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Report Card for Mom

Report Card Time for Mom

By Chris Jordan

What if the tables were turned and you as a parent were going to get graded on your child’s report card for things like your child doing their homework, coming to class prepared, getting enough sleep, your perceived involvement in their education? How do you think you would do?

I am not sure that I would do very well.

I am not the parent who meets their kids for lunch every week. I honestly had no idea that people did this regularly until my kids told me, it seems so odd to me. I didn’t go on every field trip, I was 1-4 this school year. I didn’t go to every class party, I’m not sure why I need to go stand in the classroom and watch them eat cupcakes on the last day of school. The mothers who volunteer to be Class Mom deserve sainthood, truly I do not think that there is a more time consuming volunteer position. On the other hand, I did make it to every special event: award ceremonies, concerts, and of course extra curricular sports in which my children participated. I was in regular contact with my childrens’ teachers when I needed to be, something which varied greatly from child to child, as their needs are very different.

Lisa Belkin wrote recently in her NYT column:

It is a complicated idea, taking on the controversial question of whether parents, teachers or children are most to blame when a child fails to learn.

But the thinking goes like this: If you look at schools that “work,” as measured by test scores and graduation rates, they all have involved (overinvolved?) parents, who are on top of their children’s homework, in contact with their children’s teachers, and invested in their children’s futures. So just require the same of parents in schools that don’t work, and the problem is solved (or, at least, dented), right?

I am not so sure.

*****

I am sitting on the bleachers watching my middle school age son play football. Around me parents are having various conversations about their kids and summer plans and inevitably the topic turns to homework.

“So Johnny has been saying that there is no way he can finish his project in school. I told him he had better bring it home so I can help him finish it!”

“Oh, I know. I am going to be up all night doing Jaymie’s report. With him, of course.” Cue nervous twittering laughter.

“Oh, please, most of the time I just do it myself. Just to get it done.”

“I know. I am so afraid that if Johnny were left to his own devices he would get the worst grades.”

“Why are kids just so unmotivated?”

I know I should say that I am shocked, but the truth is that I am not. I see it all the time. Parents so afraid to let their kids fail that they refuse to let it happen. Ever. They micromanage their children’s lives because they are afraid in part of what people will think of them if they don’t. And for the most part it seems that the schools my children attend expect that. They expect over involved parents. They want to be seen as being the best parents ever and the way they do that is by making sure their child succeeds academically, even if they have to do the succeeding for him.

I was at a birthday party where one of the mothers admitted she routinely took her 4th grade child’s online AR test. For the uninitiated, AR tests are online tests that children take after reading a book to gauge their comprehension. The score on these tests count as grades. When my son decided not to read the book I let him suffer the consequence of using recess at school to read. Then when he tried to skim the book instead of read it, I allowed him to fail the AR test.

I am sure some of the teachers shake their head and wonder what is up with his mother. Why isn’t she standing over him, bullwhip in hand.

Similarly, my 12 year old son could not seem to remember to go to his first period class prepared. The teacher actually suggested that it was my responsibility to make sure he brought his pencil to class each day. When I told her that I disagreed, that my responsibility was making sure he went to school with all the supplies he needed but something as simple as bringing a pencil to class was my son’s job, she suggested I go to school with him and make sure he got to class with his pencil. I had laughed, but she wasn’t joking.

*****

But what would happen if the schools started handing out grades to parents? How would they grade a parent who has taken the stand that homework is the child’s responsibility? What about parents who have kids doing well in school, but they themselves are not very involved? What about the parent that does their child’s work for him?

I have decided that I do not do homework. Period. End of story. No matter what the teachers may think of me. I’ll admit that this does not come easy. Often times I too want to do the homework for my kids just to get it over with.

I facilitate homework time. I have the supplies ready that one might need to do their homework. I will gladly proof read something that has already been written. I am happy to discuss novels. I’ll brainstorm topics for research papers. But I will not create original content myself.

If we started grading parents, as one Florida lawmaker proposes, who would decide on the grade and what criteria would be used?

Would I get an F for allowing my kids to go to school without having their homework done? Would I get an F because my son leaves his pencil in his locker every other day? Would I get a D for the number of times I did not sit in a tiny chair and watch my child eat cupcakes?  And what happens if you get a bad grade as a parent?

I am opposed to grading parents for all the same reasons that I am opposed to grading teachers based on the test scores of students.  Not everything can be quantified.

I hear people bemoan the fact that young adults today are lacking in personal responsibility. But how can that really be a surprise when they have been robbed of learning that their actions have consequences. If you are always being “saved” how will you learn? I feel like it is an important life lesson that is best learned when you are young and the consequences are small.

Better to fail a 4th grade test, than a 10th grade test, than a semester in college. Better to learn time management skills now than when they go off to college and have distractions far greater than shooting hoops in the driveway. Better to learn now that how your life turns out is your own doing, the successes and the failures, even your parents can’t save you from yourself.

One day my kids will all do their homework without my prodding.  And maybe one day my 12 year old will remember to actually bring his pencil to class.  On that day I’ll deserve an A in parenting, because my children will have learned the most important lesson of all, personal responsibility.  All the times I allowed them to stumble will have been worth it.

I just hope that with that A comes a Caribbean cruise and a stiff drink.  I’m going to need them.

Published June 10, 2011. Last updated June 25, 2018.
Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, the...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is almost 6.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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