I have been extremely absorbed in the process of finding gainful employment to take care of the physical realities of a growing child at home, and a newly minted adult, trying to get up and started on their own two feet. This is not to say that my child is existing in a vacuum, as I am acutely aware of what is going on-despite the fact that we have reached the point in parent/child relations where questions are answered with shrugs, rolled eyes, grunts and single syllable responses. Conversation is much like root canals without any Novacaine or laughing gas. Takes forever to draw things out and get to the root of anything, but I persevere. I have developed the captive audience technique which involves conversation in the car, where the child in question is a captive audience. I have been known to generate multiple errands designed to keep the child in the vehicle until they come clean with what I need to know. I rely heavily on my vehicle technology which means that I control all windows, door locks, and even radio from the steering wheel, thereby squelching any and all attempts as escape-either literal or figurative. With gas prices as they are, this has become expensive, but is well worth it in information yielded. I am positively Macheavellian, and darned proud of it! Have to keep the upper hand in this relationship. My husband was known to threaten my son with padlocks on the refrigerator and pantry, while I contented myself with threatening to take him out at the knees with a baseball bat, as he wasn't going anywhere without knees. (My first born was past 6 foot tall in 7th grade, so reigning him in required a more direct approach) Anyway.....back to the main point of why I had to put the brakes on all other activity and adopt full blown "Mom mode".
As a rule, I tend not to interfere with what goes on at school, firmly believing that my daughter is learning important life lessons by working through the drama and learning to work things out with a variety of people, including teachers. Unless a teacher indicates that my input is needed, I am pretty much "hands off." After all, I already did 7th grade, and have no intention of doing so again. That being said, we do support our kids efforts in every way we can, but we just don't do it for them, or overly shield them from their own mistakes... Mistakes, at this age, fortunately, are pretty easily corrected. (Perhaps not from their perspective, but in the world of reality) I have made the midnight run to the 24 hour Wal-Mart to make sure that the appropriate poster board or whatever is available for completion of the 11th hour presentation...then I promptly go to bed, leaving them to cleaning up their own mess-secure in the knowledge that I will extricate them from bed at the usual time in the morning. If I made the midnight run, she will, darn well, attend school and turn the completed project in on time....no incompletes, no extensions. And just maybe, next time, I will get fewer disgusted sighs and eye rolls when I inquire about the progress on the projects. (I know! I am just an incurable optimist.) I extend this "learning by doing" to coaches and extra activities like sports. The kids are supposed to be learning while having fun, so I tend to stay in the background there as well....and, just to be clear, I do not yell, cheer, hoot, holler etc by request of my children. As my daughter pointed out, if she hears Mom and Dad yelling, she is distracted from what she is supposed to be doing. Good point! So we save the post mortem for,... you guessed it, the car ride home-no embarrassment in front of other kids.
However, I have become increasingly concerned about the comments coming home recently, and even bearing in mind the inaccuracies of the child's garden of misinformation and the propensity of exaggeration among the adolescent set, I was still quite disturbed. Disturbed by the notion that somebody had the nerve to suggest that my daughter needed to lose a few pounds merely because she didn't fit into the sizes of cheerleading uniforms which were left over from last season. And before anyone misunderstands, it wasn't a case of nothing fitting at all, but rather being in between sizes, with one size too snug and the next being too loose. At some point, everyone needs to get a grip and remember that these are grade school kids, and they are not going to look like the Dallas Cowgirls. Also, coaches dealing with adolescent girls need to remember how literally the kids take everything (especially girls), how emotionally volatile, and how the most innocent joke during this time can have lasting and damaging ramifications for years to come. Like we need more excuses for body image issues in our society. Teen girls don't like themselves anyway....if they have curly hair, they want straight. If they are less endowed, they want more. If they have developed, they want less. Their thighs are too big, or their butt is too small....it goes on and on, as they all try to achieve the Barbie doll image of beauty. The normal battles about how short a skirt may be, how much makeup is too much, hair color, hair style are enough for any of us parent to deal with, without having a coach (who has not yet had the joys of parenthood) creating new areas of controversy in the home.
Kids are really funny, in that they seem to be able to ignore everything that you say to them, but the words of a teacher or coach are right up there with Moses stone tablets from the mountain. Parents, teachers, and coaches need to all be on the same page with the same general goals and expectations. We have reached a point where it is not longer clear that I am on the same team with the coaches in question, necessitating a conference at school. A code of conduct for the cheerleaders came home requiring the signature of the cheerleader and the responsible adult-(that means parent or guardian). I read through it, and overall agree. The kids are representing their school, and as such, need to be responsible for their appearance, for being on time and ready, participating fully in practice and respecting the coach as an authority figure while in practice or at a game. We are OK there, but it is when we get into the specifics of attendance, punctuality, and the resultant penalties that I feel our happy little train is derailing at high speed. The discussion of excused absences, the acceptable reasons for missing a practice or game, does not allow for something that I am not ready to relinquish, my parental discretion. At this age, whatever my child does, or does not participate in, is directly at my pleasure and discretion. She isn't going to arrive anywhere without my physical support, and if I have something more important than a grade school basketball game on my calendar, and as a result, my child is 5 minutes late......it simply isn't fair to penalize her. Of course, I am going to try to accommodate the school schedule. But there will be those occasions when the realities of living in the adult world with adult obligations may prevent my best intentions. Deal with it, and don't penalize the child. I am more than willing to offer a ride to another cheerleader if their parents have to deal with life, and likewise, I may have to call upon one of them. Even with these backup plans, things don't always go according to plan. You cannot hold kids to absolute standards if they are dependent upon others to get where they need to be. Also, I don't want my child penalized when I, as a parent, insist that completion of the 11th hour academic project supercedes the need to learn how to do the Waltz to Rap. If I decide that my child needs to spend the time on academics (Surprise! That is why she is in school), then that is my call, and should not be challenged by any coach in any extra curricular activity. Because my authority as a parent was not respected by the agreement brought home, I scheduled a meeting with the School Principal to calmly discuss concerns and hopefully, reach a concensus before pulling my child out of participation.
To make this seem less like a parental rant, because my poor baby is being persecuted unfairly, I stopped on the way to my appointment to acquire peace offerings. Large coffee and muffins from Dunkin Donuts. Nothing like coffee and muffins to make this more of a conversation and less of an irate parent rant. To that end, I think that we were really successful, and hopefully, the dreaded agreement will be appropriately modified. I wonder if most parents just sign these things without reading? I don't want to deal with the extra drama of my rightful parental authority clashing headlong with the wants and needs of the coach throughout an entire season......things are stressful and hectic enough without the outside circus. I also got to share some of the other observations I had made along the way. Overall, a very productive meeting, and I actually left feeling satisfied that my position as a parent was heard and respected....well worth the time, the effort, and the coffee. Hopefully, I have headed off potential conflict with my daughter, and made some inroads into people being more cautious of their comments regarding body shape and size. Among teens, that can change, literally daily. And as most of us adults know to be gospel.....one size does not fit all. Never has and never will. Heaven only knows what part of the spectrum my daughter will finish up with. I just want her to be comfortable in her own skin and be confident in her abilities. It is going to be an uphill battle in a society that is so obsessed with appearance.....commercials, magazines, celebrities are all working against me here. We are starting to see the fallout....two bites of dinner and plead being full. We have also had her sneak out the door, conveniently forgetting the lunch bag or box. And if you chase her down, the next time, she conveniently forgets the lunch box in her locker, thinking that we won't insist that she use a different carrier for her food. Trying to get by by rushing around in the morning, leaving no time for breakfast. I can only imagine how much of the lunch box contents wind up in the trash, uneaten. I don't intend to relinquish any more of my authority than I absolutely have to. I can insist upon sitting down for a proper dinner each evening. I can continue to offer good food choices.
Filed under: Side Journeys