kids

'I asked a teacher what she thought of my parenting. She told me... the truth.'

I got drunk – again – with my kid’s teacher the other night.

She was a kindy teacher from years ago, and we’d stayed in touch ever since. Our friendship was initially based on the mutual adoration of my child (#biased), but developed because we both have a similar attitude to other things in life, had mutual friends and shared a wacky sense of humour.

Even long after my kid was in this teacher’s year, we’d see each other at parties or drinks things, and after a few wines, delve into deep conversations about…well, a little gossip about others, and grossly over-sharing about our own lives.

Watch: Things Teachers Never Say. Post continues after. 

Video by MMC

For the purposes of this story I’ll call the teacher Mary (like Mary Poppins) because one of the things I love about her is her combination of candour and kindness. I can always ask her anything and she’ll tell me the truth – whether she’s supposed to or not.

We’d agree that a certain school rule sucked, that homework was ridiculous, and that working motherhood was hard. We would complain about crap, and not judge each other, and somehow come up for air an hour later and feel so much better about life.

When we caught up a month or so ago, we hadn’t seen each other face to face for a while; so we settled in at a bar where middle-aged mums do not belong, and got straight into it.

“I’ve given up on parenting,” I jokingly told her.

“I don’t force homework, or music practice, or bedtime, or even vegetables. He’s gotta learn the self-discipline! Am I being a sh*tty parent?”

Mary chuckled and said, “Well, this is a change.”

“You know you’ve always been a ‘helicopter parent’,” she added, using her fingers for the inverted commas air sign.

Um, no. I had not realised that. I thought I was a chill parent! But Mary had a different perspective.

“You were always there, always involved,” she explained. “I knew you were the mum of an only child before you even told me. You made the time to be there at every pick up and drop off, every special day at school, all the class excursions. And you always made an appointment with me whenever you were concerned about anything.”

I sipped my drink and absorbed this information.

ADVERTISEMENT

I thought all of those things were supposed to be done if you were an engaged parent. One of my greatest fears when my kid was really young was being a Missing-In-Action parent. So, I’d made involvement at school a priority.

I knew that wasn’t what every parent did, and I didn’t judge them for that. It’s just what I wanted to do for my child. 

But with Mary’s words and my second wine tingling in my bloodstream, I had a moment of clarity; from her perspective, it had seemed like I had trouble letting go. 

Side note: Mia Freedman chats to Gabbie Stroud about why shy broke up with teaching. Post continues below.

I was a helicopter parent, always hovering around. I definitely recall needing to know what was happening in my kid’s life all the time. 

But, also… wasn’t that part of my job?

Mary was still talking.

“Don’t get me wrong, I knew you were doing it out of love. I knew you took your responsibility as a parent really seriously.”

“Yeah, but I think it was more than that,” I said, after a moment. “When I wanted to chat, I was also looking for guidance. It was never complaining that anyone was not doing enough or being enough, it was about solutions. Wanting to know everything was on track… I guess in some ways I was a bit of a nervous mum, you’re right.”

Mary agreed with that, then added, “You wanted to make sure he was always okay, that’s natural. But if you’re saying now that you’re a lot more hands-off, I’m noting that’s a big change for you, and it’s great.”

It was great – there’s a certain freedom that comes when kids reach an age where you just can’t make them do things, and they have to face the consequences of not doing things, themselves.

And, Mary was right; if I’d had a second child, I’m sure I wouldn’t be as obsessed with always being present – I’d be more confident in my parenting.

But there was another factor to my ‘helicopter parenting’ that I thought about later, as I fell into bed.

The truth is, I loved doing all of that. I loved the sports days and the excursions to the zoo, and sitting on the bus with the other mums, or doing the fundraising sausage sizzle.

I learned a lot about parenting at those times, but also, it was a joy for me to see my son growing and learning. Because I knew, even back then, that those opportunities wouldn’t last forever.

And anyway, aren’t many of us a little ‘helicopter’ with our first-borns?

No matter what kind of parent I was or wasn’t, I am so glad I have those happy memories now. 

The author of this story is known to Mamamia and has chosen to remain anonymous. The image used in this article is a stock image.

Would you ask a teacher for feedback on your parenting? Let us know in the comments.

00:00 / ???