By Rabbi Elkanah Shmotkin
One morning I was talking with a friend on the West Coast, as I often do, about parenting. I mentioned that my wife was going to PTA for my daughters. “Why aren’t you going?” he challenged me.
So I went. In the years since that conversation, I haven’t missed PTA for my daughters. That means waiting in the school hallway, together with my wife, one Sunday morning each winter – a lone male amongst dozens of moms.
I believe my daughters’ education has gained from it. There are many reasons to do it, but I’d like to share three, in the hopes that I get other fathers thinking, as my friend got me thinking. Your daughters might just benefit from it, as mine have.
1. For my daughters.
It’s helped me drive home the message that they are no less important than my sons. They understand and see that their education, their upbringing and their lives are important to me and are deserving of my time and attention.
2. For their teachers.
Showing up is a way to show the teacher that I value what they’re doing. Nechama and I are usually in touch with our daughters’ teachers well before PTA comes around, and they already know that we’re interested in working as a team to help our daughters grow. They know that they will find an ally in us, and that we’re ready to hear of any concerns or problems, G-d forbid. But coming in-person also helps me learn the details and subtleties that can’t be picked up on a report card. For one daughter, after talking with the teacher, it became evident that she was capable of doing more than the rest of the class, and we agreed together to challenge her to do more. Another time, I alerted the teacher that, based on the homework we had been doing together, she seemed to be missing something in the Chumash lesson. There’s nothing like showing up in person and having the face time to work these things out together.
3. For my wife.
It’s important to me that Nechama know that I’m there with her. Our daughters’ education is a responsibility that we share, and it’s not “relegated” to her.
Try it out once. The hour or two is a worthwhile investment in your daughters’ education, and I suspect that you’ll be happy you did. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to have some company in that hallway.