It Ain’t Sexy, But It Works


Me, being the "fun" parent with a much-younger Sami

Are you living an accountable life?  I won’t presume to tell you what you should be accountable to.  You get to decide, and you can keep it a secret.  But, whatever it is, are you living up to it?  By that I mean, do you follow the rules when no one is watching?  None of this “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” crap; there couldn’t be a more destructive concept to the fabric of our society, in my opinion.  Sure, it’s funny.  I like funny.  But a joke shouldn’t guide your moral compass.

Accountability is a bedrock, a foundation, a cornerstone.  It comes from within, and it is individualistic and collective.  You can be accountable to your deity, your country, your spouse, your employer, yourself, or, even better, all of the above.  Kids can add “to parents and to their schools” to that list.

I have a confession: I am not always 100% accountable.  I get lazy.  I get complacent and think no one is “watching.”  Consider parenting, for example.  Isn’t enforcing accountability with your kids — day in, day out — one of the hardest things to do as a parent?  I think it is.  We remember them as the precious toddlers they used to be.  We want to be the fun parent occasionally, instead of the drill sergeant.  We have a 7:30 a.m. client call, so when they walk out the door late on their way to school we think, “well, she deserves the consequences the school dishes out,” but we don’t follow-up to ensure they occurred.

Some days, I’m just so damn tired.  As a parent, I am the one who is to be the example to follow, the motivator, the monitor, the enforcer, and the cheerleader.  But I check-out occasionally and find my attention to the details, the little “tells,” has slipped a notch.  I lack accountability.

I want to raise responsible kids.  Kids who follow the rules even when the homeroom teacher isn’t turning her attendance roster in to the administrative office.  Even when the school isn’t handing you demerits for the tardies and absences as they rack up.

The assistant principal of my almost-13 year old daughter’s middle school called last week to tell me that Sami had THIRTY-TWO unexcused tardies and absences to homeroom.  Unbelievable.  But here’s a kicker to the story — they decided they weren’t going to do anything about it except give her two demerits, because they had failed to follow their own policy.  (Oh believe me, we were holding her accountable at home already — she may not leave the house until she’s 30)

So I did something unthinkable last week.  I asked the school to hold my child more accountable.  I asked them to reconsider raising the consequences to my child.  Am I the first parent in the history of this middle school to make this request?  I hope not.  The real question is, will they do it?  Because I am serious: I don’t feel I can afford to let them show my impressionable daughter that she escaped accountability to the school.

I can’t wait to tell you the whole story, on Wednesday.

Done with my rant until then,

Pamelot

Comments
11 Responses to “It Ain’t Sexy, But It Works”
  1. nat says:

    This essay on moral accountability as a parent and member of the earth community is terribly inspiring. Thank you Pamelot for telling the truth alot and good luck with the girl child who has taken tardiness to an unfashionable height. Intuitively speaking, perhaps Sammi needs the equivolent of community service but at the school/grade level to occupy the before homeroom and leading into homeroom time, for which she is accountable (versus a punishment). A chore if you will but where she may derive purpose and actual reward through adding value somehow… Also, you are a superb role model for me, as a parent! I look forward to reading on Wednesday.

    • Pamela says:

      That’s a really great idea on the community service. One thing I am thinking is having her volunteer in some way where she gets to be around kids who don’t have the support and advantages she does, and helps THEM. I’m going to look into it. Labor at home is a large part of her consequences. We have her on “exceptional child” performance expectations right now.

  2. Michele Matney says:

    Pam, Last year when I found out Sarah had been staying in at lunch for 2 weeks–why it took 2 solid weeks for a teacher report I don’t know but that’s another story–doing homework I banned her from the classroom Valentine’s party and then her teacher let her attend b/c she said it was “too harsh.” I’m sure you can guess how that went over with me. OF COURSE, there were consequences at home.

  3. Christina says:

    I saw my high school principal at a family wedding recently. He called me out on stuff I did *cough* years ago. 32 absences without a phone call? I’d have been running laps, washing his car, tutoring middle schoolers, and certainly grounded For Life after 2.

  4. Paula Lancaster says:

    I wholeheartedly believe in your definition of accountability. In my home, we call it consequences for every action – whether they be good or bad. Sure, parenting can become routine because unbeknownst to our children, we have our own lives to live too. (Besides, keeping 5 people’s schedules in your head continually will overload the circuits occasionally.) Sometimes we do slip or become lax and do not follow up. But here’s the kicker: We do not do it to see if we can get away with it. Missing class or being late once or twice is going to happen. Missing 32 classes is by choice. She didn’t get caught, no one said anything. There were no consequences and being a kid she thought she was home-free. For me, here is where parenting becomes challenging. Finding the right consequence to fit the action. Something to be painful long enough for the lesson to be absorbed through their thick skulls. I like the community service idea. I figure they can do community service as anyone would have to do when they have broken society’s rules. Send her my way. I have a daughter entering 5th grade Intermediate School next year. Maybe she can point her in the right direction! PS. GO MOM! I am interested to see what the school says, but I am not holding my breath.

    • Pamela says:

      Amen, soul sister. I’m looking into the community service aspect. She had expressed an interest in volunteering at an animal shelter, but I am concerned that would be too much like fun ha ha. But I’m thinking of having her do it once a week through the summer. Still pondering the options on animal shelter versus other opportunities.

    • Pamela says:

      You know, I’ve been thinking about your offer to have me send Sami your way. She’d make such a pleasant addition to your household for the summer.🙂 JK

  5. Hi Pamela

    I definitely see this aspiration to accountability in you. I’ve admired it before in just reading your blogs and have found it terribly inspiring. I especially saw it when you wrote the blog about your use of time. You also hold yourself accountable for the use of each minute of the day, to get the most out of them. This will be ingrained in your daughter and she can’t help but come along eventually, as long as you keep holding her accountable. Maybe she needed this little lapse to test how the concept works for her.

    Beautiful essay!
    RuthAnne

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks, Ruthanne. Something I pondered after the interchange with you and with Anita, is that to me, part of “it” is making sure I do schedule in enough “family/kid” time to have downtime with them without it stressing me out. Sadly, I am wound so tight that I must “make it ok” to be spontaneous. My husband is very similar🙂 Anyway, Sami definitely needed this, and we know now our teenage years “test” with her has begun and we are on parental high alert. I believe kids need the security of defined boundaries in their uncertain world (age appropriate) and Sami seems to feel happier and more loved as a result, odd as that may sound. She’s my little shadow now, lots of hugs, lots of sitting in my lap (she is MY SIZE so that is humorous), lots of I love you Mommy’s without prompting. OR SHE JUST MIGHT BE WORKING ME LIKE A PROFESSIONAL TEENAGER!🙂

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