Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Parenting to-do list

We had our first parent-teacher conference today with Ava's play school teacher. At one point, she used the phrase "exceptional girl" with no caveats. She may have been blowing smoke, but I'll take it. And I will keep it in mind when Ava's being exceptionally cranky and exceptionally annoyed with her brother.

All in all, Ava's loving her class and classmates and comes home every school day to regale us with tales of all the great fun they had outside and who did what. I think the school and its play-based philosophy and diverse students and parents has been a great fit for her and us. We like what she's learning there and it matches and reinforces our family philosophies around independence, personal responsibility, fairness, kindness, politeness, friendship, and contributing wherever you are.

But it also reinforced our resolve to do whatever is required to raise Ava and Dylan to be productive members of society by hopefully modeling good behavior towards them and each other, and providing the guidance, structure and freedom in the correct balance to parent them successfully.

It reminded me of a great wee-hours discussion J. and I had over the summer precipitated by a news update on a local 10 y.o. gang-affiliated attempted robber and his sibling accomplices who robbed a 17 year old on a public transit bus. Egads. What happened (or didn't) in his 10 short years on the planet that led to the series of poor choices he made that day?

We had a wide ranging discussion about what we are trying to instill in our kids now to keep them on the straight and narrow. We want them to understand that there are consequences for negative actions, unlike the parent of an elementary school student taught by my friend, who informed her that they don't believe in consequences at their house. Huh. Wonder how that's going to work in the real world, seeing as how pretty much EVERYTHING there has consequences?

Topics we covered included how we can teach them to value themselves (so they'll know how to spot others who try to devalue them), dealing with and avoiding frien-emies, how we can demonstrate the value of persistence and hard work, how we can never demonstrate too much what positive, supportive love is so they don't go chasing some poor approximation of it, how to be leaders not followers, being and spotting a good friend, trusting their gut, standing up for what's right even when it's hard, sportsmanship when you're the star AND when you're not, dealing with peer pressure, being considerate of others, trying to live a moral and compassionate life: you know, the things that seem to have fallen out of vogue in some circles. That's a laundry list, and it's of course incomplete and we may not cover every item every week. Still, it's something to strive for. Which leads to another bullet on the list: setting and meeting goals.

Man, this parenting gig is tough but important work. But we're hoping that by doing the heavy-lifting on the front end and throughout their formative years, we won't see either kid in a news story like the one above years down the line.