I hope there isn't a grade for that.
For weeks I had been dreading this day, but it finally arrived. This was my first ever parent/teacher conference and it showed. Sweat poured off my face forming pools of nervousness on my collar. My leg bounced fast and repeatedly, shaking the floor and rattling everything around me, including my wife. When Ella's teacher called us back, I contemplated faking a heart attack. But three dads from morning conferences had already pulled this trick, so there was no room left on the floor.
I had really prepared myself for the worst. She talks too much. She doesn't wait her turn. She forgets to say "Excuse me" after she passes gas. I had considered every possible negative that the teacher could throw our way. Thanks to my skills as a writer, I was able to come up with a scripted retort that was not only smart and insightful, but also could apply unilaterally to every one of them.
"It's all my wife's fault!"
The conference hadn't started yet and I was already throwing my wife under the wheels on the bus that go round and round. Round and round. I couldn't decide if this plan was genius or super genius. I did decide that I wanted Taco Bell for lunch. That was definitely super genius.
"Let's talk about your daughter," said the teacher, reaching into a stack of files. Her desk was cluttered like all great, experienced teachers' desks are. Books and projects hung onto the edges for dear life, while a picture of her own daughters occupied prime real estate and served as the centerpiece to not only the desk, but the entire room. It was all I could focus on until she pulled Ella's file from her stack.
"Your daughter is special," she said to us. "She's gifted and kind. I don't know what you're doing, but you're doing something right so keep it up."
And there it was. In a matter of three sentences my fears were erased. Someone other than family and friends—people who, by law, are legally bound to say nice things about your kids—said our daughter was gifted. She said Ella was kind. She said that we, my wife and I, were doing something right. Something right!
It had been at least 10 years since I'd received a grade on anything, but for the next 30 minutes I listened as Ella's teacher gave me (and my wife) an A+. I had a lot of A's during my school days, but none ever meant as much to me as the one I received that day. My first parent/teacher conference was a success.
When I got home that night I hugged both my girls. While there are countless moments where I soak in just how lucky I am, I rarely step back and realize how lucky our kids are. They have a Mom who works hard every day to give them discipline, values and love. They have extended families who take the time to be a part of their lives. They have teachers—at school and at daycare—who guide them to be their best. And they have an A+ Dad who works hard every day to be the best Dad that he can—even if he can't keep his eyes open in photos.
Thankfully Ella's teacher didn't lower my grade for that.
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