Published on December 3rd, 2014 | by Richard Black0
The Parent Teacher Conference a.k.a A Kinder, Gentler Version of the Spanish Inquisition
Laura and I had the pleasure of a parent teacher conference today and can honestly say that I found the it to be one of the most enjoyable twenty minutes of my entire life.
I’m kidding of course. The meeting was awful. The men and women questioned by the Spanish Inquisition probably had a better time while being flayed or dunked and asked about their thoughts on the Catholic church. They also had a more reasonable expectation of a positive outcome.
“Darcy’s a very sweet little girl,” one of our daughter’s teachers said at beginning of the meeting. I thought to myself “why yes she really is!” before realizing that this is the same sort of thing one says about elderly relatives who have been trying to use their cat as a TV remote shortly before they’re sent to a home.
Mrs. Ratchet (not her real name) then plunked down a progress report that detailed my daughter’s failings on a scale from one, being retarded or whatever the common parlance for the term might be these days, and three, being proficient or a.k.a not retarded. I didn’t have much of a chance to look at the report before Mrs. Ratchet continued but I gathered from the tone of the the rest of the conversation that Darcy was on the lower end of the scale. I’m quick that way.
And for the next twenty minutes Laura and I heard about all of the tasks our daughter couldn’t perform adequately.
“Here is an example of your daughter writing out her name at the beginning of the year two months ago,” Mrs. Ratchet said as she produced a piece of paper with Darcy’s name at the top and my daughter’s fairly creative interpretation of it on the lines below.
“Here is an example of your daughter writing her name last week,” Ratchet continued and provided yet another piece of paper with pretty much the same result, “We’re concerned that she hasn’t made much progress.”
“We’re concerned that Darcy doesn’t know many, if any, of the name’s of her classmates,” Mrs. Ratchet continued before I had a chance to respond to my four year old daughter’s ability to write her name legibly.
“In all fairness I don’t either,” I said attempting to bring some levity to the situation which prompted a quick and scathing look from Mrs. Ratchet. Apparently levity was not appreciated. I’ve seen kinder faces on the fish marine biologists haul out of the Marianas Trench.
“We also don’t believe that she doesn’t know our names.”
“Again in all fairness…” I began before my wife Laura stomped on my foot.
“We’re concerned that Darcy can’t recognize numbers or even count to ten.”
“Were concerned that she doesn’t use her scissors properly.”
“We’re concerned that she can’t put on her coat.”
Suffice it to say that “we’re concerned” was a prominent theme for the meeting but the best was yet to come.
Mrs. Ratchet went on to detail a few more of her concerns regarding my daughter. “She becomes frustrated easily,” was one “It’s sometimes difficult to get her attention” was another.
“She really is such a sweet little girl,” Mrs. Ratchet said and it was then that I finally got the gist of what she was getting at.
“Are you saying that Darcy’s issues might have an organic cause?” I asked instead of using the other more specific term that came to mind which was autism, “because we eat a lot of organic food,” I said. The words were out of my mouth before I had a chance to give them some thought and prompted another withering look from Mrs. Ratchet.
“We believe that you should have your daughter screened,” Mrs. Ratchet suggested and using the euphemism “screened” for the more inflammatory, yet correct, term “tested” as to not to incite any undue alarm. Unfortunately alarm had already left the building and was firmly nested in my brain.
Laura and I proceeded to nod throughout the next few minutes of the conference but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t concerned. We thanked Mrs. Ratchet for her time, picked up Darcy from the play room and then tooled around the gym where the school had set up a boutique flea market.
Laura and I had a few quick words about the meeting as we wandered amongst stalls packed with hand knit scarves and custom made jewelry when we weren’t concerned about keeping Darcy from licking the floor or doing the sorts of things that slow children who can’t write their names do to occupy their time. And then, while her mother and I were discussing how many Kumon and therapy sessions our daughter might need Darcy drew a rainbow on a chalkboard by a vendor’s stall.
“That’s such a beautiful picture,” I heard the proprietor say. She was selling Nutcracker dolls that looked like bongs. I was thinking about buying one for my mother when I heard the vender as my daughter if she could sign her piece.
Darcy nodded and then proceeded to write her name. It wasn’t perfect but it was legible and I quickly shed myself of a number of the concerns regarding my daughter’s intellectual capabilities.
I can honestly say that if Darcy is autistic then I am a ham sandwich. I’m sure that this is what most parents say when confronted with the possibility that their child is “on the spectrum” but I will cheerfully eat my foot if I am wrong.
This isn’t to say that I don’t have a whole host of other worries regarding my daughter. If history and genetics are any guide then Darcy will go into puberty at a relatively early age. She will, most likely, be well endowed at a time in her life that will engender unwanted attention and, quite possibly, prompt my lengthy stay in a correctional facility when I smack a thirteen year old boy for groping my daughter.
Bipolar disorder, heart disease, breast cancer are looming specters on the horizon courtesy of my genetic input but those are worries for another time.
My daughter might not know the names of everyone in her class. The fact is that some of them might not be that memorable. Darcy can remember the name of every babysitter she’s had since she was two. When speaking she addresses people face to face. She looks everyone in the eye and will hold hands, and perhaps somewhat unfortunately, kiss anything that isn’t nailed down if given a chance.
Despite being a product of my loins I feel comfortable in my belief that Darcy is not autistic or mentally deficient. She might not be able to remember the name of every student in her class but she can recite every one of the characters from the My Little Pony, Sophia and my wife’s extended family to boot.
Does my daughter replace the letter “T” with the letter “C” when she sings the alphabet? Almost every time. Is that grounds for a screening? No, at least not in my humble opinion. She also consistently forgets the number “3” when counting from one to ten and the last time corrected her she responded with, “I am NOT counting wrong daddy I’m making the numbers better.”
Now who am I to argue with that kind of logic?