“Sweetheart, let’s take a look at the parent portal to see what homework you need to do.”
“Thanks Mom, that sounds great. I’ll be right there!”
If this is a familiar conversation in your home I implore you to light 12 candles, get down on your knees, and give praise and adoration to your very loving God.
On the other hand, you are not alone if you break into a cold sweat as you contemplate this looming parental duty, your hair spontaneously sprouts gray roots, worry lines emerge on your tortured brow and you fantasize that news of a nuclear missile heading your way might actually be a relief because you could go in peace with your entire family and it would be too late for you to do anything about the homework situation.
I interrupt this column to thank the teachers. Keeping the parent portal up to date must be a heck of a lot of work and I’m sure you enjoy the process as much as I do.
In reality, the nuclear bomb is not coming but this cruel fact means that you must act responsibly to help guide your child through his school years. So your parent-child interaction goes like this.
“Honey, let’s look at the parent portal.” You try to sound enthusiastic and slightly enticing as if a delightful new bonding activity just occurred to you.
“No. I know what I have to do.” Tempting argument, one in many weak moments I allow myself to fall for.
“Well, great! Let’s just check for the fun of it … Humm, I see an ‘M’ (for missing) but I saw you doing that assignment. Did you turn it in?”
“The teacher must have lost it.”
“It says here you have a 10-page paper due tomorrow.”
“She changed that assignment. It is due next week.”
“OK … but it says right here …”
“It is wrong.”
And around we go until, what with the merry-go-round, funhouse mirrors, and roller coaster, I decide that I’ve spent enough time in the lack-of-amusement park for one night.
My sons often point out that I’d hate it if someone was monitoring my “to-do” list at work and I have to agree. I can hear my Dad now, “Jocey, you appear to be three weeks late on your task to write a letter of inquiry to the Margaret Cargill Foundation. Do I need to set up a meeting with your board chair to discuss?” “No Dad! I’m on it …”
Because of technological advancements our kids are growing up in a surveillance society like no other generation. My son just got his drivers’ license and the insurance company instantly offered us an opportunity to install a driver-cam in the car. I was intrigued until I read that I’d have to review my son’s driving reports online once a week … yet another parent portal. I was further alarmed when I realized that he and I share that same car and I’d also be monitored! Yuk. We already hover over the boys’ Facebook (not enough and they keep finding tricky ways to block us). The technology also exists to keep tabs on our elderly parents’ movements, to watch a daycare cam, even to observe our pets with kennel video stream — a puppy portal. Daily pictures are sent to us while the kids are at camp and we could easily implant GPS units into all family members.
Our human nature implores us to protect those we love but at a certain point, for our own sanity, we might just have to let go.
Jocelyn Hale is executive director of The Loft Literary Center and a resident of Fulton neighborhood.