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.