My 9-year-old son's teacher called me the other day. She asked, somewhat hesitantly, if I would come in to school and help her class with some crafts.
I told her I would like that. She said she didn't want to interfere with my work schedule, and to plan it for whenever I could. I told her that we househusbands have the same flexible schedule as housewives, and that whatever was convenient for her would be okay with me.
"So you stay at home with the kids?" she asked.
"Yes, I do, and I enjoy it."
"I can tell that you probably do."
"How can you tell that?"
"Well," she said, "when I asked the class if any of them had parents they would like to invite into the classroom to help us with arts and crafts, your son Chad was the first to raise his hand. And he was the only student to volunteer his father. That tells me a lot."
"It does? Like what?"
"Mainly that you and your son must have a very special and comfortable relationship. Many children won't volunteer either of their parents. And, it's practically unheard of for a child to volunteer his father.
"A lot of children aren't comfortable or at ease with their parents hanging around their classrooms at school. They get up-tight, and they know it, so they never volunteer their parents to come in. That way they avoid the whole problem.
"Your son obviously feels secure and relaxed around you. I think it's nice he wants to have you come in, and that he's willing to share you with the rest of the class. I wish more fathers took an active interest in their children's education."
"Maybe they would if they had the time," I told her. "But I also think that we've all lived for a long time with the notion that it's mothers who take care of the school and education problems. Dads usually just tell the kids they got a good report card or ask them why they didn't. At least that's the way my dad was."
She allowed as how I was probably right. We both felt it was a shame more fathers and mothers weren't participating and getting involved in their children's education.
I had a good time with the kids at school. I went in with a shopping bag full of clothespins, cotton balls, little google-eyes, acorns and string. By the time I left, the children had made an incredible variety of elf faces out of the acorns.
There was much joking and laughing and running around. There was also a lot of work done. Many of us had Elmer's glue, tempera paint and cotton ball fuzz all over us. That part washed off. The part that didn't was the fun we had.
Not long afterward, I got a letter from my son's teacher. At first it, made me feel good. But then on rereading it, I changed my mind: It was sad.
"I'm so happy," she wrote, "that Chad wanted you to come because that reflects a love of togetherness that many children in the classroom don't share with a dad."
That's a shame. Children aren't the only losers in that deal.