Despite whatever hardness and discontent that years of parent-teacher conferences for my oldest son (for the record, not a reflection of him) may have built inside me, I couldn’t help but have a bounce in my step as my wife and I entered the meeting for our youngest boy. His joy and innocence is always contagious, and the thought of anyone saying anything but only the most glowing of compliments never even entered our minds.
“I think his teacher will say that he is a pleasure to have in the class,” said my wife just before we reached his first grade classroom. I declined to take the bet.
“He is such a pleasure to have in the class,” said his teacher about thirty seconds later. She may have been reciting it from rote, a chestnut from a bag of classic clichés like “taking it day by day” and “the good lord willing, maybe we’ll win a few games,” but it felt genuine and sincere, and it was exactly what we wanted to hear.
Of course, his behavior at home tends to run slightly less so, but that’s okay—a little boy needs to get his wiggles out, and a house alive with shouts and laughter provides the perfect contrast to a day full of manners and scholarly pursuits.
“He is a really sweet boy,” she continued, and we knew it, but hearing it from someone else was a wonderful validation for something we never knew we were seeking.
“I can’t help but wonder how long it will last,” I couldn’t help myself from wondering aloud.
“What’s that?” asked my wife.
“At some point someone will try to convince him that being good and being cool aren’t the same thing, and I’m not looking forward to it.”
“I make sure to reinforce his good behavior all the time,” said his teacher. “He really is a good boy.”
Then we discussed his academics, the where he izzes and where he should bees, and he was exceeding where he could and making progress where he couldn’t.
We took whatever credit we could without looking needy, thanked each other for our time, and said our goodbyes. There were other parents waiting, and an afternoon of sunshine left that a good little boy longed to play through.
I couldn’t take credit for that part.