Welcome to Week 2 of the She Said/She Said Project between myself and Meredith, author of Now Is Good. This week, we’re talking about Parent/Teacher Conferences and whether or not partners of parents should attend these meetings. You’ll find Meredith’s point of view below and you can find my post at Meredith’s blog. Happy reading, happy considering and please share your thoughts with us!
Today’s topic concerns significant others attending parent/teacher conferences at school with the biological parent. This post topic was suggested by Tara; thankfully, I haven’t had to cross this bridge yet. When she suggested it, my initial reaction was, “WHY would that ever be necessary?” Weeks later, as I sit down to try and write something objective and understanding on the subject, I must admit that my feeling is still, “WHY?” I’m anxious to read The Divorce Encouragist’s explanation as to why this is something that ever needs to happen—I respect her take on the ways in which she interacts with her boyfriend’s children, but this is something I just don’t understand. It seems like such an unnecessary (and therefore somewhat offensive) interjection of self into the parental sphere.
In my experience, these parent/teacher conferences are usually scheduled to give the parents an overview of how a student is progressing academically, socially, developmentally. I can’t see why the significant other would ever need to attend such a meeting (or, quite honestly, why a teacher would need to schedule two separate meetings just to accommodate the significant other’s presence). Grandparents don’t attend these meetings; neither do nannies, babysitters, aunts, uncles or any other adults who may love and care for the child and provide parental-type guidance in or out of the home. Wouldn’t it be sufficient for the parent to attend the conference and then convey any necessary information to the girlfriend or boyfriend at home?
Obviously, if the parent/teacher conference is called for some other reason (say, a problem occurring in one of the child’s households) it might make sense for all adults living in that household to attend the meeting and discuss the issue and possible solutions thereto. Outside of this factual scenario, however, I don’t quite see the point.
It’s no secret that the ex-spouse frequently feels like his or her toes are being stepped on by the significant other’s presence in the childrens’ lives. This new person walks in, takes their former partner, decides to begin parenting their children, and in many ways appears to replace the ex-spouse in the life they once led. I understand that significant others may love and care for their partner’s children. I even understand that they may want to fully integrate and participate in 100% of the child’s life. But I’m not sure that means they get to. To insist upon attending a parent/teacher conference (unless that attendance has been requested by the teacher) seems … antagonistic, at worst, and simply disrespectful of the biological parent’s place, at best. It appears as though the significant other is trying to usurp a parental role for no other reason than just because he or she can or just because he or she wants to. To me, it smacks of toe-stepping at its finest and is disrespectful of boundaries that should be set up to minimize the amount of stress and clash in a child’s life. It reflects an air of entitlement by the significant other and I don’t think it’s going to go very far toward creating a respectful partnership among all of the adults in a child’s life.
Seeing no logical or necessary reason for the significant other’s attendance at and participation in a parent/teacher conference, then, I am still left wondering, “WHY?”