I am really bad at parents.
More generally, I am bad at faces; it takes multiple encounters for me to even recognize a face, much less put it with a name. Every year, I explain this to students, ask forgiveness in advance, and then quiz myself relentlessly (“Hi. Is your name John?”) until I get them down. Even then, I have a nasty habit of confusing kids with one another in the last months of school. I’ve just gotten really, really good at not letting them notice.
But parents I don’t see anywhere near as often as I see kids. I feel rude asking their names again and again, and I rarely have sneaky opportunities to point at them and ask for a name from someone else. They know me, so they just assume I must know them, but it isn’t true.Today, I accidentally introduced myself to a parent for the third time. I only realized my mistake when she said her son’s name.
In teaching, it wasn’t a big deal, because my interactions with parents often involved the child at the same time. In the office, it’s a whole different story. There are a million reasons parents might be there without a child, and sometimes we can have whole small-talk conversations without their kids’ names ever being mentioned. Today, a woman gave me a hug and told me how glad she was that I’m in this new job. I had no idea who she was, and I feel absolutely terrible.
I love families, and I (usually) enjoy that my job allows me to spend so much more time with them. Unfortunately, I’m also missing a major skill set that would make the interactions much more meaningful. This year might get pretty awkward.