The Avocado and Golden Rule

Indiana Junior High School, Circa 1979

Indiana Junior High School, Circa 1979

With my 8th grade daughter’s mid-term Parent Teacher Conference scheduled for this week, I find myself feeling guilty. Again.

“Hello Mrs. Molinari,” the teachers always start out, shuffling through files to find records pertaining to my child. “I’m sure you’ve been keeping up with your daughter’s grades on the online Parent Portal, and know that she turned several assignments in late this term.”

Every time, I stare, like a deer in the headlights, thinking, “Oh shoot! I forgot to check that Portal thingy again … where did I write the username and password down anyway?” But instead, I respond, “Yes of course, I check the Parent Portal frequently, and I am very concerned. Obviously, if I had been informed of these assignments, I would have certainly made sure that our daughter turned them in on time.”

“But Mrs. Molinari,” the teachers inevitably retort while I brace myself to be exposed as a fraud, “all the assignments are listed in advance on our class website and teacher’s blogs … you know that, right?”

“Well, certainly!” I lie, scanning my brain for some kind of excuse for my parental neglect. But inevitably, like some kind of overage juvenile delinquent who’s been cornered, I cower to the teacher’s authority, and take the blame.

I admit that I don’t check the Parent Portal as often as I should. I concede that I’ve never read the teacher’s blogs. I divulge that I don’t know the class website address. I confess to never joining the parents’ Facebook group, using the class hashtag, or following the school updates on Instagram.

I acknowledge that I haven’t figured out how to open the progress reports on Google Drive, and I reveal that I am totally clueless about this “Cloud” thingumabob that everyone keeps talking about.

I plead for forgiveness, and promise that from here on out, I’ll be good.

I sulk out of Parent-Teacher Conferences and combat my shame with self-pity, pointing out that our parents never had to worry about checking online grade portals and teacher blogs.

Parents in the 1970s came home from an honest day’s work in their gabardine slacks, and after a satisfying dinner of Swiss Steak and canned peas, retired to the den to relax with a Vodka Gimlet and a riveting episode of “Gunsmoke.”


After cleaning tables and washing dishes, the children of the 70s were expected to finish our homework with minimal parental supervision. If our book bags contained graded papers or report cards, we were expected to hand-deliver these items to our parents. There was no need for them to snuff out their Tareyton 100s or get up from their avocado and gold lounge furniture, much less remember complicated website addresses and passwords. All they had to do was glance down at the papers in their polyester-ensconced laps during the Chiffon Margarine commercials.

If the grades were bad, we got a lecture and were not allowed to go out and play. If the grades were good, our parents put the papers on our refrigerators with magnets.

Back in those days, parenting seemed straightforward — set clear expectations for kids, praise their accomplishments, and let the school do its job. Today, parental roles have changed, whereby teachers create and assign work, and parents are expected to research, monitor and enforce the details of assignments and grade progress.

I’m not sure which parental role is better for our kids, but I can’t help but think that I should have been born a generation ago.

I’d be quite comfortable in a Dacron sweater vest and gauchos. I’d have no problem whipping up a casserole using Spanish olives, cottage cheese or frankfurters. I’ve been known to put my children’s schoolwork on the refrigerator with magnets. And I’d sincerely enjoy an evening watching “BJ and the Bear” on a console television, minus the cigarettes, that is.

But I have to confess, I’m just not good at micromanaging my kids’ education.

Guilty, as charged.

report card


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Comments: 15

  1. Maz June 11, 2014 at 11:20 pm Reply

    Every parent deserves a little Gunsmoke now and then…especially in this electronic age.
    Access to the limitless amount of info “out there” is both a responsibility and a worry.
    I liked the days when “no news was good news”, and a teacher would call you in for a personal conference if there was a problem.

  2. Mary Jo May 8, 2014 at 8:14 am Reply

    Here’s a response when you feel criticized for not knowing the homework assignments “Thank you, but I already completed 8th grade…”

    • Lisa Smith Molinari May 9, 2014 at 10:18 am Reply

      I like that, but I always slink out of there with my tail between my legs!

  3. John Coleman May 5, 2014 at 9:24 pm Reply

    Hi, Lisa. I’ve got some thoughts about kids and homework that are kind of unpopular. Here goes: I figure if school gets a kid for 6-7 hours a day, that’s plenty. At that point, I think most kids have had enough and what they need is time to run around and make fake farts with their armpits. Speaking of farts, I’m an old one: 52. But when I was in school, I had minimal homework–by that I mean almost none. I don’t remember being tired or stress, as kids often are today.I guess my point is I really do feel your pain. The current educational climate almost demands that parents keep on and monitor their kids constantly. It’s exhausting. Ah well. Please know I wish you peace. Best, John

  4. energywriter May 5, 2014 at 9:08 am Reply

    Great story, Lisa. Left a long comment. sd

  5. energywriter May 5, 2014 at 9:07 am Reply

    Great story, Lisa.
    I’m glad I (and my children) went to school before it was electronic. Now I watch my daughter guide her grandchildren through their pre-school homework.(One mom is incapacitated and the other one works.) Frequently, I’m tagged to take one of the boys to B&N story time, another homework assignment. I don’t mind. It’s fun. But it just seems strange that pre-schoolers have homework.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari May 6, 2014 at 11:43 am Reply

      Yea, preschoolers should be making mud pies and dressing dolls. Someone should do a study on preschoolers who miss those rites of passage — how do they turn out?

  6. Deidre May 5, 2014 at 7:34 am Reply

    This is so true, I can’t stand that my 5 year old can’t just come home and color her paper no an adult has to read it to her. She in K+ she can’t read the paragraph of directions….half the time I don’t understand them. When school started we didn’t have internet having just moved. We had no information as to what was going on. What about people that don’t have computers and access to all those portal and stuff. I agree 100% I am not tied to a computer and do not have time to look here and there for what my children are suppose to be doing, give them an assignment and make them responsible to complete it, if they are falling behind call me or set up a meeting. When did the children not have to take on a little responsibility.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari May 6, 2014 at 11:41 am Reply

      I didn’t mean to touch a nerve, Deidre … why not go relax a bit … perhaps a glass of wine will help… HA! Just joshing, I get pretty fired up about this too!

  7. ermigal May 4, 2014 at 10:28 pm Reply

    Why does it have to be so complicated, I wonder? “The system” seems to keep parents at a distance with procedures like this. I don’t have an answer, but there has to be a better, more efficient way to stay on top of our kids’ progress. Maybe a topic for the parents’ group (aka PTO or whatever it’s called now)?

  8. lauriebest May 4, 2014 at 8:18 am Reply

    Oh, I’m so with you! And glad that my kids graduated well before this nightmare parenting thing happened. Now I can pretty much contain my ignorance of all things web based or ‘twittered’ so the world doesn’t know how low tech I am!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari May 4, 2014 at 11:41 am Reply

      I’m glad you get this Laurie …it’s good to know it’s not just me!

      • lauriebest May 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm Reply

        No, it’s not just you. I suspect you have lots of company!

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