Who’s the Adult Here?

I must have been to a hundred.

But suddenly I’m on the home straight. More than that – I’m over the last and heading for a bag of oats.

At the most there are four to go. Maybe even three. Then they’re gone. Never to return.

I refer, of course, to every parent’s favourite way of spending a winter’s evening. The parent/teacher meeting.

The children came home with a crumpled letter from school. Head lice? Not this time. Extortion demand for a field trip? Nope, your money’s safe for another week. So it must be the parent/teacher evening.

“Who shall I make an appointment with?”

“Everyone. Obviously.”

“What? Even Art?”

Yes, we’d confirm, even art. And two days later our child would dutifully present a ragged piece of paper confirming a series of beautifully timetabled appointments.

Why did anyone bother? Parent/teacher evenings attended, 100: timetables kept to, zero.

But timetable in hand we’d drive up to school – not without some mutterings on the way.

“How do they do this? How does it always clash with a game I want to see?”

“Because there’s always a game you want to see. Would you rather stay at home?”

“No, of course not. It’s vital to my children’s education that I’m there.”

And at that moment my wife would roll her eyes. Fortunately I couldn’t see the reaction of my son or daughter in the back seat. And I didn’t have the insight to imagine the conversation in the staff room.

One of the advantages – or disadvantages, depending on how I’m feeling – of writing about your family for twelve years is that you gradually acquire a little self-knowledge. “Very gradually in your case, Dad.”

I understand my own Dad a lot better than I did when I started writing and – sadly – I understand myself much better as well. And I now realise there have been times in my life when I’ve been a pain – to put it extremely mildly. I now realise there were times when, yes, I should have stayed home and watched the football.

My problem with parent/teacher evenings was that I got bored. Same tired old lines, same answers to questions and – when in doubt – blame the child.

‘He’s just not putting the effort in.’

‘Could it be that you’re a dull, uninspiring teacher that only the class swot is responding to?’

But of course, you don’t say that. Result – in my case – frustration. So I was ready for an argument with the next teacher.

Did it do any good? No. Did it advance my child’s education? Not in the slightest. Were my children embarrassed beyond all human measure? Oh yes. As my Beloved Daughter pointed out.

“Only three or four more parents’ evenings to go. Then your Mum and I are done.”

“Stop press, Dad. UK teachers hold street party.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Dad, do you realise how embarrassing you were? You and your stupid theory about Macbeth and Banquo. No-one cares.”

“Don’t they?”

“No. Because it’s wrong. You do realise I had to apologise to three of my teachers after the last parents’ evening?”

“Did you? Who?”

Jessica reeled off three names – the three I’d had ‘lively discussions’ with – and gave the strong impression there could have been several more.

“I only wanted to make sure you achieved your potential.”

“Well you went about it the wrong way.”

She’s safely at university now. Just Ben to go – at least he’ll benefit from my Road to Damascus moment.

“Just as a matter of interest, Jessica, what did you tell them?”

“I said your medication hadn’t been adjusted.”

Oh dear. She may well have been right…

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here

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