The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By: Patti Bankson

Most “role models” = a parent’s worst nightmare. (If not, maybe some restructuring of standards is needed?) Imagine your daughter wanting to grow up to be Lindsay Lohan, or your son wanting to be Charlie Sheen. Yikes! Unfortunately, there’s hardly a suitable hero in sports, anymore, either, whether nationally, or locally.

Imagine your high school’s (whatever) game is one of your family-night activities… you’re always there cheering the team on to victory. Or defeat. Whatever. Then, boom! A bombshell is dropped on your community. Nine boys from the team you’ve supported are suspended, for drinking. Used to be suspension followed some “relatively minor” infraction, like not keeping up your grades.

In another incident, ten high school athletes were suspended for attending an adult hosted high school drinking party, described as a “coed drinking sleep-over for minors”. Not surprisingly, parents were upset… not because of the “adult” involved, but because the school superintendent had sole authority, to impose the suspensions… because some parents thought it should be up to the students’ “peers” to decide what behavior merits suspension… or not. Fortunately, someone in their community… the superintendent, actually… understood that we owe our kids… of all ages… more than a dismissive pat on the head, while sticking our heads in the sand, as they make ill-advised, possibly life-threatening, decisions.

I think the real problem(s) when parents abrogate their responsibilities, are… So many parents are so busy trying to get ahead, or just to survive, that they have little, or no, time and energy, to give their children. I get that working isn’t always optional. I also get that our kids don’t differentiate… adults may know that the difference between working, and not working, is staying alive… avoiding being homeless and hungry. But, guess what? Kids don’t make those distinctions… they’re either lonely for mommy and/or daddy, or they’re not… they’re either learning life’s lessons from you, or someone else. And, trust me, if you’re not doing the teaching, someone else definitely is… and you may not know who taught them what until the day they’re suspended from school, or picked up by the police, or you get the call from a hospital no parent wants to get.

Another reason adults punt on their responsibility to their children? They choose their own behavior as the “standard”… that leaves them having trouble teaching them they shouldn’t drink, or do drugs, or drive while under the influence of either… they feel hypocritical. They think there’s something wrong in a “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” approach. Perhaps. On the other hand, teaching kids to learn from someone else’s experiences, instead of being determined to learn everything the hard, painful, future-wrecking, life-threatening way is certainly worth the effort… and whatever explanations you feel you may owe them for the fact that you (obviously?) took the hard, painful way to the truth. Or maybe you’re trying to be their friend. But, they don’t need another friend; they need a parent… that would be you.

Can’t decide on your kids’ Christmas gift? How about this from the above superintendent, who said: a “culture of accountability” (is)… “a gift the community gives to (their) kids.” I say, it’s a great gift from you, as well… plus, it’s The gift that keeps on giving.

About The Author Patti Bankson:
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