When they do parent meetings in Spanish school, it is common to discuss the performance of various children aloud, vocally comparing the strengths and weaknesses of the students.
For example, a teacher recently announced, “Juan is outstanding with mental calculation, but he is a terrible writer.” Other children (all names changed for protection, of course) are outed as nervioso, lento, lista, intelligente o artistica.
To American ears, this is unheard-of. We value privacy and prefer to hear nothing less than wonderful things about our special snowflakes. If our children struggle (as all kids do), it is discussed quietly, behind closed doors, and urgently.
It’s embarrassing, of course, to hear that your child has a low grade because he couldn’t be bothered to write the date on his paper. But yet, and this is hard to explain, there is so much love in this process.
In an American world of Fakebooking and perfectly staged Christmas portraits, it’s actually kind of wonderful to discuss ALL of our struggles, while sitting around the table. Each mother shakes her head, or laughs, or blushes as we hear about our kids, and how they rotate in the universe of the classroom.
We aren’t alone. We are collective. We love each other, and know about each other. When Manuel’s mother locks eyes with mine, I know her son struggles with attention, and she knows mine hates to write. I look at the woman recently transplanted from France, and know that she also dreams in a language other than Spanish.
We are so perfectly imperfect, broken pieces making becoming art.
My son’s teacher squeezes my hand, and tells me that my son is both lazy and smart. We are real, and we are all trying a little bit harder to help our kids a little bit more.
And when I wake my son up for another day at school, his eyes closed and arms flailed just like when he was a newborn, I remember this.