Our responsibilities as parents

I spent the weekend being a couch slug with general malaise and still not feeling 100%. Allergies? Illness? At this point I am not sure, but I know that there has been way too much cough and cold illness exposure. Mostly I had zero energy and needed more sleep.

This morning I was trying to catch upon on my blog reading. Still more to go, but one particular forum there is an ongoing series of threads about school and communication with teachers, etc. One mother was extraordinarily frustrated trying to figure out her daughter’s progress with regard to continuing in a public school forum or pulling her out for homeschool instead. Without going into the debate of public school versus private school versus home school programs, it got me thinking about my own parenting experiences and dealing with kids, their teachers, etc.

As a caveat, I have terrific, imperfect children who had no real issues in school. Neither of my kids have ever been discipline problem children, and my daughter was a consistent above-average student. My son, on the other hand, started bringing home deficiency notices in junior high and would always do just enough of the work to keep his GPA high enough to stay out of trouble with band and athletics. I am not a nagging sort of person and most definitely not a helicopter parent, so I did not push them in school. If they wanted to do more, I would help them to achieve those goals. If they wanted to fail, there would be unfortunate and unhappiness-inducing consequences.

The forum poster mentioned above talks about trying to get answers to her satisfction as to what her child needs to do to catch up and be successful in the coursework. On the surface it seems a reasonable request. The teacher’s responses – your child has failed to turn in this many assignments and failed this exam – was unsatisfactory to this parent. Her follow-up as to what needs to be done to achieve passing status seems reasonable, yet when the teacher responds with completing all the missing assignments as well as additional work to make up for failing grades, the parent loses her mind because there are only 10 days left in the term. No way her child could complete this much work in this short period!

I sympathize with the parent. She wants her daughter to finish school, go to college or vocational school, become a productive member of society. How dare the school not tell her that he child was failing! The problem must be with the school system; she should put her into an indepenent study program and monitor her progress herself.

I am simplifying the discussion through multiple pages of posts and comments, but what I got from it is the mother’s fear of her daughter’s failing would impede progress to a high school diploma and eventual independence. Somehow this was partly the school’s fault, for failing to alter her soon enough of the impending disaster to correct it. I sympathize, yet I cannot help wondering if failure might not be a good thing in this case, a case of cause and effect and a long-term life lesson. But I don’t know. It is one person, one side on an online forum.

In reviewing my own parental history there are a lot of occasions I wish for a do-over, an opportunity to turn back time and surgically alter my behavior at particular points on the timeline. Thinking about it, though, I recognize the only thing it might truly affect is my feelings about myself and my performance as a parent. Yeah, maybe I was lazy or tired or not thinking proactively enough at the time, but it happens. I am a laissez faire sort of parent, and I suspect if I needed to be heavier handed I would have adapted and become so to see my kids through to the finish line and independence. I remain close to my kids; we chat frequently about the normal, day-to-day stuff as well as the big potholes in the road of life. If they need me, I am here, but I am certainly okay with it if they can and do manage their own lives successfully.

Now that I am a happy empty nester, I wonder again how much our personality and parenting styles dictate what type of children we create. From my own upbringing, I have come to regard life as a bit of crap shoot and the family you’re born into and raised with having a lot to do with the person you become, but it need not be THE defining quality. Had one of my children had special needs, I like to believe I would have adapted and been able to accommodate them and raise them to a enjoyo happy and fulfilling life. Perhaps the answer is we are given what we can manage in life, events and situations and responsibilities that challenge us yet provide for successful outcomes.

Very few things in life are black and right, with only one correct answer. I am thankful every single day my kids are okay, living their lives and still such a part of my own.

2 thoughts on “Our responsibilities as parents

  1. Spot on. It’s relative and personal. DH and I take active roles in the education of our kids, to an extent. For our oldest, she’s a senior this year and if she hasn’t developed study habits by now, it’s on her and us and not her teachers. At her age, 17, she has to learn/know there are consequences as well as rewards based on the choices she makes as well as the effort she puts into assignments, projects, class participation etc. To be clear, when we were contacted about a class in which she is getting a C (her only grade lower than an A- out of 7 classes) we weren’t thrilled but we were also of the mindset that if she was satisfied with that grade, believed she’s done her best *OR* doesn’t want to work harder for a better grade, then so be it. As long as she can look in the mirror and feel good about her work and is respectful of her teacher well than it’s up to her.

    • You have such a wonderful way of expressing yourself and your thoughts. I was chatting with my son earlier about his return to college last year and his GPA (now hovering about 3.8) and that it’s still drudgery but there is a goal and objective that was lacking in previous years. He is turning 28 in a couple of months and will be transferring from community college to a state school in the fall, and I could not be happier.

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