The other night I attended a semi-mandatory outdoor meet and greet at my daughter’s elementary school. The trick is that in return for attending this event, each participant is given an ice cream bar and the chance to meet the child’s new teacher. These events are excruciating for me. While the ice cream social is always well executed and expertly put together, I find myself shuffling and stamping my feet. The kids in attendance have this kind of cool to them. They’ve met this year’s teacher, who is usually a rested looking woman full of the kind of energy that is reserved for amped up pageant contestants. The students themselves are a bit indifferent to the whole ordeal. They speak casually to each other, smile at their new teacher’s jokes and then inexplicably go and swing from tree branches. Within two weeks, they’ll be staring wistfully out the windows at those same branches and dreading the fact that they were yet again sucked in by the parade smiles of teaching professionals. During the social, though, the kids cling to a last bit of late summer casual and effortlessly mingle in a blase fashion while eating melted ice cream sandwiches in the schoolhouse courtyard.
As a parent, there is no cool, even from drippy Eskimo Pies. We have no casual attitude. Much of what we do is competitive parenting and semi-professional eye rolling. Mom’s and dad’s have a way of overdressing for these events. Yeah, I think the sequined halter tops and shirt/tie combos are neat, but unnecessary. I have no such desire to be a fancy dad. I can sort of manage to stand around and look like a schlub, before some ancient Miss America teacher slaps my wrist and tells me to stop picking my nose. We’ve spent every day since college looking out the door’s and windows of our workplaces wistfully for a tree to climb. Eventually, as often happens, my blissfully calm daughter will give me some ice cream, tell me to shut up and then smile beatifcally. Future teacher in the making, I suppose.