Friday, October 22, 2021

Teaching Chronicles: Parents Behaving Badly — The Man Purse

      It was my youngest daughter's senior year.  To be specific, it was the fall open house of my youngest daughter's senior year — after this, I was done!  No more teacher conferences, science fairs, fundraisers, or open houses... I could almost taste freedom!  I begin with this to partially excuse my behavior, because in this episode of "Parents Behaving Badly," I am the parent.

     The way open houses are set up in high school is parents are rushed from one ten-minute presentation to another with a three-minute passing period so we can, "Get a feel for how your kids do it."  The flaw in this is the kids get a chance to know their school... and they are younger and more resilient.  Parents wander from wing to wing approaching teachers with beseeching looks as they attempt to find their child's next class period only to discover it is on the other side of campus.  So, with it being my last open house and the way it was organized, I think I am allowed a certain degree of cynicism.

     We had arrived at the final class: "Home Management and Design: Textiles and Fashion."  If you like me are wondering what this class is about, perhaps it will help if I tell you when we were in high school, we called it "sewing."  Worse than the somewhat highbrow title, the teacher was really enthusiastic... I mean really enthusiastic — more enthusiastic than I was ready to deal with at the end of this ordeal.  She was, in fact, on a sewing mission from God.  After introducing herself, she rocketed off into a list of exciting projects the kids would be working on.  She enthused about starting with stuffed animals, moving on to pillows, and possibly learning enough stitches and patterns before the end of the semester  (her voice reaching a crescendo of triumph) to be able to make "man purses" for the dads.

     You know how even in a completely quiet room of thirty or forty people, there is always a little bit of background noise — people fidget, feet shuffle, throats are cleared.  When she said the word "man purses" the room went entirely silent as eighteen dads froze. Over the years, my daughter has developed a finely tuned dad snark-o-meter.  At the phrase "man purse" she knew the needle had been buried, and I was about to say something oh-so clever.  As I turned my head toward her, she attempted to preempt me.  Quietly, out the side of her mouth, her eyes frozen straight ahead, she said, "Shut up." 

     Undeterred by her shocking disrespect for her parent, I asked, "Honey, are you going to make Daddy a man purse?" 

     Refusing to look at me, she muttered again, "Shut up."  

     I persisted, "But, Honey, what if Daddy really wants a man purse?"  

     She hissed, "Shut up!"  

     Unfortunately, I never did find out any more about the man purse or my daughter's feelings concerning it because the session ended.  Sadly, I never got my man purse that year.  One of the important lessons of parenting is accepting there will be disappointments along the way.