With parent-teacher conferences beginning this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways in which we can never fully know one another, including our own children. The topic is foremost in my mind as I sort through a virtual mountain of cards, memories, letters, and other written items connected to my father’s life. My family and I were touched by the number of his old Daily News colleagues who showed up to celebrate his life with us, but more than that we were struck by the fact that the person they knew as Don Singleton was very different than the person we knew as Dad. Truth be told, there were times when my siblings and I glanced at one another during an old friend’s story or memory and with a mere glance asked the other, “Is this really our father they’re talking about?”
Of course we all know this phenomenon, I’m sure. As parents, we worry as we drop our children off for a play date that their manners aren’t quite up to par, only to pick them up later and hear how wonderfully polite they were. We breathe a sigh of relief and think to ourselves, “Really? My children?” The same thing happens in school. When teachers or others share their perspectives on our children we can’t help but compare it with how we experience them, and when we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that sometimes it matches up, and sometimes it doesn’t. What a wonderful thing this is! This means that our children are establishing an identity in the world that extends beyond the personality they have forged for themselves within the confines of the family circle. This developmental process is healthy and hopeful – it means that our world will be able to benefit from skills, talents, ideas and insights that reach beyond the limits of our own. This ability for children to grow beyond the scope of their primary family life is what ultimately keeps hope alive and moves humankind ever forward.
The beauty of a well rounded education is that it supports this type of growth. Of course, we all want to be reassured that our children are learning what they must in order to be able to tackle the academic challenges that they will face in life, and your parent-teacher conference will cover these aspects of your child’s experience. But what about the need for our children to explore who they are and where their passions lie? What about the possibility that you may come out of your conference seeing your child in a whole new light and armed with ways to foster their development in areas that you have never imagined? As you participate in your parent-teacher conferences this month, I urge you to listen with an open heart and an open mind to what your child’s teacher has to say – allow yourself to be delighted in the magic of the many ways in which your children are growing into their authentic selves.
Comments? Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org