with others during recess."

Well, how often is she supposed to smile? And is she not playing with others because she's excluded or because she doesn't want to? I tried to explain that, in a large family, finding time to be with your own thoughts is difficult and sometimes you just want to be alone.

The adults at school weren't buying it. And so part of my job became protecting my children's right to be unpopular, to have a few friends rather than a lot, to let them develop at their own pace, in their own way.

The kid who got in trouble for being a smart-aleck then is now considered witty. The tomboy is now wearing make-up and jewelry--jewelry that she's made. The class goat now makes friends easily and flows easily between jocks, Scouts, nerds, and "normal" kids. The kid who listened to discussions in the car about infinity and imaginary numbers is good in math.

So, with the grace of God, they will turn out okay after all.

Although DS#2 is going to school tomorrow dressed as a Girl Scout for Hallowe'en...