"I have only one complaint about your child, she does not submit her work in time." I mentally rolled my eyes in angst. My daughter's teacher got a polite smile from me. We were at the legendary PTM (Parents Teachers Meeting). Is it possible for a child to be perfect for 12 years of schooling? I wondered. This is her fourth year at school, middle school freedom seems to have really grabbed my daughter’s attention. I know it because she exclaimed one day, “Mamma classes 1, 2 and 3 were just a prep, the real fun starts when you get to class 4.” I did not bother to dig too deep into this exclamation, because it is perfectly like a child her age to talk like she does! I wish the teachers had something more constructive to tell me about my child.
How about telling me about fun activities we can involve her with at home, which would complement her learning at school? No. How about telling me some of her virtues before criticising her! Oh no. How about asking why she is submitting her homework late? No not at all! ("Well, we have just moved to a new house," I would have replied, “and that has kept us all a little exhausted and consequently laid back in our regular activities!”) Oh no no... teachers just want what they want, in time, every time and then all will be well in their academic world. It is like having an elephant but talking only about its trunk. I wonder why I am so reminded of C-3PO and R2-D2 of Star Wars fame at this juncture! “Your-daughter-did-not-submit-homework…beep” Would R2-D2 be such spoil sport? I wonder.
Let’s not digress. There was this one teacher who stood out from the others. She was trying hard, really, really hard to say something really, really disheartening to us about our child. A teacher also is entitles to cheap thrills after all! And she was cut out from a traditional loom, where parents went to school to be ultra-modest and to be told, “for all I care you gave birth to a brat!” We did not show any interest in supporting her effort. We are the new age parents after all. We know how futile school education is!
As an aftermath of our spoil sport behaviour, the very next day, this teacher criticised my daughter in front of the class with a derogatory comment. Oh well a teacher has her powers, doesn’t she? Funny though that my daughter is a performer! Not that that makes her any better or worse than all children her age. She is the apple of our eyes and has been so for much longer than she has even lived!!!! I loved her when she was the size of a pea in my belly.
My daughter was taken aback by the comment and was quite disheartened. She is a conscientious child, full of respect for her teachers. She came home to me with this wistful episode to narrate.
I immediately understood the event for what it was. This was a call from the teacher for am Armageddon with us. A teacher has her whims after all! Now it so happens that she had once been our neighbour. I renewed acquaintance with her during the PTM. My mistake. She realised probably in that moment, that she had to perform her neighbourly duty. Albeit to an ex-neighbour from distant past. She felt compelled to let down my child. This is a neighbourly tradition since the start of time, trust me! Mother's boast about their children much less than they indulge in criticising their neighbour's kids. A more easily accomplished task.
I have always taken a cautious stand in matters relating to my child’s teachers. It was now my turn to surprise and even shock this genuine piece of an ex-neighbour in her alter ego as the all-powerful teacher.
I bothered her not! Silence can be a perfect answer to so much worldly nonsense that I wonder why it has not been declared a global weapon of mass destruction in peace times! It can kill, trust me. It kills the spirit of battle in any mortal. It leads to so much mental anxiety to the active types, that it totally mows them down.
But I never fail to add insult to injury. And this is my way of doing it! “Pity her” I advised my daughter, "no one can hurt you for anything, whatever be the reason: bad marks in a test, forgetting your homework, dozing off in class, whatever (I use whatever for want of sufficient reasonable examples and what a vast chasm it fills,), nobody will hurt you unless the person is insensitive. You should pity a person who can be insensitive to a child. Imagine what a tough life she must have lived!” My daughter knows this trick right from her pre-school days. She immediately remembered this old trick and was back to her confident self again.
"Yes Mamma, I understood," she said impatiently, because it was time for her to change the topic. She does not like to delve too much in unpleasant. It was signal for me to stop talking about the incident immediately. And the incident was completely forgotten in her mind, pretty much from that moment.
I don't see why as parent, I should worry about my child's every test result, every homework and every bad behaviour. What am I? A vulture? Picking on rotten stuff? I am a mere farmer, a gardener you might say. I prefer to start fresh. I would rather sow the right values and hope that one day it will germinate into right ambitions, achievements and personality. In the meantime the little torpedo can go about hitting against the padded walls of school and home with her little misdemeanours. As long as I have the blue print and the plan in action. One might wonder how I can be so undisturbed and unperturbed in matters of my child’s education.
Don’t get me wrong. Just because I am playing the passive mom, does not mean I don't care. When it is needed, I ensure that my kid is vindicated! I have the same genes that every mother has, I charge back like a lioness or mother hen, a she ostruch or a she rhino at those who try to sully my kid’s reputation.
I so wanted to tell my daughter that you should show your teacher what you are capable of, in the next test... etc etc. But I had no desire to stress her into performance anxiety. Poor kid cannot be caught in the cross fire of two silly adults. It is still too early for that. Why bother her with results, when I can set her up to do well without even letting her know? Or better still when I have the choice to ignore the entire episode and just keep up with my daughter’s learning process. Moreover, I will never be able to match the insensitivity of the insensitive, I am better off just letting it go.
Having dealt with the daemon of the day, I fearfully pick my phone and click on whatsapp. I am afraid I will learn about a test or a homework or some school work, which my daughter has totally forgotten about. I read and close the app. In fact I don’t even bother to read. I cannot remind her. She needs to bear the brunt and learn to be responsible. Another PTM away from some more feedback which has no bearing on my child's future. I remind myself that I am an adult I can take that! Let the kid be!
I need not terrify my daughter with my insecurities and fears. And much less with the insecurities and fears of her teachers and other moms. Since time immemorial parents have been disillusioned in their effort to create super achievers. It is so easy to get carried in that suction pump of Trojan parenting! Trojan parents are those parents who do homework and project work for their kids and disguise it as their child’s work. It is easy to not take the risk of letting the child fail! But I want my child to be a risk taker. And therefore I have to live in the fuzzy realm of good, bad and ugly all through my parenting journey.