Monday, September 23, 2013

Not accounted for

I had a distinct and healthy fear when I was a teenager (and before and after) that if I did something bad, something bad would happen in return. I wish I could say that I was sophisticated and wise enough, at that point in time, to understand the workings of karma. I was not. I lived in the moment as most youngsters do. I did, however, understand the workings of consequences. That was made plain before I was old enough to walk. If I hit my brother, I would go to my room and lose a favorite toy. If I sassed a teacher, I'd be made to sit in the corner of the classroom, or, on rare occasion, take residence on the bench of shame outside the principal's office while they phoned my mother.

As was the case with most of my peers, I'd rather face the principal than my parents.

And it's not as if my folks were violent, unpredictable people. Spankings were economically doled out for those times when I simply didn't listen to the 3 or so verbal warnings prior to my offense. As I got older, the consequences of my actions remained relevant. Caught smoking or drinking...there goes your social life for at least a month or more. Or worse, expulsion from school, or even worse, getting kicked off the team, whatever team it was. The knowledge that I wouldn't be pitching for a softball season, or allowed to go out with my friends, or to get a ride to work kept me pretty much in line. Sure, I still did the stupid shit that kids do, but the risk was so high -- in my mind at least -- that it had to be worth it. And eventually I did get in trouble, and for the most part accepted the consequences of being and idiot.

I got caught, I paid my dues splitting wood and in social exile. I didn't get caught, I spent months worrying that eventually I would. Basic stuff.

Not so basic, it would seem, in this era of enablement that has completely paralyzed our country. Recently, a local story caught my eye and my ire. Apparently, nearly 300 high school students broke into the home of former NFL player Brian Holloway. Holloway was at his primary residence in Florida. This residence is in New York state. Anyway, long story short, the little shits trashed his house, pissed all over the floor, broke stuff, and basically had a drunken free-for-all. And, of course, they posted their criminal antics in real time on Facebook and Twitter. Good going, dip shits.

Holloway did NOT press charges. Instead, he put a call out to the teens and their parents to help him clean up the damage and do some community service work. Guess what, one kid showed up. One out of 300. And some of the parents are threatening to SUE Holloway, ya know, the victim, for identifying the kids online. (Actually, I think he just identified the schools they go to, based on, ya know, their tweets.) I don't know who to slap first, the parents or the kids...You figure that's nearly 600 parents who did not respond to an opportunity for their kids to learn a lesson and NOT be arrested. I'd be all over that with several hundred 'thank yous' on my lips for Holloway. My kid would be scrubbing his goddamn floor with a toothbrush.

Where have we gone to, folks? Where is the dignity in doing what is right and accepting responsibility for what you did wrong? And you're going to unleash your child on the world, send him/her off to college not knowing that there are consequences for everything. That Mommy and Daddy will not be there to save your ass when you get yourself into hot water.

I have been a high school teacher. And I watched as over the years, the parents of my students became increasingly enabling. One parent, who was a guidance counselor at another school, called me and told me that she hated me because her son was failing a film class. A film class! You know, where you watch movies and take notes and just be chill and learn stuff. I told her I'd called, sent notes home, so why is she surprised?

"I never got those notes," she stammered. I knew she was lying. Immediately. But still, at the end of the day, I was "strongly encouraged" to allow her son, a sports player, an honors student, blah blah blah, to make up the work so he could pass. At the end of the session, he "passed" the class by one point.

"Thanks, Ms. D." He handed me his nearly empty notebook.
"Don't thank me," I said, not even making eye contact. "Thank your mother."

He turned a million shades of red. "You'd do the same for your son."
Then I made eye contact.
"That's where you're wrong, man. I wouldn't. I'd watch him squirm and fret and fail the class out of sheer laziness. Lesson learned. That's my job. To make sure the lessons sink in. But I'm not worried about my son. He's not the baby here."

He moved to say more, I just put up my hand. "Enough. I'm not getting paid to make you feel better about yourself. Good luck in the real world."

I don't know whatever happened to that kid. I think he dropped out of college, lives with his parents, still borrows money. Probably like a majority of other teens who never learned the right lessons. We have a whole generation of pansies coming through the ranks right now. Kids in their 20s who can't hold a job, still have their mothers call in sick for them, have never paid for rent or groceries. They have nothing to be proud of. Least of all themselves. They never learned those lessons. They never learned that when your ass is on fire, you're the only one who can douse the flame. Or make it bigger. Your choice. It's your choice every single time.

My kids know I've got their back. They also know, beyond doubt, that I will not be the one who swoops in and rescues them from themselves. You don't clean your room, you don't go to the sleepover. You don't do your homework, you don't go to football practice. Simple as that.

It scares me to know that those 300 kids may have avoided life's most valuable lesson. And that one day, they will be walking the same streets with my kids.

Nobody ever said parenting is easy. It's not. But it's simple. Do the right thing. Every time. And your kids will follow.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Parenting requires a lot of skill and expertise, and it is clear that my parents had that when they raised me. I also don't think that kids these days are as mature as people of our generation. On a side note, today (November 10) is my birthday and I just turned 34. Another six years I will have to contact Judd Apatow (no pun intended). Have a great day.

    Jon Swartz