Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Group of Earnest Women

This morning i went to Em's school's parent-teacher monthly meeting. I go because i am the treasurer, a job that everyone is afraid of so they are grateful that you will do it and you don't have to interact with people very much. Did you get all that?

As the meeting is concluding, on time, a rare event (people do love to hear themselves talk), an Earnest Woman, representing a group of Earnest Women, gets up and presents an idea for a "pledge" for the parents to sign next year. This pledge states that the signing parents will not support any activity that involves alcohol, that the parents will always call other parents to find out if the kids are really going to be where they said they were and that the parents will always be at home if there are other kids at their house.

And so the questions began:
Is it legally binding? (Don't know)
Will we know which parents signed this pledge and which didn't? (Yes)
Are there liability issues? (Don't know)
Why should i have to stay home with my 16 year old and her best friend? That's not practical. (Um, we hadn't thought of that)
Isn't this kind of Big Brother-ish? (The Earnest Women don't think so)
What about parents who are divorced and one signs and the other doesn't? (This caused head-spinning for the Earnest Woman)
Some parents think it's okay to give alcohol to their own kids at home. (A gasp from the Earnest Woman)

And so on. This went on for a full 15 minutes before i feigned a heart attack and snuck out the side door.

I am in no way minimizing the issue that alcohol can be in high school. The place at which i volunteer cleans up some of the aftermath of teenage drinking. But i don't believe that parents signing a pledge is going to do a damn bit of good. It's sweet that they were so earnest and all, but what planet do these ladies live on what makes them think this will help?

My problem is that i totally lack the patience to sit and listen to sweet, but useless ideas. I did enough of that when i worked.

41 comments:

jen said...

oh, man.

i pledge to be in any group you pledge yourself to.

this is a bit nutty. i mean, YES, of course, it's coming from a good place. but whoa.

whoa. i'd be the bean counter too. although I'll donate $100 bucks if you show up with a beer in hand next time.

urban-urchin said...

I understand where this is coming from, they mean well without realizing that they aren't going to stop their kids drinking by signing a pledge.

Sometimes as a parent grasping at straws is the only control you get.

ellie bee said...

its so hard to have teens! I agree, sometimes grasping at straws is as good as it gets. I do think you have to have solid boundaries and expectations so that when they stray (and they will) they at least have something to come back to...but the parent gestapo thing just wouldn't work in my world....

Toni said...

They're nuts. Everyone has to make SOME mistakes! Hovering over your children during the teen years is only going to cause them to go crazy when they go off to college. When you have NO idea what they are doing!

Nancy Dancehall said...

They meant well. I'll give them that.

But

You can't be there every second of the day hovering over your kids. They need to learn to make their own decisions. They will make good ones, other decisions, not so good. And you can't expect every other parent to babysit your teen either.

And the liability of what they were proposing makes MY head spin.

Melessa said...

Whoa, I'm glad my bean-counting is still done at the elementary school level. I would have hated to be stuck in the room for that chat. (I concluded the last PTA meeting I conducted in 25 minutes because I'm good that way!)

amusing said...

This reminds me of the guilt I began to have when I just couldn't imagine myself setting up a playdate and asking if they had a gun in the house before letting my child go for a visit.

This sounds like Earnest & Co. want a standardized form instead of having to ask questions. ("If I"m doing it at my house, I want to be sure I can expect the same when my kid goes elsewhere...")

It just doesn't work that way. If a cadre wants to sign because it would make them feel better, let them. But they shouldn't expect it or look down on those who don't sign.

patches said...

Ahem..echo...echo...I agree with everyone who said their hearts were in the right place. It sounds like an empty proclamation, or one of those government issued non-binding resolutions. Either parents are going to pay attention to their teenager's activities (friends, habits, coming and going) or they aren't. Signing a non-binding agreement is nothing more than eye wash for other parents.

I am absolutely bum fucked by the lack of attention that some parents pay to their kids, but I have to remind myself that there are parents out there who aren't nearly as attentive as you are, meno.

Lynn said...

Clearly these Earnest women are concerned. Does this mean that if they sign the pledge that they will follow their children 24/7. Will they watch to see what they do on their way home from school? At the mall? In the bathroom at school? While their hearts are in the right place, what they are proposing is unrealistic. There will always be weak links in a chain. If they develop a false sense of security by initiating this pledge, they may not be a vigilant as they could be.

meno said...

jen, they were so sweet, but c'mon! What group should we start? People with short attention spans?

u-u, i am able to scoff at these ideas because my kid is so damn straight. I might be clutching at those straws otherwise.

ellie bee, and you would know! No, the parent gestapo is just going to make the kids sneakier.

toni, i wonder what these parents did in high school. And you are right, when the kids go off to college, LOOK OUT!

nancy, they did mean well. It made my head spin too.

melissa, you ARE good. Will you come and run this group?

amusing, but it's a damn good question. There will be some group of them that do sign, but it will not make any difference.

patches, a non-binding resolution! exactly. It isn't worth thr e-mail it's printed on. I have the luxury of not being attentive about this because i know where my kid is.

meno said...

lynn, you have nailed the cork on the head. This is a feel good thing that will allow them to pay less attention.

Mother of Invention said...

Yes, it does kinda sound idealistic and "in a perfect world" type of thinking. Ultimately, the kids have to take resposibility for their own behaviour.

QT said...

What I love about this is that the assembled group of parents came up with enough questions to stymie the whole endeavor.

Oooh boy, they better brace themselves for college!

biodtl said...

I know they mean well, but I don't think it will do squat. The idea of putting together some information for parents of ways they can try to thwart teen drinking (always check up and make sure they are where they say thay are, call to see if parents are there, etc) isn't a bad one . But signing a "pledge" seems like it would open up a huge can of worms.

All it would take would be for one child to get drunk at the home of another child whose parents signed the pledge. "But you signed the PLEDGE!!"

Bob said...

well meaning as it was, I too believe it was a misguided effort. Ultimately, and especially at this age, you have to rely on what you taught your child and hope they make the right decisions when they are out with their friends. You have to stay involved in their lives - keep on being a parent - and be there when they make mistakes. There will be mistakes. We can only hope that they are small ones.

sober briquette said...

My gut tells me this is a liability issue big time.

However, I recently heard (background noise) about a change (actual, proposed? not sure) to the law in CT that makes it illegal for minors to possess alcohol at home as well as in public places. Does this mean the liquor cabinet has to have a lock on it? Thumbprint scan? Isn't this just another unenforceable law?

How about everyone under 21 has to take Antabuse (Disulfiram)?

Marsha said...

This seems like more of an attempt to impose a specific parenting style onto other parents than an attempt to keep their own kids out of trouble. Like they don't trust the parents of all the other kids at school so they want to make sure those parents are made aware of how to parent.

Lucia said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto to the above. Yep, I hear ya, take the job in which you don't have to interact with people.

Meanwhile, I'm a nervous headachy wreck this morning (but no one will ever know) because I have to be "on" all day doing presentations and stuff. The only alternative seems to be to suck at it, and I'm not willing to do that, so, dog and pony shows.

Thailand Gal said...

It's a dumb idea for the very reasons you stated. It doesn't address the important issues and gives a rather surface solution to something that might actually take some serious consideration.

I'm sure she meant well but.. well... I'm not impressed. Accountability exercises simply don't work.


Peace,

~Chani

Joan said...

Okay...this women doesn't sound "earnest"...she and her group sound like desperate parents trying to find some way (misguided as it is) to prevent a serious teen problem. Of course it won't work...no one can follow their children 24/7...and signing a pledge certainly does nothing except make them feel like they've taken some action.

meno said...

moi, yes, you are right. The kids are really responsible in ther end.

qt, oh, and it went on and on too. I think the Earnest Women were sincerely puzzled as to why there were objections.

biodtl, i agree with that. I wonder too if a parent who didn't already understand about knowing where your kid is, will be educated by anything.

bob, i know, It's easy for me to poke fun at because of the impractibility of it all, but i really find it sweet too. As you say, there WILL be mistakes.

de, either it's a liability, or it doesn't mean a thing. That law sounds crazy! How to enforce that? Home raids?

marsha, good point. Some of the parents at this meeting sounded offended.

lucia, i am always the treasurer. :) I do presentations pretty well, when i was in practice, but i don't love them. Good luck to you!

chani, and i am surprised that no one in the group of Earnest Women thought that it was a dumb idea. I had not heard these things called accountabilty exercises. Thanks for the new vocabulary.

joan, it's a little teeny tiny bandaid that they can slap on the problem and say "there, i did something".

mrschili said...

As if signing a pledge is going to make people better parents. Puh-lease! This is just a pretty, Hello Kitty Band-Aid on a HUGE problem, and no little piece of paper is going to fix it.

The Earnest Ladies are doing two things - one, they're trying to impose their values and morals on others (which I do not support) and two, they're trying to feel like they're actually DOING something to help (which I can understand).

This is precisely why I don't volunteer for the PTA. I'll bake cookies and cupcakes for you all year long, but DON"T ask me to deal with Earnest Ladies...

deb said...

I have a sixteen year old that drinks. I don't like it and I've told her that. I've always taught her how to drink responsibilty and how to protect herself. Also warned her about drinking and sex. At this point it's about risk reduction. My husband doesn't agree but what can you do?

She's going to do it, no matter what we say.

Ortizzle said...

Your conclusion is so true. The bullshit of the corporate world is creeping into everything these days.

If they are really serious about the alcohol thing, why not ask each individual parent to make a pledge to him/herself to set limits and curfews, demand accountability, make that phone call themselves, be aware of where the hell their kids are and really care about it. If each person were as vigilant as possible, there would be no need to "form a coalition" which, for all the reasons listed above, would fall apart before the last signature was on paper.

Becky L said...

you're right... A pledge that parents sign wont really make a difference.

its kinda noble that the 'earnest women' want to see the problem taken care of... but there really isnt an easy solution.

sari said...

I didn't read everyone else's comments yet so forgive me if I repeat someon else...BUT:

Shouldn't the Earnest Women be working with their OWN children and giving them the facts and "signing their little pacts" with THEM?

Good sense starts at home and by good example.

Not to say that kids won't drink - I had a hell of a problem and I won't lay that on my parents. But you can't sign a little agreement with the other moms to tattle on your kids for you, that just doesn't seem right to me. Or logical.

Of course, my oldest is eight, so I haven't gotten into that territory as a parent yet, it's only from my own experience.

liv said...

one word:

Exactly.

meno said...

mrs.chili, i only have to go to one more meeting. Thank the goddess! From now on it's cookies for me too.

deb what is it that your husband doesn't agree with? Short of imprisoning her what are you going to do?

ortizzle, and i have so little patience with that crap anymore.

becky, it is a noble thought. But more noble indeed would be to come up with something effective.

sari, you were a problem child? :) I wonder if signing things with the kids does any good.

liv, yeah baby!

TTQ said...

Teenagers will always find a way to do something if they want to. The more stringent the "rules", the more creative they become.

And really would the punishment be any different when they do get caught? Seriously.

Maggie said...

Ok, I'm tired and a little off tonight so I didn't read all the comments. If I repeat, please forgive me. Yes they had a valid concern about alcohol and its nice they want to protec their kids. However, the key to this is realizing it happens and teaching their own kids what to do in situations. Knowing where their kids are. Raising their kids with enough self-respect and parent/authority respect to do the right thing and not be afraid to. Then of course, there will be mistakes made at some point, but hey, that's why we're the parents. It's Our Job. Not the other parents at the school. That's a recipe for disaster. I can just hear the screaming fights, the threats of law suits. Ugh ugh ugh.

Em said...

It does often seem that those who are earnest are also naive. Perhaps those are two traits that are somehow intertwined genetically.

meno said...

ttq, try as we might, none of us can penetrate the teenage brain unless it wants to be penetrated. They are among the most creative folks in the world.

magie, hi sweetie! i have nothing to add to your tired brain. You have stated it all beautifully. Now, go to bed.

em, interesting idea! The two traits are pretty much the same thing.

Antonia said...

The Self-Importance of Being Earnest. Groan.

Mrs Earnest wouldn't have had to feign a heart attack if she'd witnessed my upbringing. It would have killed her outright to see the horrors:

I was allowed to drink at home from age 5, as permitted by British law. By "drink" I mean watered-down wine with Sunday meals or special meals that guests were invited to.

At 15, I came home from school with a nasty cold: my mother introduced me to the Whisky Mac, which is whisky and ginger wine and which swiftly helps you forget you had any sort of cold.

My mother knew I would occasionally go out and drink, because teenagers do. She did the sensible thing: she taught me to EAT first or at least have a drink of milk to line my stomach.

I'm not trying to paint a picture of an alcoholic household, because it wasn't. It was one in which I learned to drink responsibly and grew up sharing sociable alcoholic drinks with adults.

(I once dated the son of a stuffy, earnest, thou-shalt-not type, who strictly forbade alcohol, and all three of his sons grew up to be raging alcoholics.)

Blah blah blah. I should get my own blog.

d-man said...

Ahhh, the good ole fake - a- heart-attack- to- get- out- of- a-meeting trick.

I saw a mayor do that once.

Sanjay said...

Meno, I tend to agree that pledges don't mean much. I guess all parents have to be vigilant pledge or not. Like you said a sweet but albeit slightly useless idea.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

The only way to effect change is one kid at a time. Signing a pledge with other addlebrained parents only serves to alleviate guilt that some might have for not talking to their children about real topics. Pretending that kids do not drink or have sexual feelings is ostrich behavior and serves no one.

If the parent has built trust with her child over the years, it should be natural to warn against the consequences of unwanted behaviors. Sending kids out into the world of their peers without doing so is irresponsible parentiing, and it is stupid to expect other parents to take up the slack.

If you want your child to trust you, you don't spy on him and have a network of other adults doing so. You have to give trust (along with education) to get trust.

meno said...

antonia, we do make a big forbidden deal out of alcohol in this country. I wish there was a more measured approach. Instead we get all hyterical. I have offered Em a bit of wine at home, she's not interested. I kind of wish she would take some just to see what it's like, but there's plenty of time for that. Good idea about the blog. :)

d-man, Was the mayor really fakeing it?

sanjay, pledges are worth the people they are signed by. Which is sometimes not much.

hearts, NICE RANT! I have nothing to add except RIGHT ON!

Susanne said...

Sorry, I haven't read all of the above comments, but I'm curious: Did anybody actually sign the pledge? My guess is that it was postponed.

meno said...

susanne, no, no one was asked to sign at this time. It's for next year. I just read the meeting minutes (as i crawled out early) and it appears that no conclusion was reached about enacting the pledge.

Penny. said...

Oh, seriously.. that sounds like the virginity pact by fathers.. can't remember what it's called.. a load of crap, isn't it. A bandaid-feel-good quasi-pseudo-solution.

I would have left, too.

capacious said...

The board of our PTO used to openly state that we go out for drinks after meetings. Now we have to say that people are welcome to join us for "snacks." A glass of milk, perhaps. I should start drinking from a flask during meetings.

When one of the Earnests gets the stage, I immediately feel like I have ants in my pants (or lizards, or a mole). The worst is when the Earnest missed the previous meeting where we discussed endlessly the subject in which they are interested. Last year was nightmarish with the "no cupcakes or any unhealthy foods at any time in the school" law. Never thought I'd hear the end of it. I wish I had thought to feign a heart attack - can I use that?