Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I've been meaning to write this post for quite a while, but this morning was the deciding factor. Here's the situation: I teach a couple of before-school lessons at a middle school a couple of mornings a week. The Wednesday ones end before the 8:40 go-to-class bell rings, so I miss the crowds in the hallways, but I do run into (not literally, of course) some parents dropping their kids off in front of the school, since the only exit from the faculty parking lot funnels through that way. The Tuesday lessons, however, end right at that bell, so I do catch the hall crowds. But by the time I get to my car, there are maybe five minutes before the first-period tardy bell rings, so one would think that all the kids would have been dropped off by then, and I would have the front drive all to myself, correct?

Umm, no. Not by a long shot.

I can't remember a Tuesday morning all year where there weren't at least ten cars dropping kids off with less than five minutes before class. Even today, when they were giving a state "benchmark" test all day (and, no doubt, emphasizing the importance of being on time today for the past week or so), I saw the same number of late kids being dropped off. What gives?

It's one thing if a kid is late to high school, because he may have driven him/herself there. But these kids are late because their parents made them late. That's just so wrong, I don't even know where to begin.

Granted, it's not like I'm memorizing license plate numbers or anything; it could be the same ten parents who are late every week, or it could be different people each time who are having their one bad morning of the year. My "statistics" are anything but scientific. But it still blows my mind that more than one or two parents would allow this to happen. If they're the ones who are supposed to set the example for their kids, what kind of a chance do the kids have in this case?

I guess I hold parents to a really high standard. My own parents, whatever their shortcomings, set the bar pretty far up there. They did what they were supposed to do, when they were supposed to do it. I was never late to, or unprepared for, anything on their account. (Ironically, the one time my dad forgot to turn in a piece of paperwork on time, it was the application for a college scholarship through his work. But hey, that penalized him more than it did me, because he was paying for my undergrad school as it was.) They never cursed in front of me, except for the time or two when they were doing so at me, and on those occasions, I deserved a tongue-lashing, trust me. Even if I disagreed with them on something, I always respected the way they conducted themselves when they were raising me.

Sure, the standards had their downside: Mom and Dad weren't (aren't?) always easy to please. I'll admit to some self-esteem issues over the years because of that. But again, they always had my respect, and not because they demanded it (a futile undertaking, in my opinion, unless one is in the military), but because they earned it. I just can't see these slacker parents earning too much respect from their kids; they may well set high standards, but those requests will fall on deaf ears if the parents don't live up to the standards themselves. "Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't fly once a kid hits adolescence.

Am I being unreasonable here? I have always thought that being a parent is a special calling (and by this, I mean a true parent, not just someone who's a sperm-donor or birth giver and isn't living up to the title of parent). I've said on occasion that it would be nice to have some sort of test that couples had to take before being allowed to conceive, but 1) several of my friends would never have been born if that were the case, and 2) naaah, too Third Reich, methinks. I'm also sure that plenty of parents got off to a rough start but eventually "got it" as time went on.

And sure, some people would bash me for even talking about this, because I'm not a parent yet. They'd say, "You don't know how hard this is, Kev." My reply would be, no, not first-hand, but then nobody ever said it was going to be easy...and besides, maybe one of the reasons I'm not a parent yet is precisely because I didn't think I was ready. (The other reason, I guess, would be a lack of dates. D'oh.)

So maybe it is just the same ten bad parents every week who drop their kids off late. And maybe this one thing isn't indicative of a larger problem, but the sad truth is that it probably is. Anyway, I've gone on way too long with this post, so I'd like to hear from you, especially my fellow educators. Do parents today seem to live up to the standards set by our own parents, or have you seen a drop in this area? The comments are open...


Rev_DeanL said...

Hey Kev - got here via Ms. Worley.

I am a new parent and I can already tell you that I NEVER want to be the kind of parent you are talking about. In high school, one of my carpoolmates had a mom like you described - everytime it was her turn to drive, we would get to school about 90 seconds before the tardy bell rang. It drove my mom crazy and I dreaded the days when my friend's mom would drive.

When it is my turn to drive my daughter's carpool, I PRAY that I arrive with plenty of time to spare. Maybe that's just my perfectionist nature, but I wouldn't want my daughter to be late to school because I couldn't get my act together.

Blessing to you!

Eric Grubbs said...

I've used this line before and I'll use it again: Bill Cosby once joked that he and his wife were intellectuals before they had the children. This line still kinda scares me about becoming a parent (which won't be happening anytime soon).

I get very frustrated with how I see parents treat their children and hide behind the "You don't know how hard it is" curtain at the same time. I know raising children is not a 9-5 job; it's a lifestyle. But I scoff at how parents treat their children as lost and wayward. So what happens when it seems like the parents are lost and wayward too? More frustration.

Being tardy to class was something that I feared in middle school and high school. I never got a tardy and I never got detention. I always assumed that my parents would be angry if ever did anything wrong. I wasn't a troublemaker or a bad kid; I had plenty of self-esteem issues that made me curl up and barely do anything.

I always thought that my parents (especially my father) were free of mistakes and could do no wrong. Well, they're not, but I grew up thinking that they were. I always feared letting them down (which I thought I did a few times, thus pouring on years of shame and guilt).

There were things that I would be forced to do and never could get the grasp of under my father's eyes. From riding a two-wheel bike to understanding basic math, the emotional bruises of not understanding those concepts were there for years. It wasn't until after I was in a stress-less atmosphere that I really understood these things.

Parents need to show their children a model of basic, everyday concepts in positive, understandable ways. Being late has never been looked high upon, so punctuality is a super important concept to teach. Let them know that you're not free of mistakes and they aren't free from them either.

Anonymous said...

I was late a handful of comsecutive times in middle school, but it wasn't my mom's fault. It was because I didn't get up on time, and she was tired of yelling at me about it. So, she just said "Come get me when you're ready." After causing myself to be late on a few important days I got the picture. Maybe a few of those kids are just thick-headed like me, and need to learn from personal experience.

Dee said...

I am the parent of two adult women aged 22 and 24. I have never missed a teachers meeting or any school function that I had to attend. I was usually early cause I am the kind that would rather be an hour early than two seconds late.

Of course it is hard to raise kids and to be everywhere at the same time but that is just what parents do for their kids and they should do it without complaining.

We never cursed much in front of our kids either. Oh, they knew life was not always peachy keen between mom and dad when they heard mom slam the pots and pans or the doors, or dad would sulk but name calling and cursing at each other was out.

I am betting your dad did a fine job with you.

Dee said...

I meant mom and dad. *s*

James said...

Some very cool words mate. I definitely agree with them all =)

Shawn said...

Agreed upon. I am often late, and that was my fault, but no matter how I went about being lazy in the morning, when my parents dropped me off, I was almost always there on time, maybe a few days where we were both running late. I wish they rubbed on me. My father more than my mother. He's the most punctual of all.