We have Open House at my school nest week, the evening when kids bring their parents into school to show off their classrooms, parents get a chance to talk with their kid’s teacher, and we all ignore how weird it feels to be at school at night. I always look forward to the event with an odd blend of cautious excitement and dread. I never know what to expect from the parents. Some give a brief and polite hello, appearing as unsure as I am of what to say next when we run out of things to say about their child, while others talk so casually and warmly that I wonder if I don’t know them from somewhere else. A few eye me warily from across the room, presumably sizing me up based on what their child has told them and what they’re seeing. The most fascinating part is meeting and watching the parents for the first time, now that I’ve gotten to know their child over the first weeks of school. I get to see the people who molded and tended these seven and eight year old personalities. The hard-worker. The chatterbox. The philosopher. The writer. The comedian. The sly boots. Meeting their parents is like peeking behind the wizard’s curtain. Sometimes - maybe a little more than half the time - what’s there makes sense. The rest of the time, I’m surprised. Of course, it’s hard to really get to know any of the parents in the brief conversations that I share with them, but it’s all I have to go on and I can’t help but wonder. Occasionally upon meeting a parent or parents, I find out that I’m as confused as they are as to where the child came from. In my relatively short six-years of classroom teaching, I’ve had three sets of parents give me the “we think there was a mix up at the hospital” line, genuinely at a loss for where a portion or all of their child’s personality came from. And it’s those words that play across the screen of my mind late at night, when I’ve woken up from some hazy, fading dream and listen to my wife and daughter breathing. I know Linda and I both have images in our heads of who our daughter will grow up to be. People tell us all the time that she’ll love animals and the outdoors, be an artist like her mother, be unafraid of bugs and snakes, but who’s to say? I’d love any or all of it to be true, but there’s no guarantee that reality will meet our expectations, no matter how much we work to sculpt it over the years to come. Chances are that she’ll turn into a person similar to the one we expect, a little bit of us within her own individual Violet-self. But maybe not. Seven years from now, it might be me at Open House, half-joking with the teacher about mix-ups at the hospital. I’ll love her no matter who she becomes – even if it’s (shudder) a Republican – but it still keeps me up in the wee hours – the fear that she could grow into someone so far removed from my wife and me that she deems us an unnecessary part of her life. Maybe I’m just being dramatic, but what do you think about in the middle of the night?
304 days old