I left work early and joined my wife to sit with all the other parents in the same little yellow chairs that our children use during the day. I sniffled and blew my nose and muttered and felt that the thing would not end.
I might have been elevated to better behavior by a more noble crowd, but some of the other parents were acting like kids too.
"Click, click, click," was the sound of someone's gum chewing.
"Tip, tip, tip, tip, tip .... tip," two of my fellow parents were texting each other on their Blackberry's like school kids passing notes. They looked up occasionally at each other to smile or suppress a giggle at some remark. When the night seemed that it might drag on past 8:30 p.m., they both abruptly stood up, holstered their phones, and went out opposite doors. It seemed a little too timed.
Others were doodling on their notepads or talking in hasty whispers with their spouses or neighbors. Some, like me, were daydreaming; looking up at the ceiling during the boring parts or thinking about something more interesting.
I suppose I can write off some of it to being sick, but some of it was just immature.
"Mr. Sexton!" was what my history teacher would say loudly, while bringing a thickly rolled pile of paper down sharply on my desk. It wasn't mean - it was a reminder to be attentive, to use my wits. It was his method for dealing with the likes of me. It worked. I probably still love history because of that fierce will of his.
"This matters!" was the message. I guess I needed to hear it.
It's one of my faults - daydreaming indulgently at the wrong moments. And when the mood is stirred (as it was tonight) it's like a kind of irreverent return to youth; a joyride. It's as if that part of me that never left the classroom is still sitting there watching the wall clock like it was a tectonic plate that was moving on a geological scale.
And my daughter's teacher may have detected that fault tonight as well.
"And Miss Sexton...." she suddenly began out of another thread that she'd been speaking on. She'd caught me drifting off. She pulled me back.
"What?!" my brain woke up in a heartbeat, "Miss Sexton - who's that?!"
She was telling a story about my kid at school. She'd caught my attention fully.
It made me remember that my little girl is excited at the thought of her parents meeting her teacher, at seeing her classroom, at sitting in her chair. For her this is not a dull couple of ours at the end of a long day in a busy week - it's important. This is her work - it's serious business for a kid. I sat up. I stopped being a kid. I started to listen. I remembered it was important.
"Daddy, did you see my teacher last night," is the question that I went to answer.
I gave up any thought of leaving early. We stayed the duration. I listened to every question. I tried to pull my act together and associate each parent's face with a child's name so I could talk with my daughter about her play dates intelligently. I went back to being responsible.
I don't know for sure if the teacher meant for this to happen, but I'm glad for it either way.
I'm also glad that my daughter has such a sharp woman managing her during the day. Her methods are a little softer than my history teachers, but if my kid is in any way like me in a classroom, she'll need the occasional reminder to stay on task.