What is it about children? When they are young, you take great pains to make sure that they know right from wrong, treat people fairly and develop a sense of responsibility—all to ensure that they never will make a mistake in the future. And then they get older and ruin everything.
Sometimes being a parent is a joy. This usually takes place when the children are out of the house, perhaps sleeping over at a friend’s, at summer camp or college, fighting in some foreign country or orbiting the earth in the space shuttle.
But I have to say that I do my best parenting when I let my wife do the parenting. She’s everything that I’m not. Patient. Kind. Well-liked among the children. Don’t believe me? Read the results of the latest Gallup poll. My wife scored quite high in likability while I came in a distant third behind a doorstop we used to have.
I have to admit, however, that doorstop was pretty special. I miss it.
I recently enlisted a (very cheap) P.R. firm to study this very issue and make recommendations. They said I could increase my likability index with my kids if they just would like me more. You get what you pay for, I guess.
Anyway, with that nugget of wisdom, I have set out to improve my relationship with my kids. And I think it’s working, too. Whereas once I was deeply loathed, now I am merely ignored.
But not always!
That’s right. My children do fervently seek me out when they need me to drive them places or give them money. Particularly when it’s my birthday, Father’s Day or when I am indisposed in the bathroom. But I am happy to oblige just to see their little eyes light up when they say, “Mom, who’s that guy using our toilet?”
Really now, I shouldn’t be posting this. Who am I to talk about how to raise children when my idea of “progressive parenting” is refraining from hitting the little one WITH the big one.
My latest challenge is trying to convince the 17-year-old to treat the 13-year-old better. I have realistic expectations here. I do not anticipate the older one to start hanging out with the younger one.
No, I would settle if she moved from abject hatred to utter disregard. Yep. That would be a definite upgrade.
A parent can dream, can’t he?
Yes, boys and girls, it’s time for another round of educational roller-derby, aka Parent-Teacher conferences. Tonight, I will be wrassling with my 13-year-old son’s teachers. That’s right…middle school.
Now, I know full well how my son is doing, since I received his report card 2 days ago. I believe the school does this to soften the blow or allow for the initial shock to wear off so that you can regain full consciousness and chat somewhat intelligently with the academics who rated him.
After fully reviewing the grades with my son, I retired to the lab (i.e., my basement) to work on my strategy for tonight. I find that a preemptive strike works best as it catches teachers off-guard. So, I might just look one in the eye right off the bat and inquire,
Do you think China is in the market for additional child labor? Just asking.
Sometimes, I meet my match in terms of preemptive strikes and the teacher ends up making the first move, typically by saying something provocative like,
Hi. So you’re [redacted]’s father…
As you can imagine, I don’t usually stand for this line of questioning. In such a case, I generally will issue a quick and pointed retort like,
No, that would be the milkman—as per the recent paternity test. I am his mother’s husband.
And lastly, there are times in which I am completely overwhelmed by their insinuations, such as when they say,
You know [redacted] would do so much better if he studied a little more. Or even showed up for class…ever.
In these situations, I tend to reply,
I think you are mistaken. I’m not here for a conference. I’m actually the custodian. I was told to clean up vomit in Room 517. Is this 517? It’s not? We don’t even have a 5th floor? Silly me.
will be the moment when my son’s teacher looks me square in the eye and asks,
“Was it your turn to bring the hard stuff this time or was it mine?”