Of all the brilliant Dave Barry lines, "You can't make this stuff up" remains high on my list--an extension in a sense of Mark Twain's, "Truth is stranger than fiction. Because fiction has to make sense."
A Florida couple was recently arrested for giving marijuana and cocaine to their middle school children in order to encourage the kids to go to school, do their homework, that sort of thing.
Yes, I wish I were making this up.
But there is a lesson here for all loving parents and no, that lesson is not "Do not give your middle school age children marijuana and cocaine in order to encourage them to do their homework" because all my gentle readers have managed to internalize that lesson along with other subtle learning including but not limited to "Don't sit under an apple tree with a pregnant moose on your head" and "Don't stand on one foot in a lightning storm with a metal fork stuck in your eye."
No, the lesson is even more blindingly obvious and the lesson is as follows: Do not abnegate your responsibilities as parents, not for a minute, not for any reason, not ever. Eternal vigilance is the price not only of freedom but also of good parenting. Yes, it is easy to motivate children by giving them marijuana and cocaine in order to encourage them to do their homework, but keep your eyes on the prize. Every time it would be easier to sit your child in front of a glowing rectangle so you can consume an alcoholic beverage, THAT IS THE TIME to ask your daughter if she would like to give you a hand bathing the dog. Every time it would be easier to do your child's homework FOR him rather than WITH him, THAT IS THE TIME to examine your motivation and ask yourself why it is so important to you that he gets good grades even if--especially if--he is unable to do his homework on his own.
The old English teacher in me cannot help but suggest we take a moment away from our regularly scheduled newsletter to review some antonyms: The opposite of "teensy-weensy" is "ginormous." The opposite of "look before you leap" is "he who hesitates is lost." And the opposite of children who have half a chance of growing up to be happy and healthy is "giving your middle school age children marijuana and cocaine to encourage them to do their homework." Were we working on synonyms instead, "egregious child abuse" would be the phrase that might spring to mind.
Parenting is hard work. Babies cry in the middle of the night and need to be changed and cuddled when you're exhausted from a long work day. Preschoolers have frequent come-aparts and need comforting and reassurance that the world is basically a safe place. Middle school kids get out of the car at school only to discover that they have forgotten not only their homework but also their shoes.
But the fact is that you made a deal. When your OB said, "ten centimeters, one more deep cleansing breath then it's time to push, this is it, I can see your baby's head, it won't be long now," you swore that all you wanted was ten fingers and ten toes for your baby. Ten fingers and ten toes and you didn't care if she ever learned to read or went to college. You swore it didn't matter if your child was an accomplished ballerina or pitched the seventh game of the World Series. You swore that if only your baby were healthy you would do the hard work, the 2:00 a.m. feeding, the difficult conversation about reproductive biology, the car pool to the mall with those obnoxious pimply faced kids from down the block who talk too loudly and never shut up and keep saying "like" and "you know" as if those phrases communicated anything. You swore you would do whatever it took for as long as it took if only your about to be born child had ten perfect little fingers and ten flawless little toes.
And I didn't make that up; I couldn't make that up. Because your commitment to your kids is truer than true. Truer than the summer rain, truer than the day you met your life time partner, truer than a Labrador puppy leaping off the end of the dock into the lake, truer than anything that has ever happened on this non-descript, blue-green rocky planet for the past four and a half billion years. And a deal is a deal and you can't quit now. There are few "time outs" and no "do-overs" in the game of parenting.
You can continue to fulfill your part of the bargain by not giving your middle school children marijuana and cocaine in order to encourage them to do their homework. You can follow up by modeling sober, ethical behavior and by taking the proper but more difficult course throughout every long day in the lives of your beloved children.
Because a deal is a deal.
David Altshuler, M.S., guest blogger and Informed Families Board member, has been helping students and families make good decisions for almost 35 years. He helps students and families choose and apply to colleges and boarding schools as well as schools for students with learning differences or special emotional needs. David Altshuler is the author of Raising Healthy Kids In An Unhealthy World, which you can purchase here.
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