Monday, September 28, 2015

Good Intentions, Poor Execution
Last week, my daughter's school sent out a mass email informing parents that we'd reached the midpoint of the marking period. I'll be the first to admit that this sort of reminder is one I both need and appreciate, as time seems to be flying by this fall.

What I appreciated less, however, was the tone of the rest of the email. Essentially, I was informed that I should be checking on my child's grades and initiating a conversation with her about her "current levels of performance...and to consider how to maintain and/or strengthen all grades." Once again, this was a mass email, sent to every parent with a child in the high school.

My child will be eighteen in less than two months. In less than a year, she'll be a college freshman, where I can promise you that any and all efforts on my part to be a helicopter parent will be, shall we say, discouraged. If I've been doing my job correctly, I should be discussing her school life with her on a regular basis, not stalking her electronically in an effort " consider how to maintain and/or strengthen all grades."

I can think of very few things my independent (and honor-roll) daughter would like less than the very things her school is telling me I should be doing as a "conscientious" parent. And as a parent whose goal has been to raise an independent child who is intrinsically motivated and doesn't need her parents nagging her about her grades, I resent the implication that I'm not a conscientious parent if I don't stalk my daughter's GPA just because I can.

I know that their intentions are good; but we all know what's paved with good intentions. I know that I'm incredibly blessed to have a child who's intrinsically motivated and doesn't need me to avail myself of the ubiquitous electronic means provided by her school to check up on her. I also know I'm not doing a very good job as a parent if that's the only way I can find out what's going on in my daughter's life -- academic or otherwise.

Photo: Clarita via Morguefile
Once I got over my initial vexation (the aftereffects of which I'm clearly still working through), I realized that what's at work here is the evil duo of paperlessness and standardized testing, whose offspring is none other than helicopter parenting. In the old days, we got notes and phone calls from teachers when our kids needed help; no news was good news. Kids' grades belonged to the kids and teacher salaries and school district reputations didn't rise and fall on parental involvement in said grades. And parents raised kids to step out on their own and face the world equipped to do so. Sure, they hovered in the wings, where kids knew they were if they needed them, but most self-respecting young adults didn't want their parents fighting their battles for them.

And my goal from the very beginning has been to raise exactly that kind of young adult. Through a combination of persistence, blood, sweat, tears and miracles, we've managed to do something resembling exactly that. And that is what conscientious parents do.

So the next time the high school sends me an email like the one I got last week, I'm hoping it comes with an unsubscribe option. If it doesn't, I'll need to conscientiously utilize my delete key.

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