Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Maternal mind changers

Last night, I attended the annual back-to-school night at Emily's elementary school. The assistant principal, who looked to be about 24 years old, went over the attendance policy with us. He stressed the importance of attending school regularly, and went over the school's policy for calling in sick kids or taking a planned absence.

"Those of you who are planning to go to Disney World, well, shame on you," he deadpanned.

Cue nervous laughter from the parents, especially the ones who like to go to DW in November.

"I'm just kidding," said the young 'un in the tie. "I just wish you had been my parents."

No kidding. I wish I had been my parents, too. My parents subscribed to the "You must be dead to miss school" policy. My parents weren't afraid to let you know about those parents who kept their kids out of school for a mid-winter beach vacation. For instance, when I lived in Florida, my parents visited every February. (They were well out of school and didn't need to fill out any prearranged absence forms.) Still, my father got his swim trunks in a wad when he'd see 8-year-olds frolicking in the sand.

"I wonder what they missed in school today," he'd muse. "I wonder if they're going to ever get another chance to learn that."

I tended to agree with him, remembering the days when I'd struggle to make up homework for a mere two days home with the flu. School trumped vacation. Period. I'd say that only funerals trumped school, but my parents sent my brother and me to school on the morning of my grandfather's funeral, only allowing us to come home at lunchtime to attend the mid-afternoon service. Family vacations during the school year were high on my list of things I'd never do as a parent. The list also included parking the kids in front of the TV, letting them stay up until midnight on any day except New Year's Eve, making them pay for every luxury item they crave so they'll appreciate them more, and taking them to church every Sunday.

Truth be told, though, I've fallen short on most all of the abovementioned things. We've done a couple Disney trips in January, although I will argue that they were prompted by a soccer tournament that happened to fall in January, and we planned the trip to minimize the time away from school. I even sent the girls to school for half a day when our flight didn't leave until 2:30. I've let them stay up as long as they darned well pleased this summer and over Christmas break, as long as they didn't bug me after I went to bed at my normal 11 p.m. The TV is on all the point, to the point where Spongebob is part of the normal background noise of our home. As for luxury items, well, we kind of missed the boat on that, because our kids don't have money. We screwed up the whole allowance thing, mostly because we couldn't agree on what chores were necessary to earn the allowance. And church, well, we've recently recommitted to going each week, as long as we're in town and healthy. This time we mean it.

I'm not giving up, however. I still have a list of things I am going to stick to. These include:

  • No dating until 16. I predict this will be the source of many headaches during the next four years. Dating will be defined as boy/girl, no chaperones, no other people. I'm not sure of the group date thing. Maybe 15? Already, I'm hearing ideas of going to the movies with a girlfriend, and a boy just happens to be there…. Gah.
  • The first car will be a clunker. I'm thinking that a nice 1996 Toyota Corolla will be a good find in another four years. Maybe I'll splurge and get a 1992 Camry. Insurance must be subsidized by the driver.
  • No parent-free spring break trips. Sorry, kids. If you don't want to hit the beaches with Mom and Dad in April, you're not hitting the beaches. I've seen too many "Girls Gone Wild" commercials.
  • No ridiculous amounts of money spent on sports. I'll get back to you on how that goes in a few years.
  • No computers in the bedroom. I want to be able to sneak up on them when they're AIMing.
  • College must be subsidized by the student. A part-time job must be procured by senior year of high school, to start contributing to college expenses.
  • No pets smaller than a cat. I re-instituted this rule after the last of 11 carnival goldfish went to the great fishbowl in the sky a few months ago.

I'd list more, but I hear my 12-year-old's cell phone ringing. Yes, that would be the cell phone she wasn't going to get until high school.

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