This past Monday, Scott and I attended our very first parent-teacher conference. It was time to discuss Jordan's Kindergarten Progress.
I struggled in advance to shelve all of my Expectations. I have learned the hard way that having Expectations is a set-up, so I did my best to clear my mind and go in there balanced, neutral and pleasant.
So I told myself, anyhow. Unfortunately for me I'm an expert at outwitting myself so I later realized that what I honestly hoped was that Mrs. Milligan would throw confetti and then gush for twenty-five minutes at what a joy it was to teach my darling son. Nothing too heavy, just liberal use of words like "brilliant", "delightful" and "prodigy".
Instead what happened was that Scott and I were seated on miniature wooden chairs which have the effect of making you feel that you, too, are five years old. Mrs. Milligan, a veteran kindergarten teacher, refused to field off-topic questions and kept us on task, reviewing his portfolio of artwork and test scores. Then she summed things up.
Academically, it seems, our boy is quite bright. This we knew. He's reading and writing at the end-of-first grade level, and soon he'll be shunted into the Advance Reading chute, the first of many academic tracks that hopefully will land him in a well-adjusted future.
Okay, but then we get the but. But, says Mrs. Milligan, adopting her neutral veteran-kindergarten-teacher face, socially, he's not so hot. He's a little strange, in fact. He does not problem-solve well; he does not integrate into groups without someone interceding for him; he'll happily sit in the corner and mind his own business. Again, all this we knew. But the fact is, he goes beyond just being shy or quiet; he recedes inside himself to a place where no one can get in and he can't get out. Stress seems to bring this on, and when I say stress, what I mean is he can't find his coat, or some similar small problem.
Mrs. Milligan gently aimed us in the direction of considering that my son, my wonderful brilliant sweet snuggly son, might have some shades of autism. Nor is the first time it's been brought up. (I later marched myself straight to the library to research this and concluded that according to the criteria in the PDR, he does not have autism, but there are no diagnostic criteria for Strange.)
Needless to say, no confetti here. No gushing either. Scott took all of this with grace and aplomb, literally shrugging it off. "We knew all this," he said to me later.
But I did not shrug it off so easily. I took it all as a personal affront to my parenting--no, to my genetic heritage. As Scott pointed out, it's not such a mystery how he and I came up with a smart, odd, chubby child. Huh. Wonder how that happened.
So I suffered with this one for several days. And what hurts the worst is I want him to not struggle the way that I struggled as a child, because watching him as his mother is worse than it was for me as a child, wandering the edge of the playground, stuck in my over-busy head, always getting jokes too late and yanking my pants up over my chubby belly.
But there you have it. This apple has not fallen far from the tree. I guess the thing to remember is that I made it through all right (fifteen years of heavy drinking, but who's counting?) and likely he'll make it through too.