My first parent teacher conference is coming up next week and I’m trying not to fret about it. I’m worried they are going to criticize me for not being a good parent. I feel like his teachers have already dropped a few hints here and there, and the parent-teacher conference is where they’re going to ambush me with their concerns all at once: I don’t pack him healthy lunches, he doesn’t follow instructions, he doesn’t sit down nicely for activities, and I don’t dress him warmly enough. I have to step back for a moment and ask myself, “Why am I so prepared to be criticized? Why do I lack confidence in my parenting skills? And what is the value — or harm — in listening to other people’s opinions about parenting?” I’m certainly not the only mother who feels this way.

My son clearly marches to the beat of his own drum. He inherited this marvelous quality from both his father and me, and I refuse to fight it or try to change it. It is who he is and we embrace and love him for it. I can understand why his behavior might frustrate his teachers. I’ve watched them masterfully herd 11 toddlers into a straight line, but try as they might my son is either running around the line, pulling the line in another direction, or trying to turn it into a conga line. He is also a fickle eater. I can’t say that he’s picky because I’ve watched him eat everything at least once. But he’s like me: if he doesn’t feel like eating something there’s no way anyone can get him to….and that appetite can morph from moment to moment. You want me to skip the crackers in his lunch for broccoli? Great. So now he won’t eat ANYTHING. This kid has willpower. He won’t get hungry and then give in and eat the broccoli. So, I can fill his lunch with what everyone thinks he SHOULD be eating and know he won’t eat anything. Or, I can fill his lunch with 7 things I know he MIGHT eat and hope he eats one or two of them. You don’t think a cucumber is a good enough lunch? Oh well. He does.

See, I am already defending myself before I have even heard what they are going to say. Why is that? I think it’s because praise and encouragement are in such short supply, the only things we tend to hear when someone opens up their mouth is criticism. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all guide to parenting. My guide is my son. And since he is sweet and smart and funny, and most importantly, growing, I think all is OK. A parent teacher conference should be a two-way street, and I have some concerns of my own. I don’t like a few of the habits he is picking up at school. My son never yelled before. You know, that screeching pointless yell that kids do. But now, he screams and shrieks to get attention. Not all the time, but enough that I wonder why the teachers have not put their foot down about this. My son also never really knew the word NO. Well, he sure does now! It replaced “more” as his favorite word. Sigh.

At the end of the day, my son loves his school and so do we. He is thriving there and when we pick him up he is always happily exhausted. His teachers are fantastic and one of them in particular I would love to adopt and take home with me. Although I’m comfortable with how I’ve been parenting, I should acknowledge that others have been doing this much longer than me. I don’t have to agree with all their suggestions, but I should welcome a different perspective as an opportunity for me to learn and improve. With this is mind, bring it on Parent Teacher Conference! I’m ready for you!

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