I have a gift for you.
Having now reached the age of adulthood, my 18-year-old daughter is now a full-fledged member of society. She’s a wonderful young woman. Bright, beautiful, and popular. You’ll love her.
You’ll start to take note of her growing absentee record at work. This will cross over into late bill payments, missed medical appointments, and more expressive frustration at others who cause her inconvenience. Eventually, she will have trouble holding a job, maintaining a home, and caring for her personal health. And if luck prevails, she will marry and have children to whom she will pass these remarkable skills, creating an evolutionary spiral into a blase pit of indifference.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of such ill-tidings. But I’ve tried to warn you. I’ve tried to get you on board with my kids. I’ve tried to teach them true values and ethics. I’ve done my best.
I am the mom who sent the 11-year-old down the street to the women’s shelter on Christmas morning to donate all of her presents, including the entire contents of a well-stuffed stocking, because she was clearly not impressed with either the quality or the quantity of goodies under the tree. I am the mom who spot-checks cell-phones and computers, who insists on meeting the friends – and their parents, who requires manners, who monitors bank accounts. My kids all clean toilets and do their own laundry; they know how to use the stove, the lawnmower, the vacuum cleaner, and the power tools. They know the difference between fault and responsibility.
But in the end, they reach an age where I’ve got nothing left. I’ve explained, told, asked, begged, pleaded, threatened, warned, taught, yelled, screamed, cried, and given up. Over and over again. I’ve now even used up my last vestige of power – the holy grail of teenage angst – the wifi password.
And still I sat here and watched this morning as the now-adult daughter jolted out of bed at 8:57 a.m. to ask me in a mild panic if I could drive her to school in ten minutes.
“Of course,” I replied between sips of my coffee, “not!! You’re on your own, Sweety.”
She muttered some blasphemous reply as she stomped into the bathroom. I heard the shower start at 9:05. The final exam started at 9.
I have spent years warning of consequences to such actions. If you screw up, then you will pay.
But Village, dear Village, you’ve made a liar out of me. There are no consequences. You’re making me out to be the fool. Already this school year, this daughter is graduating, even though she earned a mark of 39 in her Grade 12 required English. Without talking to me first, the teacher made a ‘judgement call’ and gave her a 50. Even after she missed or was late 44 classes out of 78. Even after she hadn’t handed in her final assignment on time. Even after I had spent months using every tool in my chest to try to get her to school on time. (The third morning she slept in after I imposed a $10 fine for every morning she was late, she rolled over, threw a $10 bill at me, and tucked back under the covers.) But she needs to graduate with her friends…
She has a part-time job. They love her. She’s an excellent worker – I’ve taught her how to clean. But she’s late 3 out of 4 shifts. But that’s okay, because she just doesn’t get paid for the time she’s late.
So when the school phones me this morning at 9:30 asking where my daughter is, I am thrilled! Ah ha ha! BUSTED!! Please, school, feel free to lock her out of her exam. Feel free to dock her grade for the marks she misses because of it. Send her home. I’ll deal with her. But please, let there be some consequences!! And yes!!! have the Principal call me back!!!
The next phone call I get is from the daughter herself, within an hour. I smile as I see the caller ID. I breathe, because she’s going to be upset, having to confess to me that she’s blown off a whole course. It’s about time. I will be stern, but understanding. I will bring the lesson home.
“Hello,” I answer carefully, keeping my voice as neutral as possible.
“Hi Mom, it’s me, can I go to my friend’s house I’m done my exam and everyone’s going over there to celebrate that school’s over and then I’ll be home later to get my uniform and you can drive me to work but first I have to stop at the bank, OK?”
“Oh, and what happened with the exam then?”
“Oh, Mr. So-and-So said I shouldn’t be late and that exams are really important and all that and then I just went and wrote it. It was pretty easy I think. I probably passed.”
And so Village, there you have it. So long as you’re not willing to back up my best efforts to make my kids accountable, to make them live up to their responsibilities and potential, so long as you’re willing to let them get away with everything, and tie my hands behind my back in the process, she’s all yours. I’ve done what I can. I’ve given it everything I’ve got. But I needed some help.