It's no crime if parents do not
have a perfect attendance record
Today’s rules of good parenting include two that ought to be repealed.
One amends an earlier rule, the one that says it is more important to be a friend to your children than a parent. Now parents are required to be their children’s chief confidant — via cellphone.
Time was children were loathe to share personal problems with a parent. The goal was to become an adult without constantly seeking advice from someone who would solve problems for you, or worse, respond with a lecture.
MY PHILOSOPHY was shaped by my mother, a private and secretive person. While there when needed, she did not encourage me to spill my guts about every teenage crisis, especially since most of them involved girls I was dating or wanted to date. (My mother may have avoided such conversations out of fear she would reveal something about her own adolescence. But I’m probably over-analyzing.)
I have three children, the first two were born in the 1960s during my first marriage; the third child arrived in 1980 during my second and last marriage. My older two children, who arrived before the latest rules went into effect, tend to be close-mouthed; my youngest shares every thought and emotion. If she’s holding back on some things, I’d rather not consider what they might be.
My older daughter, my only child who lives close enough to visit regularly, always arrives with news about my niece, who lives in Florida. It’s not that she and her cousin converse regularly, but because my niece has a Facebook page, which is like having her own reality TV program.
In the past parents were asked, “It’s 11 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” These days I ask my sister, “Have you read your daughter’s Facebook page today?”
Today's under-40 crowd put the word "social" in social media. Many have ended therapy sessions with their parents and have gone on to sharing their thoughts and feelings with the world, something that can be dangerous if you do it while driving.
THE SECOND relatively recent rule says parents must attend every event at which his or her children are participants; a really good parent will photograph or film that event and post it on You Tube or Flick’r. This rule is celebrated in countless movies and television shows when — crisis alert! — a parent is delayed or detoured on the way to a pouting child’s school concert or sports event.
When I was a teenager my friends and I didn’t expect — or even want — our parents to attend. We weren’t so insecure that we needed constant reassurance that our parents loved us. On the contrary, sports events in particular can bring out the worst in a parent.
My father was the complete jock who seemed to be reliving his youth through me. Trouble was, we didn’t share the same sports dreams. Luckily I quickly developed a thick hide and a sense of humor about his comments. I knew what to expect and sometimes did things I knew would upset him.
FOR EXAMPLE, there was a junior varsity basketball game during my sophomore year at Solvay High School. A teammate, Joe Cichocki, as part of his plan to impress Syracuse University coach Marc Guley, who was in attendance to scout Art Peters of the Baldwinsville varsity team, made a bet that he could score 30 points that night. This would be quite an accomplishment in a 24-minute jayvee game, so I decided I’d help him if I could.
Late in the third quarter Joe had already scored 21 points, and we were ahead by a big margin. The game turned sloppy and after a turnover, followed by a missed shot at the other end of the court, I found myself all alone about six feet from our basket. A teammate had rebounded the miss, noticed me down court and threw me the ball. But instead of taking the easy shot, I looked for Joe Cichocki, who was racing toward me, arms extended.
With as much flourish as I could muster, I handed the ball to Joe who made an easy basket that boosted his point total to 23. All the while I could hear the booming voice of my father, ordering me to “SHOOT! SHOOT!”
When we spoke after the game my father did not appreciate my explanation. Instead he offered to increase my allowance on a dime-per-point basis for the rest of the season. It probably was no coincidence that my best high school game was one my father was unable to attend.
(Incidentally, Joe Cichocki was taken out of the game after that shot. Our coach, usually oblivious to our antics, sensed something weird was afoot and that Joe was responsible.)
MY MOTHER'S presence at games also was worrisome. When I was in eighth grade she found herself the center of attention during an afternoon game. Our junior high school team was playing our arch rivals, Cherry Road School, in Westvale.
During the game a foul was called on the kid who was guarding me. This prompted a Cherry Road mom to stand, point at me and scream that the official had made a bad call. My mother took this as a derogatory comment about her son. Unfortunately she was seated next to the angry Cherry Road mom. Suddenly a loud argument erupted in the stands, and in the middle of that argument was my mother, who knew next to nothing about basketball, but was certain her perfect Jackie couldn’t have done anything wrong.
Of course, if my parents hadn’t been in attendance so often, my family wouldn’t have so many funny memories — though my sister and I found them much funnier than did our parents.
FOR SEVERAL years in the 1970s I was a baseball coach in the Warwick (RI) Police Athletic League. Few parents attended our games. It didn't appear to bother the players; if anything, they seemed relieved.
Part of the reason may have been the one father who did show up, even for practices. He was a constant thorn in our side, contradicting almost everything any of the coaches told his son.
In my perfect world, children also would play their games without coaches, or umpires and referees. We managed to do this when I was growing up, and the games we played — basketball, touch football and softball — were all the more enjoyable because we were free to do.
Many people seem to believe that keeping score puts undue pressure on young athletes. However, it may be the real stress comes from adults who supervise the games and from those who feel they must be cheerleaders.