Imagine a regular Parent-Teacher Meeting. There is a general sprucing up of the premises, the usual written circular carrying the official guidelines on an appropriate conduct with the parents does the rounds a day prior to the meeting; the ceremonials come out, bulletin boards get updated, PTM related papers are put in order and come the day, the families begin to troop in.
The air is thick with emotions. There is nervousness competing with pride; guilt trading with fear; need switching between finger pointing and placing appreciation on record.
In all my years as a teacher, I have not been able to tell who dreads the PTM more, the teachers or the parents. It would be accurate to say they both experience mixed feelings. Teachers have been known to fret over the exhaustive number of adjectives they feel pressured into using; for the parents, it is a day of personal validation, a tick mark almost on the authenticity of their parenthood.
Something clicks the moment parents lower themselves into those chairs facing the teacher. The curtain parts and the mist lifts, a lot many things fall into place for both parent and teacher. With experience, I have learnt to read between the lines and use that awareness to advantage for the child sitting sandwiched between the two points of authority in its life.
The format being what it is, a lot of the discussion happens over the child’s head and in her face. Quite a chunk is made up of annoying words from both sides at times. There are serious expectations, acute disappointments and impotent rage. I remember a father who began a forceful tirade, “Ma’am, she does not listen to me. That makes me very upset.” The mother looked on in silence at their daughter visibly shrinking into a ball. I reached out and pulled the little one close, watching her mother’s eyes speak to me. A watery reflection stayed in her eyes as the father and I thrashed out parental prerogatives.
Oh, yes, tears are not uncommon. It is the time for self-authentication of all! There was this mother who was concerned about her child not reading enough, not studying enough, not researching enough! She had a busy job and was desperate to put whatever time they had together to good use and understandably so. In all her agony and fear for her child’s future, she had stopped seeing the child. I jogged her gently to try and picture what his typical day out of home subjected him to. She saw soon enough that what her child needed most was her acceptance and at the end of what became a counselling session of the mother, the two walked out of the room happily enough, hand in hand.
Another face is imprinted in my mind of a mother whose eyes welled up when her nine year-old daughter turned on her with an abrupt, “How are you going to take care of my uniform? You are never at home!” And a father again, expressing anguish at how the family was not able to provide their son the care he needed and deserved because the mother worked in another town.
There are lessons that jumped at me from this close brush with one of mankind’s most complex preoccupations in life, the foolproof raising of children by their parents. The understanding is nearly crystal clear now, with the benefit of hindsight, the 6/6 vision that comes in retrospect, always but always and invariably when you can no longer use it.
The golden rule is that the children need us and that they do heed us. They are knocked around so hard and fast outside; they do not have to be badgered at home. They ought to be able to come in to an unconditional acceptance. They do watch their parents very closely, absorb and learn almost their facsimile; they may not emulate right away but the images endure, surfacing many a time, years later.
Parents exert a tremendous influence on their progeny. We need a lot more faith in the way we bring them up.
If we are OK, there is no way our kids are going to be anything but OK.
The author is a freelance communicator with a background and training in teaching and media. She maintains a blog at http://confessionsofanambitiousmother.blogspot.in/. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.