feature image photo by Carbonero Stock via Getty Images
I had a completely different idea for this week’s column, but I decided to put a pin in it. Sometimes things come up, and you want to talk about them in real time. Earlier today (it’s Thursday November 30 as I’m writing this), I was listening to the Coffee Convos with Kail Lowry and Lindsie Chrisley podcast and they were talking about something I found very interesting. For those who don’t know them, Kail was on Teen Mom 2. I didn’t watch the show, but I fell upon her social media, and now I love her. She doesn’t identify as straight and has talked about encounters with women in the past. Kail has a small army of children, and I commend her for it, because it could not be me. Lindsie is the oldest daughter of disgraced reality star Todd Chrisley, who is currently in jail for fraud. She’s mom to one boy named Jackson.
Anyways, both Kail and Lindsie are boy moms and co-parents, and we all have kids around the same age, so when Kail shared an episode of the podcast that dealt with co-parenting and school, I was curious to hear what they had to say based on their co-parenting experiences. The topic of conversation was how co-parents handle parent-teacher conferences at school. We just had parent-teacher conferences at the beginning of November, so it’s something still fresh on my mind.
I am a big advocate of parent-teacher conferences, and I always make it a priority to go, except for the times when I was told I didn’t have to. My son’s school sometimes makes that last conference optional for kids who are doing well. Parent-teacher conferences were always deemed important when I was a child, and I knew that it was imperative for me to show up. Kids are unreliable narrators, and if you want to know how they’re doing in school, you need to talk to their teachers directly. To me, it’s also a sign that you are present as a parent and you’re not only interested but invested in your child’s education. I know it’s not always easy for parents to show up, but many teachers will be accommodating if they know you’re going to show up.
The podcast conversation revolved around how you conquer parent-teacher conferences as co-parents. Do you do it together, separately, or does the default parent go and take notes. Both Kail and Lindsie agreed co-parents should be able to put aside issues for the good of your child’s education, which I also agree with. I also think that’s easier said than done sometimes, especially when parents don’t see eye to eye about the ways their kid learns, or their own approaches to schoolwork. I also think this only works if both co-parents are taking the same amount of responsibility when it comes to school and schoolwork.
I am the primary parent of my child and the sole decision maker when it comes to school. My son’s dad never took much of an interest in caring about that stuff. I picked out my son’s school, I fill out all of the paperwork, and he seems fine with that. He did come with me to that first kindergarten parent-teacher conference, and I was surprised. School wasn’t something he seemed to take much of an interest in outside of pickup and dropoff. There were never questions about things like homework assignments or stuff like that. As far as I can remember (and it was four years ago, so my memory is hazy), his biggest question was about my son’s sensitivity to noise and if it was normal. The only productive thing to come out of that conversation was that we agreed my son could use noise-canceling headphones while he went to the bathroom because he didn’t like the sound of the flushing and the hand dryers. I was the one who asked about things like reading, homework, and making sure he was at grade-level.
The pandemic happened halfway through kindergarten, and school was virtual for all of first grade. My son’s father moved out of state during the school year, but even before that he had kind of lost interest in my son’s education. Now, I’m not going out of my way to include him in the academic stuff, but if he expressed an interest in attending a parent-teacher conference, I would happily invite him to join in on the next one. On the other hand, my partner is incredibly invested as the other parent in the house. Maybe it’s because she’s the one who’s fighting the battle with fourth grade math (and also losing horribly) and coaching a reluctant kid through reading.
In their conversation, Kail and Lindsie didn’t get into too much detail about their co-parents and how they navigate school things like parent-teacher conferences, but they made it seem that it’s something they attend with their co-parents, which I find fascinating. I don’t know what kind of conversations were had about how present they were going to be for those things, or if their co-parents decided that as dads it was their job to show up and be present when it came to school. They also didn’t talk about how their current partners/co-parent’s partners play a part in this as people who are also directly involved in the kids’ lives, and I’m curious about that. But as someone whose co-parent isn’t super invested, I was fascinated by the idea of them showing up for conferences or taking an interest in school.
I guess for me, it’s not the end of the world if my son’s father doesn’t show up for a parent-teacher conference. Do I wish he took more of an interest in his son’s education? Sure, but he could do that by asking me how school is going. Doing conferences together means you’re on the same page about things, and I have no idea if we are.
Something else that struck me was Lindsie saying that she always did parent-teacher conferences alone when she was married. To her it “didn’t make sense” for both her and her then husband to both go if they were in the same house. My parents always did conferences together from elementary through high school. My partner and I always do conferences together; she will rearrange her work schedule to make sure she’s available. It’s more important to me that we be seen as a united front. We’re the two parents in my son’s home and the ones most invested in his education, so we need to show up.
It’s not even just parent-teacher conferences. I am the main school parent, and my partner runs a close second. We’re the names on all the forms, the point of contact if he’s sick or hurt or something happens. I chaperone field trips and volunteer at school. My partner jumps in too when she can. My son’s dad is busy, but I don’t think he’s ever thought about finding ways to support my son’s education and school years. Am I wrong for not asking him to make it more of a priority? Was I asking for too much when I assumed that as a parent, that would just happen for him? I dunno.
For those of you who co-parent, I’d love to know how you navigate school.
Queer Mom Chronicles is a column where I examine all of the many facets of queer parenthood through my tired mom eyes. Also! I’m working on something for a future column and I would love to have your input as loyal readers of Queer Mom Chronicles. If you’d like to answer a few questions, let me know!