Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On Their Own

It's Not That Far, Honey
It's Not That Far Honey
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
I have a few cardinal rules for parenting...

Wait. No... I have several cardinal rules for parenting...

Hrm. Okay, actually I have bazillions of cardinal rules for parenting.

One of our hard and fast parenting rules pertains to 'helicoptering' or the avoidance thereof. DrC and I try so hard not to hover that we have achieved a state of zen subterraneanism. The manner in which our children venture forth into the world completely unguarded from the various slings and arrows of outraged Other Folk can and has been described as neglect. I prefer to think of it as creative unobstructionism.

While cruising, it is easy to forget how unusual we are because we literally swim in a sea of corner-case people. It is also true that the cruising community might well be the most supportive place in the world to raise children. In the absence of winged parents, the girls have spent years with cruisers in all shapes and sizes who want nothing more than to see them to a better place physically, emotionally, and educationally. Maybe small towns are like this, maybe communes. Hard to say. I just know that DrC and I -- never mind our daughters -- owe an exceptional debt of gratitude to the amazing people who raised the girls with us and who continue to support them.

Which is all to provide context for the oddly Rut Roh! quality of the week. The first hint that we're not the average North Shore family came in the form of an email from one of the girls' deans.

"Your child missed a day of class without a note and was late for two more. She says she has trouble catching the bus in the morning. Would you please write said child a note and help her get on the bus?"



"No really. Her problem. What's your policy for such things?"

"Um.... detention?"

"Great. Go for it."

"No note?"


"No help for the bus?"

"Absolutely not."


The child in question immediately stepped up to the plate. "Yeah, I screwed up. Yeah, I'll do detention. Yeah, I'm sorry. No, I won't do it again." She's now talking about staying every day after school for an hour in a self-imposed detention since it appears to be the best way to force herself to sit down and master physics. I don't know how much of that I believe, but I do know that she wasn't surprised that we wouldn't defend and protect her. We're not Uncle Sam. Her mistakes, her responsibility, and her job to fix it. And honestly? This child isn't a child any more. She's a very smart young woman who is making her own choices. Some of those appear in the short run to be surprisingly bone-headed while others are so smart they make my eyes water. Ultimately, I am positive she is going to be just fine, assuming we don't all kill each other before we get her off on her own. And if she's making decisions now that mean life will be tougher in the future, she gives every appearance of understanding the trade-off.

Another befuddling problem is the fact that every single person who interacts with the girls appears to think DrC and I give a damn about their scheduling commitments. I really don't care if they have a meeting, netball practice, rehearsal, or spray tan appointment. The sole service I am willing to provide is to add the events to the family calendar and print it once a week. As soon as the home network gets set up (please let those pay checks start to roll in!), I won't even do that. If paid, I will taxi them around town. You think I'm joking. Every month the girls get a bus allowance. If they want me to drive them because the skies are falling -- and in Auckland this is actually a literal weather condition "Skies Falling" -- then they pay me $1.10/person. I'm just about ready to route all the school notification spam to /dev/null.

Jaime at the Lakes
Jaime at the Lakes 
 Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
So the question becomes at what point are we failing to provide the supportive and loving environment deemed necessary for kids to thrive? What I believe what might ultimately redeem us is that we will do just about anything the girls ask us to do. Dad, can you please chaperone the intermediate school disco? Yes. Mom, can you put my hair in pin curls every morning for the play? Of course. Dad, can you read my essay? Yep. What makes people mean? Can you find me an alternative to going to college straight out of high school? Can you help me find white knee high socks? Why is my body doing this? What is the square root of 7? Can you stay up with me while I try to make the national level in this math game? Did you download Glee? How do I calculate the volume of a bottle of mustard? Where's the cat? Can you help me build a shelf? Why are people homophobic? Clearly, we are not completely disengaged, though it's hard to say if the pull method of parenting rather than push notifications is any superior.

So no, Dean Good Guy, we're not going to rescue her. No Director Great Show, we're not going to hold her hand and make her little sandwiches. No Coach Energetic, we don't plan on driving her to morning practice. We suck. Fortunately, the girls don't, so don't worry about it too much. They'll get there.


brains said...

If you aren't allowed to make mistakes (and take responsibility for them), then you can't learn from them.

Mike said...

What an awesome post!


judith said...

Good for you! I feel the same way. I used to tell my daughter to remember the 3 B's when getting dressed for High School as there was a dress code. The 3 B's were easy... No Boobs, No Butts, No Bellies. If any exposure happened in these areas then she'd get to wear whatever the Nurse had on hand, I wasn't leaving my job to run home for a change of clothes for her.
One of the issues with child rearing that we'd get constant riff-raff from other parents was the subject of buying them a car the minute that they turned 16. We wouldn't let them get their driver's license until they had a job and made enough money to buy their own car and pay for the insurance on it. We were NOT financing their wrecks and they were NOT allowed to drive our cars. Needless to say they were both close to 18 when they had finally saved enough to pay cash for a car (co-sign on a loan... NEVER) and pay for insurance. Well into their 20's now and they haven't whinged about it since they were 17.

hbunny said...

Fantastic post! Really made me think.

Kyle said...

Great post, Toast.

j-slice said...

I was in complete agreement until you talked about charging your daughters for "taxi fare". Being a long-time reader I know your girls are way more independant than most children I interact with these days, certainly more than I was when I was growing up. But I liked having that safety net. My parents liked being involved in practices and rehearsals; my mother took it as an opportunity to catch up on her own work, and the car rides gave us a chance to decompress and spend time together with little distractions.

Great post! You should publish this in a parenting magazine!

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