I recently went in for the parent-teacher conference: the time-honoured
tradition where you hope to find out that your child has both managed to learn
some things and is still welcome in the class. Except I left concerned there was
something wrong with the teachers. And no I’m not talking about declaring
they’re bad at their job because they dared to question my child’s inherent
right to do whatever she wishes. Quite the opposite. They said she was very
intelligent, creative, was exceeding all the benchmarks and was a delight. There
was a pause. Then a longer pause. Finally I prompted them: “Buuuuuut…”
“There’s no but. She’s wonderful.” Which was of course followed by a longer
pause. Finally I came to the obvious conclusion: “Oh you’ve got the wrong child.
Rhaps is the one with blonde curly hair?”
They laughed and reassured me they knew who she was but I remained
unconvinced: “Loud voice. Speaks over others. Walks around in constant song?”
“Yes she’s such a wonderful child!”
I am caught between bewilderment and suspicion. Am I being punked? I know
my daughter is amazing in many ways but I also know she can be an emotional
dictator capable of wreaking havoc on the immediate vicinity to a level almost
requiring UN intervention. But haven’t we all been there? Left the kids with a
babysitter or at a party and sneak away for a few hours of freedom? Which
you, of course, spend with one eye on the phone waiting for the inevitable call
demanding you return home for the exorcism and that, no thank you, I will
never look after your children again. Except it doesn’t come and when you get
home you’re told they were angels. You look at the sitter as if she’s speaking in
tongues. You briefly wonder if she could have drugged the kids to sleep before
realising she’s both nice and genuine. Possibly deluded but lovely.
But it happens all the time. In the company of others without you there
everyone speaks glowingly of them. I’ve been left to wonder if the kids have
worked out this is actually the best trick they could play on their parents ever.
It’s like an anti-Schrödinger experiment but instead of the cat being both alive
and dead until observed, the child is both good and bad when observed by you.
And just good when you’re not around.
Back at the parent-teacher conference I’ve pulled out a photo of Rhapsody
on my phone to fully confirm we are talking about the same little girl. They’re
rolling their eyes at me now. I walk away unsteady but with a dawning
realisation there’s a possibility that she really is capable of being delightful for
hours on end. That the halo is on in my absence and the horns reserved for
homelife. Wait, does that make ME the problem?