Bad Parents

By Susan Walter October 22, 2012 08:00 AM
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Bad Parents

Bad parenting moments. We’ve all had them. I’m having one right now. My daughter was sent home from school today with a note from her teacher. In a sealed envelope: “to the parents of…”

I showed it to my husband. He had the same reaction I did. Apprehension twinged with horror. Our little angel did something wrong.

“You open it,” I said.

“No, you.”

“This is ridiculous,” I said. “She’s in Kindergarten, how bad could it be?”

As I opened the envelope, I imagined my daughter’s teacher shaking her head as she licked it shut. Poor, hapless, overworked parents. They have no idea how their lazy nonchalance is screwing up their kid.

I unfolded the note. My husband peered over my shoulder as I read the form letter: Your daughter does not meet the State standard for listening skills or following direction.

We looked at each other, then over at her. She was dancing wildly in the family room, jumping from chair to chair, entertaining-slash-tormenting her younger sister.

I decided to put the evaluation to the test. “Sophie, come over here, I need to talk to you.”

She didn’t look up.

“Turn the music down,” I told my husband. He did. I tried again. “Sophie, come here, please.”

“After this song,” she replied breathless, still dancing.

I looked at my husband. “We are sooo busted.”

“I asked you to come here,” I said. (Long pause while she continued to ignore me.) “Right now!” I held up the letter. “Do you know what this is?”

Okay, that got her attention. More curious than afraid, but I’ll take it.

“It’s a letter from your teacher,” I went on.

My daughter worships her teacher. She came to me. As apprehensive-slash-horrified as I was. I read her the letter. Her face flooded with shame. She ran from the room in tears.

Coward that I am, I sent my husband to go talk to her. He couldn’t do worse than I just did. He talked her off the ledge, explained to her that she was bright and fun and loved but needed to work on xyz. She told him she understood. She promised to change. Twenty minutes later when I was tucking her in she was already back to her mischievous ways. “Go to bed.” “I’m thirsty.” “Go to bed.” “I’m hungry.” “Go to bed.” “Snuggle with me…”

Now that I think about it, I cannot recall one instance when I asked my daughter to do something and she just did it.

“They want us to sign it,” my husband said.

“Sign what?” He read aloud: I have received notification that my child is currently working below standards in the above areas. He handed me a pen. I signed in my best penmanship.

Here’s why it hurt. At the end of the day, my husband and I are accountable for my daughter’s behavior. Whatever bad habits she learned she learned from us. If she has a discipline problem it’s because we have not effectively disciplined her. Her failure is our failure. And guess what? It’s embarrassing.

I try to be lighthearted about it. No kid is perfect (denial). Surely we can overcome this (I have no idea how). Maybe she’ll grow out of it (wishful thinking).

I spend an hour writing a six sentence letter to her teacher, being careful not to come off defensive. Trying to strike a tone of being serious without overreacting. Yes, I failed as a parent, but I write a damn good letter.

Not that it will help…