These were the words that greeted me as I emerged, slightly shaky after parents evening on Tuesday. I clearly did not look the composed woman I try to give the impression that I am as I had hoped. I didn’t feel that composed and ended up in conversation with the Head and one of the Governors. If I had posted that evening it would have been a jumble of words as I tried to process things and now, 3 days on it’s kind of making a bit more sense (ish)
I read other brilliant posts about parents evenings earlier in the year. There is the shared suffering of the chairs that are just too small and that the mere process of sitting down makes you uneasy. It’s a long way down to a Reception size chair when you’re nearly 6′ tall and have dodgy knees that then don’t fit under the table. You’re on the back foot to start off with.
You have your allocated 10 minutes to discuss your child, ask your questions, review their report and come out with a digestible summary that can be passed onto the child, significant others and quite possibly the grandparents. You also need to be able to process it in a way that means when you come out you can talk happily to other parents about how well your child is doing and leave, with a spring in your step thinking that all is good.
I seem to be the only parent who finds parents evening an overwhelmingly emotional experience. For me they seem to be a 10 minute judgement of your ability as a parent, partner, medical expert and information co-ordinator. I need to be a data analyst, work out the probing questions, deliver them without sounding stupid/condescending/aggressive and then process the answers accordingly. I want to know ‘the plan’, I want to know what they’re looking at ready for next year, oh, and I want to know if they’re happy, whether the child that flushed the PE kit down the toilet has been identified (no) and why it was ever deemed appropriate to let children inflict Chinese burns on each other which resulted in bruises that lasted nearly a week (it was a bit of fun that got out of hand).
With both children having their own additional needs the process is doubled and, due to the helpful appointment schedule, the entire process is to be completed in half an hour. Half an hour of guilt inducing hell.
I will be questioned (and have been recently in no uncertain terms) by other medical professionals about how the children are ‘doing’ at school. How their condition affects their day to day ability to learn and integrate into school life. Each medical professional will then have their own opinion as to whether I am making sure their particular speciality is dealt with in the best possible way. Sod the rest of them – theirs, that day, will be the most important.
Physios will want the children doing more exercise, the Occupational Therapists will be looking at posture and fine motor skills, the Speech and Language team (if they’d see us like they say they need to but don’t have the funding for) would want more focus on that. Each speciality believes that if we up their particular requirements the children will ‘do’ better at school.
But how do I know what they would be doing if they didn’t have their conditions? Would they be achieving more, enjoy school more, be happier? Both of them are sitting in the realms of ‘normal’ and therefore there are no issues that require immediate flagging. At the moment we need to wait until they start to struggle/fall behind before interventions will be made. We can’t consider that their conditions mean there is a probability that they will struggle and make sure they don’t fall behind. We don’t have the evidence for that.
They have a condition that varies from person to person – there isn’t a check-list or a ‘what to expect with a child in your class that has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome’ file. If they were correct for one child they’d be completely wrong for another.
The one person trying to process all the information from all the professionals is me. Trying to link up what they’re each saying and report, accurately to the others to whom it is clearly impossible to send a letter. Their teachers can’t be expected to have the medical knowledge – that’s not their job – but who has to explain it to them? Compared to other children mine are doing perfectly well thank you – but how would they be doing if they didn’t have the condition?
Add in the fact that they’ve inherited this condition from me – it’s a point that I am usually completely at ease with. It happens. We know it. At parents evening it feels like I am the one that has caused all the problems. Oh, and if I’m having a bad time, in pain and struggling to function, well, it’s adversely affecting the children and their education. Get a grip woman.
Except I don’t seem to be able to get a grip. I come out with the weight of the world clearly visible on my face as I try and work out what I’m meant to do next. ‘Celebrate the positives’. OK – the positives are wonderful but they’re almost a relief. Are they happy? Most of the time. Good. Who’s going to be doing the meds next year? oh, we can’t tell you that yet…
All I’m thinking about is what’s the next plan, have they understood what I’ve said, am I making a fuss and what’s going to happen next? Ideally without crying – I’m not sure why I want to cry but it’s welling up…
Oh, and how to get up of these bloody chairs…