Parents evenings are part of any parent’s life, and, of course, any teacher’s, and I have been to many in my life, on both sides of the table.
But a recent parents evening, one where I was ‘the teacher’, really moved me.
Two fathers really had an impact on me. All the parents were lovely but these two stood out for me because they were so proud of their children. The mothers were too, but I guess I just noticed the fathers more.
The first boy’s father just kept beaming, looking at his son’s work which I was showing him and saying ‘well done’ to his son and then beaming some more. The son looked so radiant and happy and proud of himself. The father very briefly gave his son a quick arm-around-the- shoulder-hug and both just glowed.
The girl’s dad was much more vocal in his praise, saying how well she had done and how proud he was of her. He was just so supportive of her developing her voice, of speaking out, of arguing with him because even if he didn’t agree with her he very much wanted to hear what she said. He talked about how his biggest lessons in business came from his mistakes and was encouraging her to speak out even if she was wrong because that was how she would learn. His body was turned towards hers, he looked at her with pride and passion for who she was becoming, and for her blossoming. Both were radiant. He kept saying how proud he was of her and she glowed. I said how lovely it was to see him being so supportive and she beamed and said yes she knew how lucky she was.
It was just a delight. Neither of these dads were proud of their children in an appropriative sense; they weren’t trying to gain any secondary glory for themselves, there was no; ‘Look at my great child and so therefore look at me the great parent’. They didn’t need the vicarious adulation. They didn’t need anyone to look at all. They were just oozing pride because of who their children were rather than what it meant for them.
It was a real eye opener for me and made me wonder, on the rainy drive home in the dark, how it would have been to have that growing up.
Also, it made me realise I’m not always as beamy and unequivocally proud overtly of my own children on those occasions. I tend to err towards information and what they can do to develop. I think I go into teacher mode when I need to stay in my parent role. If I do feel pride, I realised that I kind of ‘downplay it’ so as not to feel big-headed myself, in having a child who is doing well. But these two men modeled for me how to be proud, and how it really has nothing to do with me and everything to do with my boys.
I especially liked how the second dad gave his daughter permission to ‘Argue with me, discuss, it’s OK to disagree, and debate’. I don’t think I do that enough with my boys. I don’t think they see debate and discussion modeled enough at home. Which is why I so value parenting in community.
So I am going to develop my ability to be proud of the kids in public spaces as well as at home and I am going to develop my ability to debate with my boys.
Each conversation was less than 10 minutes long, but it was one of those moments which shines a light into my own life and those two fathers taught me something that night, that has been really valuable for me to learn.