Just after I posted “Mother Guilt,” we received an email from my TBP’s teacher announcing a slide show and portfolio celebration. Sigh…More guilt already? This soon?
As a teacher, I understand the desire to share students work and achievements with the parent community. I am sure that this was the intent of the teacher when she was planning the parent presentation. I know the amount of time and energy that it takes to plan these activities, especially at this busy time of year. I also know that there are parents that genuinely love these types of “celebrations.”
However, as a working parent…I had lots of other thoughts that ran through my mind as I read the email. Some of those thoughts came out like this:
Are you kidding me?!
This is not enough notice for working parents!
This is a terrible time of year to leave work, but I don’t want my kid to be the only one without a parent!
Smack in the middle of the day is a horrible time to go to this!
After my mini-breakdown, we figured out a way for one of us to get there. It was a really good thing, because every kid had one parent and many had TWO! Overall it was successful, except for the early departure because my TBP could not sit through the very long slideshow in the very hot classroom.
After I got home from work, I opened my son’s 1st grade portfolio for the first time. I came across a photograph that made me cry. It was taken for the all important “Green Day.” In this particular photo, there were all the kids dressed in green…except for mine! Thinking back, I vaguely remember receiving the memo about “wear something green for the rainbow picture” but obviously I had forgotten on the actual day. I know that most days, I’ve got it together. However, I missed this one.
I saw my boy dressed in a red shirt and in red and gray camo pants and he stood out in the sea of greeen before me. All of a sudden this picture took on a lot more meaning than I’m sure was intended. He really stood out. At that moment, this photo was a clear “picture” of just how he stood out…there was no blending in.
When I talked with my son about the picture, he could have cared less that he was in red. If he doesn’t care, why should I? I don’t know if it is the mama part of me or the public school teacher part of me, but it left me with a feeling of sadness. I started to talk myself out of my funk by thinking…Some day, the fact that he is a “stand out” type of guy might help him actually get ahead in this world. Eventually, unique is good…right?
After he went to bed, I took another look at the portfolio. This time, I noticed the improtant parts of this collection. There was a noticeable, real progression in his work. Starting about half way though, he added interesting details in his writing, his spelling was almost 100% conventional instead of the “sound it out” spelling, and his art work looked as though it had been done with effort and care. The most important part that I noticed, was as the year progressed, he changed. He was more involved in the photos, he was working with other kids, and I found pictures where he looked happy! That is really what matters, isn’t it? I don’t care if you are a stay at home parent or a working parent, life is good when you see your kid happy!
I’m sure the “green shirt episode” will not be the last time that I forget or mess up. But I will try and remember that it isn’t a symbol of my job as a parent or a measure of my love for my son. Instead, it is just a working parent, trying to do the best to focus on the REALLY important parts of my son’s life!