No Recess for You! I have not been to any of my children's 5th grade promotions. Yeah, I know. Bad dad. No recess for me. I have been to many of 5th grade promotions for other people's children, but not to any for my own. I have taught 5th grade at various times in my career, and as one can imagine, I have been to more than a dozen. After all, I have been in the education field for about 32 years.
The only thing I have done longer has been that I played in a punk rock band, which I have done for about 36 years. There are no 5th Grade promotions for punk rockers though.
So, as I said, I have never been to any of my children's 5th grade promotions. To my credit, I did make it to their kindergarten promotions, and their preschool promotions. For my older children I actually attended their middle school promotions. Lots of fanfare. Last month I went to my daughter's high school graduation.
But the 5th grade promotion has been an elusive beast. Now that my youngest has finished his, it will be my legacy of failure: The Dad Who Missed ALL Three of his Children's 5th Grade Promotions. That is a heavy hat to wear.
Where Did My Failure as a Father Begin? Like most things I missed during work hours, it is my fault that these events always fall during work hours because I chose a line of work which is hostile to attending school functions. I became a teacher.
My first failure as a father began when I took a job that requires my participation from the hours of 7AM until 3PM on a schedule eerily similar to the schedules of other school employees.
As incredible as this may seem, I am required by my employer to show up for work in order to collect my pay check and an increasingly helpful perks package which includes health care for five people. A perk that has kept at least two of us alive.
Every morning I get up at the ungodly hour of 6AM, make coffee, get everyone up and started for their equally satisfying morning, and then, if I am lucky, drink that coffee before I schlep off to work.
Five glorious days per week I am generally greeted with a sour greeting from everyone who is as stoked as I am to be woken up in the middle of a life of sleep deprivation. They are as eager as I am to be asked to do more than is humanly possible in a day that is one part joy, nine parts stress.
The Beast Who Shouted Love at the Heart of the World My second failure as a father, then, is that I put my children on a schedule that requires them to wake up at 6AM even though their biological sleep clocks say they should start their day at least a four of hours later. According to the Sleep Foundation (click here) children aged 5-12 require 10-11 hours of sleep. That would get them in bed around 7PM. Teenagers require at least 9 hours of sleep (click here) which means night-night at nine-nine, little near adult humans. It's all because their melatonin levels are mixed up or something. Who cares.
The bottom line is they need a time adjustment, not an attitude adjustment. But let's just say they are attitudinally challenged instead. It's easier to put them on the path to prison that way. After all, why pay attention to what they need?
What they need is what we tell them they need. Who are they to say otherwise?
Anyway. My second failure as a parent derives from the unenviable facts of my first failure as a parent. I have to jettison from work to Pasadena to pick up my children after school because their schedules are tiered. We would generally get home at around 5PM. Accordingly, homework and the related poison then took the family hostage, followed closely by mealtimes, cleansing time, more homework time.
Three's a Charm, but Four is Pushing it, Don't ya Think? My third failure as a father is that I couldn't hire Mr. French from Family Affair, Nanny sans the Professor, Mr. Belvedere, Hazel, Mrs. Livingston from the Courtship of Eddie's Father, uber-housekeeper Alice from the Brady Bunch, or Alfred, the beloved and loyal manservant of Bruce Wayne fame to run my house for me. Jeez, even James Bond had Q. But no, we get none of that.
Instead, the Mrs. and I drive our kids around to appointments, cook meals- and then clean them up-so the kids could do homework instead of help in the kitchen. Just like y'all, there is no one to help us navigate through the ordinary and mundane things that most homes depend on. Technically this is my fault (see fault #1) for living beyond my means as a single income family headed by an idiot who chose education over educational law.
Unlike billionaire Bruce Wayne, both Mike Brady and Tom Corbett had ordinary dude jobs. And Mike Brady had twice as many kids as me. There really is no excuse for my malady.
Help with Homework My fourth failure as a father is that, as someone in the education racket, I understand how utterly futile and useless homework is. Knowing this - as a teacher I still try to appease a market that still believes in it - and as a parent - I try to assist my children in completing homework, even though we all know it's pointless (click here or here). Homework brings very limited returns and generally robs families of quality time together. It also adds stress to an already overburdened household.
Next to the dreaded and dreadful science project, it is one of the biggest lies educators force families to answer to. It is also one of the biggest lies that children get punished for. If they can't teach themselves at home what they didn't learn at school, they deserve to be benched, right?
Am I saying that most teachers know it is useless exercise in futility? Only the good ones. And the honest ones.
I still recall more than a few exercises from my children's teachers that taught them misspelled words, incorrect grammar usage, and erroneous math strategies. That was back when the math was actually at a level that I could comprehend. By the time they hit 8th grade, I had to take their word for it.
Little challenges along the way choked out my ability to take a day off to go to these exercises. Every year I get ten sick days to spend as I choose. If I run over my allotment then I get docked a day's wages. That has happened and it resulted in a different level of failure. You could say I leveled up. Or down.
Over the years all of those sick days computed to something like 250. That seems like an awful lot. It's like one per month. Over the years, I think I may have saved up about four. That's not so many.
Stupid stuff got in the way. In the beginning it was exams. I was a student, after all. It seemed to matter only to me and the credentialing board whether or not I actually got my diplomas and credentials done. Then came those silly life challenges. Eight miscarriages. A couple of prenatal second trimester deaths. A few surgeries. A couple of heart attacks. A few deaths in the family. Cancer. Murder. Suicide. You know, those little things that should have resolved themselves.
I should have known from working in a place populated by sneezers and coughers that I might also catch the flu or a cold a few thousand times. My bad.
Then there were the "professional courtesy doesn't apply to me" things I should have foreseen, and rolled with anyway.
I should have understood that some my children's teachers would expect me to leave work midday to solve behavioral issues that they were too busy- or too brain dead- to handle.
Why? Because I had a teacher's expertise that their folkie hippie dippy zen yoga minds hadn't mastered yet. Even if they were more experienced as teachers and parents than I. One of them had a Master's Degree and three cats. That's a lot of upkeep.
I should have recognized that it was my obligation to cancel work to attend meetings so that it fit within the PUSD teachers' time capsules. I should have understood that their rights as educators trumped my rights as a working parent. These things are my fault, and it is my fault that by the time I had burned through 15+ days of sick days to be at their beck and call, I made the mistake of asserting my rights as a parent.
I should have anticipated that peer parents in the community I had lived in for twenty-five years would bind together to ruin one of my children's lives, and that they would then try to destroy my family as well.
I should have understood that the day was coming, and planned accordingly. I certainly shouldn't have frittered away my sick days on repairing that damage. I should have just said, "Mea culpa! Sock it to me!" (click here)
Mandatory Closing Paragraph Displaying My Competence as a Writer As I have demonstrated, I am a failure as a father. This is due to a few mitigating factoids, which I have presented using an ordinal formation.
I have broken many of the rules of APA in the process, though I am well aware of it just the same. I have also broken the rules that say a closing paragraph should not introduce any concepts that were not in the body of the piece.
I may have even broken a couple of the blogger rules that John Crawford patiently taught me.
I have failed as a father because I did not realize as a young man that education was a dead end career. I did not realize that the dedication and stability I offered to other families would not be universally reciprocated by the community and educators where I live.
My failure as a father is that I put my children on a schedule that fit with my schedule, and the schedule of every other child in my community. Sleep deprivation and best practices be damned - they will march in formation and stand up straight. Schedule fail, and as a consequence, financial fail.
My failure as a father is that I relied on myself and my partner to raise my kids. Oops. Then there was that mistake, related to a previous failure - I went on the wrong career path and knew too much about how the game is played.
Ultimately, however, is that my failure as a father is that I lack the ability to read the minds of others, and lack the ability to see into the future.
I am kind of a jerk for that.
Happy Father's Day!