I had an epiphany the other night while watching TV Land. We did our normal MASH episodes to wind down, (and they have started over recently from the beginning), and Annie, my oldest girlie, came into our room and climbed into our bedroom recliner, as the Cosby Show followed up. She mentioned that the show had started to "grow on her", and she and I watched first an episode where Rudi got in trouble for trying to wear the wrong clothes for the season, and then Vanessa wasn't prepared for her first junior high science fair, playing it safe. I clicked the DVR info, and it detailed that the show was from the 80s. Cliff and Claire Huxtable dealt with their 5 children, then, with steady discipline, love, high expectations and blended into the mix great music, culture and a common sense vision of education. What came to me like a flash was that I was homesick for the Huxtable household.
In the last week and a half, I have dealt with an absentee mother with special needs children, as the youngest of the two brothers has become the "smelly" kid, wth clothes not washed and basic hygiene not observed. His mother's presence in their household had become more rare, as she had developed a relationship out of town, according to him, and his grades had collapsed, with his bewilderment growing. Another day brought a student who had scratches on his face, a black eye and a knot on his forehead, with a parent and a sibling attacking him on to the way to school, in the car. Fragility and a lack of direction has bedeviled so many this year, with parents simply sighing and signing over their children to homeschooling or the nearby alternative program, rather than staying the course toward success, which would require work and committment and every day grind.
With 4 perfectly imperfect children of my own, Amy and I strive to be involved parents in our kids' lives, their school work, their development as people, with morals and structure. It doesn't make me an expert, but I have developed some precepts that I want to follow, need to follow, and I hope on a daily basis I might see from the parents of the children at MHS.
Don't let your kid become the smelly kid.
Being messy and disheveled is a natural part of high school for a lot of kids, but there is a line crossed, when clothes aren't clean, showers aren't taken, and basic care of normal facial issues is let go, for more than a day. The scorn that kids face in close quarters leads to loneliness, detachment, subconscious shame. Make them shower, check their clothers, buy them Stridex, Axe, Sure, toothbrushes, razors. Don't assume they know how or when to use any of the above.
Spy on them like you work for the CIA.
Respect for growth and independence is certainly a part of good parenting, but kids ARE up to things, on more than one occasion. Monitoring Facebook, checking texts, studying the history on websites, smelling clothes, checking cars, should be a fundamental threat or normal expectation. Knowing where they are, who their friends are, the time they come in, is concern not nosiness. I am constantly amazed at the disconnect between families. Or the lack of responsbility. The school connecton? It comes to school with them, without fail.
Let them fall short, disappoint, feel pain.
If a student doesn't turn in projects on time, doesn't study for tests, doesn't turn in homework, they deserve to fail. They DESERVE to fail, and it is their fault. This was avoidable, if they checked Blackboard, went on PowerSchool, sat in the front of the room, made flashcards, asked questions, studied with friends. They don't need you to attack teachers, buy them a new car, look the other way on curfews, hold their hand when the latest bad report card comes in, poo-pooing the bad away. They need resolve, resilience, responsbility. Hold them accountable, while making sure they have they folder they need, that they turn in notes and go to tutoring when they are absent, that they pay for summer school.
Go to meetings with pen and paper and questions.
There are many opportunities to get information about what is going on at school and to help plan for the future at MHS. Tonight, there is a meeting about newest trends in drug use. Coming up after Spring Break, we host a night called, "Ready, Set, Apply!" for juniors and their parents. We invite parents to come in for scheduling conferences. There is Project Graduation that is about activities for seniors throughout their final year. College fairs, FAFSA night, requested conferences with teachers and counselors and principals, ARDs, 504 meetings, all need and deserve your presence.
Love them all the way to the end of the show.
They spun Denise off to Hillman College, because Lisa Bonet became difficult, then they brought her back when "A Different World' lived without her, Theo was diagnosed with dysleksia but became a teacher, Rudi stopped being cute, so they brought in a precocious clone, as things evolved on The Cosby Show. A consistent standard was love, accountability, musical numbers on anniversaries, growth. Hanging in there through tough times, through sullen non-communication, through heartache will pay off, in the end, and they will pass it onto their children.
There is so much to learn from the Cosbys, and I hope that I always strive to be like Cliff. I do have a starter set of colorful sweaters. I need to brush up on my jazz.