It was not my wedding day. Nor was it the day I gave birth to my firstborn. Neither was it the day I moved to Israel. It was not when I married off a child or became a grandmother. No, the happiest day of my life was the day my youngest finished high school. Then I declared “With HaShem’s help I will never have to go to another parent-teacher meeting in my life.”
There are worse things one can do. One can be stranded in the desert without water. One can be shipwrecked on a deserted island. One can be attacked by a mad dog. Or one can go to parent-teacher meetings.
I remember one parent-teacher night a number of years ago. A mother walked out of a classroom with a big smile on her face and headed toward the exit.
“Leaving so soon?” another parent asked.
The mother nodded. “Sure! My kids are good. They do their homework. There’s really nothing to talk about except how well they are doing. I’m off to exercise class.”
And off she went without a clue how much envy she had stirred in my heart.
My kids were good kids, too. But they were not good students. Almost every one of them had minor learning disabilities; dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADD, ADD-HD, and so forth. They were minor in the sense that my children could be mainstreamed in the normal classroom and the prognosis for them being able to succeed in life was high.
I was very thankful they did not have major problems but that did not mean I did not get overwhelmed with the minor ones. Unlike many mothers summer vacation was a great time for me. It meant I was also on break. There were no backpacks to check every morning so my children would have the right books and school supplies. There was no detective work to determine if they had homework and pleading with them to do it.There were no calls from any teacher complaining about my children’s lack of motivation. And there were no parent-teacher meetings.
Those parent-teacher meetings were usually held three evenings during the course of every school year. My husband and I were always among the first to arrive since we wanted to end the torture as early as possible. We always went together for moral support. As soon as we arrived we would always race to our children’s classrooms in order to sign our names on the lists posted outside the main teachers’ doors. Then we waited and waited for our turn. Invariably, just as it arrived, another parent would appear, declare he was next, and point to his name ahead of ours on the list.
Like the mother going to exercise class the parents of the good students would have a quick conference and walk out with big smiles. Parents like us would go over-time with the main teacher. That was just the beginning of the evening. Regularly we would be given a list of other teachers we needed to see like the math teacher, the sport teacher, the art teacher, even the English teacher. It was always a late and depressing night when we went to parent-teacher meetings.
Therefore, it is easy to understand why I was so happy to have those conferences behind me. There were times when my kids were in school that I wanted to give up. That night the mother going to the exercise class bragged about her children I came home depressed. My husband’s words comforted me.
HaShem gave us our children with their learning disabilities because He knew we have what it takes to handle them. Feel sorry for that mother. She wouldn’t be able to handle our test.
Throughout the school years I repeated those words over and over. Sometimes I truly believed them. Other times I was skeptical but I stayed receptive to their message. It is all from HaShem and everything He does is for the best.
Now that my children are adults, many of their learning problems are behind them. Some of them have even gone on to higher education and done well. The prognosis for them being able to succeed in life became true. When they were growing up jumping out of an airplane without a parachute sounded like as much fun as going to parent-teacher meetings. Still, we kept going. Now I am thankful we did.