About six months ago, I had my first parent-teacher conference for Kembe. We started him in preschool after he had been home from Haiti for about four months. We would have waited longer, but he learned English very quickly and he was soon begging to go to preschool like his brother and sister. I had some reservations about it, but we gave it a shot and he really, really liked it. In retrospect, I think the preschool environment was much more familiar to him than a home environment. He liked the structure, the noise, the crowd, and the ability to blend in without a lot of intense adult contact.
When I went for my first conference with the teacher to see how he was doing, I had no idea what to expect. Things were not going so well at home. Kembe was in the midst of a hard transition. He was rejecting me, and simultaneously trying to engage me in conflict all day. It was a lot of drama at home, and his behaviors were unpredictable and difficult. There are other words I could use to describe his behavior . . . but I’m going to try to be diplomatic in case he reads this some day. (Kembe, I love you, but you gave your mom a very hard time). Things at home were rough. I assumed this was spilling over at school.
I was surprised to hear the director say that he was doing great at school. She described him as a respectful, happy little boy at school. She even called him “delightful”. And as glad as I was to hear things were going well at school, I couldn’t help feeling ambivalent about it, too. Why wasn’t he respectful for me? I wasn’t seeing much that was delightful. Why was he sparing everyone else all of the negative behavior that was being heaped on us at home?
Moms who deal with attachment issues know this dynamic, and it is a hard one. Our kids can be lovely to others, because there is not as much fear of rejection. I had read about this before we adopted. But I didn’t realize how personally I would take it. I never imagined that a good parent-teacher conference could leave me feeling so sad.
Kembe has come a long, long way in the past six months since that first conference. Sometimes it is hard to measure progress as we are entrenched in the day-to-day, but having a new conference this week was a good reminder of how much things have changed. The preschool teacher was again very complimentary of Kembe’s behavior. Of course, he’s not perfect, but in all he is doing well with his peers and being respectful and appropriate in the classroom. But this time, I recognized the boy she described. It was consistent with who he is at home now. Again, not perfect . . . but for the most part, delightful. Even to me.
I left the conference this week with a heart bursting with pride for how far he’s come.