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  • by Jamaal

True Dad Secret: I Cry At Parent/Teacher Conferences


I try to make EVERY one of my kids' parent/ teacher conferences. Every time the girls tell me that they have an upcoming conference, I normally note the time and date on my work calendar and I make every last one. I don't know how many I've been to over the last few years, but let's just say that I'm batting 1.000 when it comes to them. If they had a Gold Star Perfect Parent/ Teacher Conference Star, your's truly would be getting one.

And for the last few years, I've cried either during or after all of them.

Now I have pretty good kids. They do well in school academically and socially. I know some parents (and probably some of you) have to hold your breath when you go to conferences. But that's not my story. I actually enjoy going. I like to know what my kids have been learning. (Side Note #1: In Ayanna's conference last night, she said that she was learning about Mansa Musa in one of her elective classes. It's an African history class. None of her teachers in the conference knew who Mansa Musa was. Do you? Without Google?) I also like to see their progress from year to year. Ayanna was struggling with Math like Batman struggles with the Joker. And this year, she's doing worlds better than she was last year. I take note of that stuff and I am proud of her for it. Amanyi is reading on a 6th grade level and comprehending on a 5th grade level in 3rd grade. I love to see that stuff.

So why do I cry at parent/ teacher conferences like Bambi's Mom just died?

Well there are three reasons:

1. Because I wish Amanyi's mom could be there. I really didn't think I could do this on my own. Yes I have help. (Shout out to my girl Dawn). I have my sister, Alisha, here who helps as well. But five years ago, I never thought I could succeed as a single dad. I've said it once (see earlier blog posts) and I'll say it again...being a single parent is HARD. VERY VERY HARD. When the financial and emotional burden is all on you, then it takes a special person, male or female, to shoulder that burden.

2. Along those same lines, I'm happy that I'm making it. I'm not trying to win sympathy points but being a Black man brings a special set of challenges all on their own. Being a Black Dad who obviously cares about his kids in Iowa, a place where the overwhelming perception about Black Fatherhood is next to nothing, is especially challenging. I know there are good Black fathers here. I know a lot. But I can probably count the dudes I see in Parent/Teacher conferences on one hand. (But I see Black fathers out there supporting their kids in sports...we need to do better in the academic space.)

3. And this is the biggest reason. I'm happy. I'm happy that through all the bullshit that my kids have been through in the last few years, they are still above average students. They're smart. They're well adjusted. They have friends. They like to play outside. They're just fighters. And they see the good in life even though the bad has been more than most kids (and most adults) have had to deal with. I'm happy and I thank God for keeping my kids minds stable.

Last night, I was talking to Ayanna:

Ayanna: "Daddy, were you proud of me at my conferences?"

Me: "Of course baby. I knew you would have a great conference and a great school year."

Ayanna: "How did you know that?"

Me: "Because you're better than me when I was your age."

Ayanna: "What??? Really??"

Me: "Yep. When I was 12, I was a smart kid, but I didn't have many friends. You're smart, pretty, and you have a lot of friends. You're doing better than I did socially and you're smart on the books. You and your sister are definitely the best versions of me. I'm sooooo proud of you and Amanyi."

Ayanna: "Thank you Daddy. And, just so you know, I would have been your friend in school, Daddy."

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