Parenting is a challenge – especially during situations in which you want to do one thing but you know in your heart the right thing to do is something else. Often such parenting challenges occur when teaching a child a life lesson. As a parent, it is critical that we stay strong during these situations as they are important bricks that build a strong foundation of character in our children. Probably one of the most important characteristic to be learned is that of accountability.
My eldest son is attending college out of state. Due to the cold elements (ice, snow, etc.) and the fact that virtually anything a student needs is located on campus, we did not allow my son to initially bring his car to college. With that said, we made the agreement if he maintained his good grades and did not have any grade below a “B” that he would be allowed to take his car up to college.
Throughout the summer break, my son was confident that he would be driving his car up to college for his junior year. About three weeks before the fall semester was scheduled to begin, he received his report card in the mail. He was devastated. It is common knowledge that a person is often either good in math/science or history/literature/arts, but not both. While I may possess a math brain, I am well aware of my struggles in literature and art. My son, however, inherited incredible art and literary skills from his mother, but as a result, he is somewhat weak in his natural math skills – which means to ensure a good grade an incredible amount of effort and discipline is necessary.
Upon reviewing the report card, there were four “A”s, two “B”s, and one “C+” (in you guessed it…..math). As I looked at the report card, I mentioned to my son that the overall report card was good but the math grade was a bit disappointing. As he left the room for a moment, my wife and I were secretly giving each other
high-fives as it was a very good report card.
The parental dilemma: The agreed upon deal was that so long as no grades were below a “B” that he would be allowed to take his car up to school. Hypocritically, my son’s report card that I was judging was a better report card than I personally ever received during my entire academic career. As I was sharing my dilemma with a co-worker (ironically, an accountant), he quickly pointed out that due to the numerous “A”s appearing on the report card that my son actually had a “B+” GPA (grade point average). Although true (and an “easy out” for a parent) it was not the agreement and regardless of how painful, there must be some sense of accountability.
Unfortunately, it is important that as he truly prepares for his adult life that he understands that we are all accountable to our words and our agreements. Although extremely disappointed, he reflected on his semester and quickly identified areas where if he put in just a little extra effort that his grade probably would have been improved. As a result, he learned and will do better moving forward with the hope of being rewarded. If he was allowed to take his car based on his GPA (vs. the actual agreement), would he have learned this same life lesson? Doubtful.
So he did not get to take his car to college this semester. To maintain his car, I would drive it to work on occasion. As the years in my life progress so has my compulsive desire to sing. Unfortunately, the only thing that exceeds my passion to sing is the horribleness of my voice. My singing ability has degraded at a rapid pace (and it was pathetically bad to start with). Nonetheless, when the passion exists it must be released. However, the only way to protect myself from the self-inflicted ear wrenching screech of my own voice is to significantly raise the volume of the radio.
As a result, I inadvertently blew the speakers out in my son’s car. Needless to say……although he should be accountable to his report card, he should not have to pay the consequences for my poor singing skills.
In the end…….I hope that my son when he becomes an adult can reflect on this moment to see the value it served. I often reflect on situations from my youth which (at the time) I believed to be unfair or frustrating, but now looking through more mature eyes I am thankful for the lessons my father provided and the artfulness in which he helped mold my character. In this particular situation, my son will realize his benefit…………if for no other reason than the sweet new speakers that I had to install.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.