On Tuesday, I attended Parents’ Evening at our boys’ school.
Now, you might think this is not a particularly big deal (and certainly nothing worthy of a blog entry), since dozens of parents were there, and no doubt many of you with children have attended parents’ evenings yourselves in the past – if not already this academic year – so my ‘achievement’ is certainly nothing special.
However, please bear in mind the following:
- My wife was away on a school trip for the first part of the week (she is a teacher herself), so I was attending parents’ evening alone for the first time;
- Because my wife has been a teacher for many, many years (while still looking as young as the day I married her*), she usually does all the talking at parents’ evening, since she knows what to ask – and, more importantly, what not to ask;
which leads me to….
- I am often uncomfortable in situations where it would be wholly inappropriate to default to my defence mechanism of trying to be funny, so I will usually panic… and then default to my defence mechanism of trying to be funny.
*well recovered, that man.
My naivety when it came to attending parents’ evening alone was apparent well before the event itself, as I received an e-mail a couple of weeks ago confirming the online booking system was open, and since my wife had warned me to reserve the appointments quickly before all the best slots went, I went immediately to the site to ensure I had my pick. After all, the earliest I could get to school would be 5.30pm, and the last appointments were around 6.15pm, so with two sets of teachers to meet, I had little room to manoeuvre.
Fortunately, there were plenty of slots within my window of availability, so I initially selected 5.45pm to speak with Isaac’s teacher, and 5.55pm for Ollie’s. I then panicked, however, that this would cause issues with collecting Ollie from football training (which was due to finish at 6pm), so I cancelled those and moved everything slightly earlier to 5.40pm and 5.50pm.
Such is my indecisiveness, however, and the fact that I was under strict instructions not to fuck this up, I decided that the earlier appointments probably made little difference, and perhaps it might be best if Ollie missed football training this week. I could then take both boys with me, and Ollie could (hopefully) make sure Isaac behaved while I was meeting their teachers. I therefore cancelled the re-arranged appointments, and re-re-arranged them back to 5.45pm and 5.55pm.
Naturally, I then doubted this decision, and having questioned why I would leave the appointments so late, particularly now that football training was no longer a factor, and I could potentially be home in time for Eggheads, I re-re-re-arranged the appointments back to 5.40pm and 5.50pm.
It was only when I logged in to my e-mail account later that day, I realised I had received messages every time I had changed my mind, so my inbox looked like this:
19/09/2019 13:15 Parents Evening – Appointments Booked
19/09/2019 13:16 Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled
19/09/2019 13:16 Parents Evening – Appointments Booked
19/09/2019 13:17 Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled (again)
19/09/2019 13:17 Parents Evening – Appointments Booked. You sure this time?
19/09/2019 13:17 Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled (What the fuck is the matter with you?)
19/09/2019 13:18 Parents Evening – Appointments Booked. Cancel them again, and we’ll block you from our system, you indecisive prick.
Ok, the latter e-mails didn’t exactly say that, but I had to pray the system was fully-automated, and the school would not discover how much I had messed around and changed my mind, because the office staff would then surely mark me down as some kind of moron for future administrative challenges.
The main thing was, the appointments were reserved, as I proudly informed my wife over dinner that evening (omitting to mention the many e-mail exchanges I had triggered via the online system). My bravado was, however, short-lived.
“What times did you go for?”
“5.40 for Isaac, and 5.50 for Ollie.”
“What?! Why have you only left five minutes between them?”
“Because I don’t want to be hanging around, and can be home by 6pm.”
“Why do you need to be home by 6pm?”
“I thought Ollie might go to training, so I’d need to pick him up.”
“No, you’ll never get there in time, because the teachers are always running late, so now not only will you have to tell Ollie he can’t go to training, but you’ll miss the second appointment because you’ll still be waiting for Isaac’s teacher, and that means you’ll then have to wait until the end of the night to see Ollie’s teachers.”
Once my wife had calmed down (which was a full week later), I asked her for some pointers on the questions I should ask while at the appointments, because I had only managed the following list:
Questions To Ask At Parents’ Evening
- Is he this much of a prick at school?
- Has he hit anyone?
- Could you have a word with the catering staff, and tell them to stop giving him ketchup, baked beans, or tomato soup, as it’s costing us a fucking fortune in white polo shirts?
- Does he ever shut up?
- He claims he hasn’t been in trouble for talking since he started back in September, and I’ve warned him that, if he has lied to me, and has been in detention just once, I’m going to properly bollock him. So?
- Could we possibly speed this up? Eggheads starts at 6.
Needless to say, my wife was less than impressed with the list I had prepared, so she gave me a few genuine issues we wanted addressing; and, as I walked to the school on Tuesday evening, I received the same piece of advice from her via WhatsApp that I give to both boys daily when I drop them off at their respective classrooms:
Don’t fuck this up
As I arrived through the gates, and collected Isaac from his after-school club (Ollie had gone to football training in the end, since the mum of one of his teammates had kindly offered to give him a lift both ways), I realised I had a few minutes until my first appointment in the ‘Infant Hall’, so we went to his classroom to have a look through his books (which the children always display, for parents to check what they have been working on).
Having made encouraging comments about how much his handwriting was progressing, and how wonderful the portrait of his friend was (I’m not sure which kid the portrait was of, but if it was a genuine likeness, the poor boy has not been blessed with good-looks), there was just enough time for him to show me where he sits on the carpet each day – and for me to feign interest in front of the puzzled parents around us – before it was time to return to the Hall for my appointment. I was, after all, determined to finish speaking to his teacher on time, in order to make the second meeting with Ollie’s teachers by 5.50pm, so I could boast to my wife later in the evening when she got back from her trip.
Sadly, as I played the future conversation with my wife over and over in my head (and each time it concluded with her apologising and admitting I had been right to book the slots I had – then offering ‘sexy time’ by way of apology), I neglected one crucial point:
I have never been right in our fifteen years of marriage
So, when Isaac’s teacher finished her current appointment at precisely 5.40pm, and I strode over to her table with all the arrogance and confidence of a man who was about to win his first ever marital dispute, I was shocked to notice a couple sit down before me. I then had to walk back to the ‘general seating’ in the middle of the hall, like a man who had just been rejected by a lady in a bar (a walk which, in my younger years before meeting my wife, I was all-too-familiar with).
Generic photo from Google
Not only that, but the rejection was repeated every few minutes, as one set of parents would leave, and I would rise from my seat, only to notice someone else sit down first. Needless to say, this meant the clock reached 5.50pm, and I was now late for my second appointment with Ollie’s teachers, so when I spotted a brief gap between parents who all had appointments before mine, I quickly explained to Isaac’s teacher that I would need to go to the Junior Hall and come back later. After all, I didn’t want to leave and then have her wondering where I was.
Thankfully, Ollie’s two teachers were on time, and I listened to what a superstar he is for a few minutes, fully aware that this was probably lulling me into a false sense of security before meeting Isaac’s teacher. I had booked the appointments in this order for a reason, as I wanted the bad news first. Sure, Ollie still chatters too much, but that’s only because he appears to be under the gross misunderstanding that his verbal diarrhoea is of universal interest, and his teachers have now learned to ‘tune him out like white noise’, so the feedback was generally very good.
One down, one to go.
It wasn’t long after I returned to the Infant Hall before it was my turn to meet Isaac’s teacher, and, fortunately, his feral behaviour at home still hasn’t made its way into the classroom. In short, he is apparently a joy to teach, and is actually quite shy and reserved in class (I did ask whether she’d mixed her notes up, and we were discussing the wrong child).
As with the first meeting, I chatted, made appropriate eye contact, smiled / looked interested at the right times, and, most pleasing of all, didn’t make any stupid jokes (to my knowledge). Both boys were performing well at school, and I was performing well at parents’ evening. The male contingent of our family was smashing it.
So, as the second appointment started to wind down, I allowed my mind to wander back to thoughts of bragging to my wife about how I had coped perfectly well without her. I was so close to not fucking this up, and could almost smell the sweet scent of victory.
It was only then, as I thanked Isaac’s teacher and stood up to leave, I noticed the hole in the crotch of my trousers.
So very close.