Saturday, November 22, 2008

Report Cards

Things have been all about me, me, me lately; we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

We had our very first parent-teacher conference two Mondays ago; because I went directly from there to Eleri's doctor's appointment that led to the hospital and so forth, it got all but forgotten during the week. I remember conferences with some mix of pride and anxiety; at my particular Montessori school, children were actually invited to participate in the conference, and I always felt a particular dread in anticipating them: while it was embarrassing to be discussed with your two main frames of authority both present, it was sort of delightful to have them all agree about how wonderful you were. (I was a good student.)

It's funny, planning for Clio's conference, I realize in hindsight that I made it about me, too: because we are one of the few two-career households in the class, and because we are less conveniently located to the school than anyone else, and because we don't have hired help (a Nanny) or family help, I have felt, quite self-consciously, like we are "those parents," you know, the absolute disasters who can't quite get it together. It seemed like we were always sending Clio to school with a green snotty nose or dirty socks. In the early days, I had a very hard time judging how long it would take to drive the 4 or 5 miles to school; because of the rivers of traffic and the actual canal we needed to cross, one day it would take 12 minutes, the next day 43, making us very erratic in our arrival time. Being late for drop off is one thing; then we had the babysitter incident, where the girl we hired to pick Clio up on Thursdays showed up 30 minutes late (and didn't call me), so Clio's teachers were left to entertain her after the rest of the class left.

Plus, Clio was the child with the greatest separation anxiety. I still believe that this had to do with some confusion over the nature of school: in Clio's world, you get dropped off for the whole day with a bunch of kids (day care), or you go do an activity with your parents and a bunch of kids for an hour or two (swimming, Music Together, playdates), and because the phase-in involved very short days with me sticking around the school, I think Clio simply placed it in this second category. Plus, I was on maternity leave and I think Clio would just have prefered to hang out with me. Once we straightened out the fact that Mommy's don't go to school, she was fine, and never looked back.

At any rate, I was bringing my own brand of crazy into that conference, waiting for the big judgement. I truly expected a lecture on the importance of being on time (I know!) and the impact of broken routines on toddlers (I know!).

This is weird on a couple of levels. First, it turns out that I'm the grown up in this situation, and that, in a way, the teachers "work for me." Well, really for Clio. Second, as a teacher myself for the first time, I have realized that so many of the little things we stress about as students really don't matter. One of my students asked me if I wanted footnotes or endnotes in her term paper; my answer? I don't care. Others have given me frantic excuses for being late or missing a class altogether (attendance and participation are factors in their grades); you know what? I don't care about that either. Because this is a Master's program, these are adults, and sometimes in life, things happen. We are late. We have to make choices. And what I really care about is that people show up because they're interested in what we're talking about. That they do the reading because they find it engaging. And that they participate because school is one of the safest testing grounds for your ideas, and not taking advantage of that space is a lost opportunity.

So of course, Clio's conference was about her. And because she's actually doing very well there, no one had a lot to say. They told us that Clio really uses the whole room. That she has bonded with a little girl named Haley. That she's really into snack (no kidding.) And that they're really impressed by how competent she is, especially as the youngest in the class. They said it's clear she's been socialized (i.e. a day care kid) because she really knows how to negotiate the social landscape, even asking kids if she may play with them; they say this is a skill they can only hope for by the END of the year.

They asked if we had any questions. I wondered if she was testing limits with them. She's not. They hope she doesn't start. They clearly have a fondness for our big little girl that makes me proud. And I left there feeling relieved and, yes, a little crazy. For having worried so much.

This week, Eleri got a report card of her own. At her 2 month checkup, we talked to our Dr. about Eleri's tendency to look only to the left when lying down, and her droopy neck when being held up. We got in touch with the State's Early Intervention program, and after a drawn-out coordination process, we finally had the evaluation this week. A physical therapist, cognitive development specialist, and social worker all arrived at the house in a minivan, and filed in iwith clipboards, wearing scrubs. They had me put Eleri on a blanket and ran her through a number of exercises. They said that sometimes big babies, especially born at full term or late, are slower to develop certain motor skills because they had so little space to move in there, but that she's right where she should be for 4 months. She smiled and laughed and charmed the pants off of them all. We'll get a full written report in several weeks, but for now, they say she's a beautiful, healthy little baby, and they recommend that the case be closed.

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