Let’s be honest with each other: Parent-counselor meetings are bullshit. This isn’t about your children’s academic careers. It’s about you. Your child failed a test, defaced a brick wall, or lost her virginity in a toilet stall, and you’re worried it’s going to make you look bad in front of the other suburbanites. Your precious little ones have proved themselves to be not so little anymore; you simply can’t come to terms with the fact that they might be exploring their limits, pushing their boundaries, following their pubertal programming. Naturally, you feel the need to assign blame.
And I’m your first target.
It’s not your fault. With the possible exception of Grandma and Grandpa Womack, you’re all children of suburbia. You’ve spent more than half a decade turning your offspring over to the county five days a week, nine months out of the year. You hardly ever see them save for the occasional, unintentional conversation over breakfast or in the car while on the way to the grocery store. You haven’t a clue what sort of progress the public school system has made raising your children. Had you a clue, you might not have jumped the gun and organized this little impromptu meeting to rectify something that you yourselves should have been aware of at the very start of the school year.
So. Let’s see what we have here. Mr. and Mrs. Womack, the haggard grandparents, stuck with the responsibility of raising a fat little handful of a grandson long after you raised your own children and thought the worst was past. Judging from the way you’re slouching in your chair, I’m guessing your concern, Grandpa, is centered mostly around having to leave the safety of your favorite recliner for the unwanted privilege of attending a bona fide Parent Party—but you, Grandma, there’s ice in your eyes, venom dribbling down your chin. You have purpose. You’re the kind of woman who spends an entire weekend carefully composing hand-written letters to all the television stations broadcasting junk food commercials aimed at kids. You want blood.
You, Mrs. Taylor…you merely want an easy solution, a quick fix. I see your kind in here all the time. You’re the picturesque soccer mom (yes, I’m quite aware that Eva is on the wrestling team), thirty-something, slightly bedraggled despite the fact that it’s four-thirty in the afternoon. You’ve been housekeeping, running errands all day, and now you’re desperate to sort out your daughter’s affairs before dinnertime, before your office jockey husband comes home asking for a full report over chicken and mashed potatoes.
Mr. and Mrs. Kounicova—you’re the foreigners. Your presence here is strictly for show; you have no real interest in the nuances of American scholastics. Were you in Brno right now, and had your little Jan indeed been caught doing something he shouldn’t have been doing, the solution would be swift and severe punishment, plain and simple. But instead, you’ve got to sit here and chat it out with the other moms and dads, because here in America discipline is handled by the proper authorities. Here, parents who take matters into their own hands end up behind bars or on daytime talk shows.
That leaves us with you, Mr. and Mrs. Smole. The mismatched New Agers. An uncommonly youthful-looking, attractive, and empowered mother; a husband coping with an obvious inadequacy complex. Yes, you’re clinging by a thread, aren’t you, Mr. Smole? You’re trying your best not to be concerned about the possibility that the other parents are looking at you and assuming your son was conceived when you knocked up a middle school girl twelve years ago.
It doesn’t surprise me that it’s your wife, the alpha female, as it were, who’s clearing her throat, sitting forward, and, much like her son before her, looking overly concerned about the amount of cigarette smoke filling my office as she delivers the first allegation: “Mrs. Thrailkill. Theo tells me you assigned him a homework project involving a video chat program called SuperMegaNet?”
Cry “havoc” and let slip the dogs of war.