I Am My Child’s Advocate

A working version of Mario Kart.

It is almost thirty years since this song came out but I remember when I first heard it. A bunch of us were hanging out together at a mutual friend’s house and someone put it on the record player.

We were a bunch of middle class kids who rode our bikes, skateboarded and had pretty good lives or so I remember. When I think harder about that time I remember the kids whose parents kept them in line with a belt and how some of them changed when their folks got divorced.

But most of us really didn’t have a reason to be all that angry, other than hormones. And let’s face it when you are 13-14 years old your hormones send you in a dozen different directions. Sometimes you don’t know what the hell to think or do.

So we would collect after school at the homes of those kids whose parents weren’t around and we’d screw around. Sometimes I would hear these other kids talk about how bad their parents were and wonder if they were being honest or if they were exaggerating.

My parents were always around and always involved in our lives. The idea that they wouldn’t be was quite foreign to me. I want it to be foreign to my children too.

I Have Your Back

It is important to me that my children know that I have their back. They need to know that I am always here. It is something that I have worked on since they were born. One day they’ll hit that time and place where they won’t want to talk to me but it doesn’t mean that they won’t want to or need to.

That is why I started building the foundation when they were really little. I wanted it to be seared upon their consciousness. I want them to know instinctively that dad is always around and will always help pick them up. It is all tied into why I have tried to teach them how to lose gracefully and what to do when they fail.

I want them to be able to deal with adversity without my help and with it.

Part of that process comes from them seeing that I won’t let people mess with them. Part of that comes from seeing what I do when something unreasonable, unfair and intolerable happens.

Problem Solving

I mention this because it happened today. There was an incident with my son in one of his classes that made me want to go ballistic. I told him that I was upset about this but I didn’t tell him that I think the teacher FUCKED UP. I didn’t because if he would have seen that it would have made it much worse.

So I explained to him that we were going to send an email to his teacher in which we addressed the issue and we did. It was a very polite note in which I explained what happened and why her response was wrong. I made sure that he saw that I didn’t yell or cry. It was straight and to the point.

But what he also didn’t see was that I emailed the administration too. The school knows that I am not one of the crazy parents. I don’t claim to have perfect children and I don’t complain unless it is serious. And when it is serious I come hard.

This is serious and I really am exceptionally angry. I am my child’s advocate and always will be. One day he’ll take on the responsibility of being his own advocate and I’ll be a sounding board he can bounce ideas off of.

For now it is a job I don’t mind doing, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want to scream at this woman. She should know better. Teachers have so much influence on our children and when they screw up….

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  1. Julie February 24, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Oh boy, this one really hit home for me. First, I had exactly the same thing happen a couple of weeks ago with my older son, and I went (very quietly) ballistic myself and ended up speaking to the principal for the first time. I wish I could get my husband to understand that you don’t criticize the teacher in front of the kid, but you let the kid know you are on his side and will take up for him. In this case, it was so bad that the kid didn’t even know what hit him, and even my husband listened when I told him to keep quiet about it.

    If you had said,”All I wanted was a Pepsi, but she wouldn’t give it to me” it would have soared me back to being 17.

    • Jack February 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Hi Julie,

      I am very sorry to hear that. It makes me crazy when the people who educate our children make these kinds of errors.

      I don’t expect them to be error free but I sure as help hope they are.

      Some of this can be so damn infuriating, especially when my mom won’t get me a Pepsi. All I wanted was a Pepsi. 😉

  2. Jens P. Berget February 24, 2012 at 6:25 am

    This is exactly what I’m thinking. I believe you’re doing a great job as a parent. It’s hard to stay calm when things are happening to our kids.

    I remember my dad told me when I was fairly young, that no matter what happened and how late it was, I should call him and he would come and pick me up. He said it in a way that I understood that it meant that it didn’t matter if I was drunk (even if I wasn’t allowed to drink). His point was this, he had my back, and no matter what I did and what happened, he should come and pick me up instead of me walking home in the dark or even worse, drive home.

    • Jack February 24, 2012 at 11:33 am

      Hi Jens,

      I am just doing what I can like everyone else. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes…

      That is a great message your father gave you. See how you remember it all these years later. That is what I want for my kids, to remember.

      Better for us to work together than separately.

  3. Joe February 24, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Jack, this is a post that reflects my feelings perfectly. I see many couples that my wife and I know getting divorced now, all of them with younger children. I find myself not caring about their relationship as much as wondering what the effect will be on their children. One of these kids is a close friend to my own son, and you can see the changes happening already.

    My goal is always to be involved in my childrens’ lives as much as possible without being suffocating. I don’t understand how the modern parent can think of divorce as an option as quickly as they do these days. The kids have to be first and foremost at all times.

    • Jack February 24, 2012 at 8:01 am

      Hi Joe,

      It is hard being a parent. There is an enormous amount of pressure on us but that is the gig.

      Sometimes it means taking a bullet and eating more crap than you might otherwise do.

      The hard thing is trying to balance it all. I don’t think every relationship is meant to last but if there are kids you can’t bolt as soon as it gets tough either.

  4. Elaine Spitz February 24, 2012 at 5:59 am

    Jack and Betsy, too – you’re doing all the right things – thank you for helping to make the world a better place by your example.

    • Jack February 24, 2012 at 7:58 am

      Hi Elaine,

      I used to work with kids. Many years ago I was a camp counselor, unit head, substitute teacher and youth director.

      I think that experience helped me to see both sides of the fence here. I don’t claim to know everything or be smarter than everyone.

      But I know that our kids have to know that we support them and that means we have to communicate with the adults that work with them.

  5. Betsy Cross February 24, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Okay…so a few weeks ago my Kenny, a Kindergartner was banned from the rest mats for giggling and being a distraction to EVERYONE (wonder where he gets that from?). I sent a note in to school the next day explaining that with a recent move, and family health issues that he can’t really understand, he copes by laughing. He got off the bus and said,”The note worked!” And I asked if he had learned to control himself better? Yes, magically overnight, too!
    THEN, i got a call from the school counselor who said the teacher had shared the note with the staff AND teachers! Was there anything they could do? I just shook my head and said to please ask more questions and be a little more compassionate while doling out punishments. The punishment did fit the crime. LOL! But Kenny didn’t want to go back to school before the note. He just thought his teacher was mean. How was HE supposed to know what was “wrong”? I assume teachers have too many discipline issues that really distract them, but why did I have to figure this meltdown on my own, only to have it over-shared by the school community? A few issues going on here. Right? My point is that on parents AND teachers ends there is behavior that has a root somewhere in the child’s life. And when my child acts out it takes a lot of talking, observing and trusting to sort it out and help. There are no short cuts.

    • Jack February 24, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Hi Betsy,

      One of the reasons that I send my kids to private school is for smaller classes because I figure that should help the teachers monitor things better.

      That situation you describe with your son is a great example of what happens when people communicate or don’t.

      If he can truly laugh at hard times that can be a blessing too. I relate to it, because I have been known to do the same.

  6. Hajra February 24, 2012 at 2:20 am

    I grew up around people used a lot of anger to express themselves and to show their feelings when something goes wrong. To this day, I consider myself a short tempered person. When I have a challenge in front of me or when I am upset with someone or over something, I think I resort to a lot of anger – mostly unexpressed but yes, that hurts me from the inside. What people don’t realize is that children pick up the smallest of behaviors and learn it and then apply it to get out of situations which they feel are similar. And that stays on for a long time.

    Though I constantly work on having a healthier expression of anger, I feel I still have a far way to go.

    I am so glad you are being the right model your children could ever have.

    • Jack February 24, 2012 at 6:10 am

      Hi Hajra,

      I am not a saint, not even close. Believe me the kids have picked up on habits of mine that they shouldn’t emulate.

      But we do the best we can and try to help show the kids that there are multiple ways to do things.

      I understand short temper because there are moments when my fuse is not much more than a nub.

  7. bdorman264 February 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Yes, you are a good dad. My parents divorced and us kids were pretty much left to ourselves. It certainly taught me independence in certain areas but got me in trouble in other areas. That was my roll model of what I didn’t want to happen to my kids and fortunately it didn’t. It makes a big difference when the parents are involved.
    Hopefully the e-mail did the trick. 

    • Jack February 24, 2012 at 5:16 am

      Well fortunately you figured it out and things fell into place.

      Humans are pretty resilient and resourceful, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little guidance.

      Hell, my parents were around and I still found ways to get into trouble.

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