BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP ding a ling ling BEEP BEEP BEEP ding a ling ling...
My fingers scratch around for my alarm in the still dark morning. I've never been great in the mornings, but have become better after years of babies crying or toddlers bellowing from the captivity of their cot. These days, I'm more accustomed to our big-little man sliding into our room at first light, looking for a sign of life, and then launching into the day at full volume. I've quietly wondered (on many an occasion) how there can be much to say so early in the day. But today, it was the alarm that startled us to waking. After a couple of moments caught in space, I shake the fuzz from my head and jump out of bed.
Our first parent-teacher meeting was 8:00am sharp. We have an hour to wash, dress, eat, pack lunches and get out the door. As our children appear in the kitchen doorway, somewhat bewildered by this change of routine, we greet them with joy and urge them onwards as gently and clearly as we can. But then I notice, not surprisingly, one is missing.
When I peek up onto the top bunk I'm faced with a mountain of doona, small body clearly visible beneath. My eyes scan towards the pillow until the cover of an open book stops me from seeing further. I clear my throat and brace myself, turning on my best kindergarten-teacher voice.
"Morning, sweetness. It's time to get going."
Silence. No movement. All is silent and still. My mind flicks through my options: maybe it's time to get strict? Maybe play the funny card? I decide to run with more soft cajoling, singing another invitation for her to make some kind of getting-up movement.
"Wow, aren't you lucky to sneak in a read this morning? Let's grab you some breakfast and you can tell me about your story."
Still no movement, but a decisive and firm voice replies, "I'm not going to school today."
Ugh. I don't have time for this today. I want to grab the doona and pull her up into a standing hug all in one quick movement, but the height of the bed makes this impossible. So the back and forth begins. I decide in a moment to play the understanding card. I am so understanding. For everything she says, I understand. All the things that are complaint-worthy, I understand. I understand over and over, every time reminding too that we need to get up now. I mean, really now.
"I'm so tired."
"I understand. Come on now, I'll help you.
"I want to stay home with you."
"I understand, me too. But I have work and you have school. Come on, I'll help you."
"It's not fair. Yesterday was so busy."
"I understand. But today we've nothing after school, so we can just come home and relax. Come on, close your book, let me help you down."
"I can't go, I won't be able to get through the day."
"I know, I understand, it's hard for me too sometimes. Come on now, what do you fancy for breakfast?"
And so it went on. So many good reasons, so much understanding, such slow movements along the bed to where I waited with arms outstretched. Bit...by bit...by bit...until a begrudging girl allowed me to grasp her, then hold her, then hug her. Phew. Now onto dressing.
The progress wasn't as fast as I'd hoped, but we were all happy (enough) and heading in the right direction. Soon, we were on our way to meet with the teachers who spend six hours a day with our kids. No stress. Nothing to be nervous about.
It's interesting being a teacher on the parent side of this meeting. I realised in my first year as a teacher how the parents I met with were often as nervous as me. I realised how these parents loved their children, no matter how challenging they could be. I realised how so many children can be one way at school, and another at home. This is our reality. Our one who doesn't want to go to school in the mornings is the model student, who throws herself into every aspect of school and reflects on all aspects with such maturity and confidence. It's easy for her. Not the case for one of the others, whose bright and breezy personality is left at home each day, a cautious and trying-to-be-invisible double turning up at school.
I'm not nervous going into these meetings. I know my kids, but I don't presume to know how they behave and interact at school. What really matters to me is coming away sure that their teachers really get them, really care, really know how to nurture them to be their best.
And they do. It makes it so much easier for me to send them off every day despite their difficulties. And despite their declaring they won't.