I’ve now been parenting for nine years, most of that time as the at-home parent, which I think makes me a veteran. And likely an expert, though current results may undermine such a bold assertion. Whatever the case, one thing has become abundantly clear to me over that time period. I’m bloody old school. Not in a belt, strap, switch, or wooden spoon kind of way but in a don’t you dare miss a commitment unless you’re hospitalized kind of way.
There Used To Be Trophies For Attendance
Two specific situations have given rise to this realization; public school and minor sports. Back in my day, and here I’ll hike up my trousers to midriff and beckon you off my lawn, missing school was tantamount to treason. So much so that elementary schools gave year end awards for best student attendance. This was a much coveted award probably because it required no actual academic prowess to win. That alone was overwhelming incentive for large swaths of the school populace otherwise shut out from the scholastic or sporting awards. It also reflected well on parents who were seen to be raising dedicated future employees. I suspect, though, with most moms still full time homemakers in those days they simply didn’t want the kids around more than necessary, what with the soap operas to watch and phone calls to be had.
Thanks to this family-wide eagerness to attend school at all cost was that every kid developed a strikingly resilient immune system. Eventually. Ten straight months of germ exposure in all forms, coughs, snot, phlegm and spittle, made sure each and every one of us was thoroughly exposed to all forms of childhood illness repeatedly from ages five through 14. We were essentially a communal immunization club and damned proud of it.
Things were much the same in the youth sports world. My personal specialty was hockey, but similar expectations could be found in all sports offered to kids. Once again, absence for any reason short of pending death was considered an abdication of duty, an especially grievous sin in team sports. Further immune fortification occurred at the gym, in the rink, and on the diamond where shared water bottles dominated the benches allowing for a thorough mixing of virus-laden backwash.
If illness wasn’t an acceptable reason for absence, then I can assure you family vacation most definitely wasn’t. If I’ve come around to the wisdom of keeping sick kids out of school, then this is where my old school credentials continue to be stubbornly out of date with current philosophies. From the first months of our eldest child’s kindergarten career we have been regularly shocked to learn that classmates were absent from school, sometimes for a full week or more (multiple weeks sometimes), due to family vacations. This was utterly unheard of in our day and we continually marvel at the chutzpah of the modern parent.
Tournaments Are Not Family Vacations
Similarly, teammates on my kids’ hockey teams regularly miss hockey practices or even games for any number of reasons well removed from the realm of illness. If one sport playing sibling in a family has a tournament out of town, almost without question the entire family will pack up and make a family outing of the weekend away. Two nights at a hotel with a swimming pool is all it takes for the younger sibling to miss any practices or games they had that conflicting weekend. In my day, and her comes more slacks hiking and lawn monitoring, our family regularly split up when such conflicts arose in my and my sister’s sporting schedules. Dad would take me and Mom would take my sister. These were team sports, after all, and team came first. Even before family. And don’t get me started about Christmas.
It baffles me still, this nonchalance exhibited by today’s families when it comes to keeping their kids home from school or skipping sports events. I’m not even judging them. I just marvel at the ease at which they do something I am so thoroughly incapable of. I cannot shed those years of training brainwashing decades ago. So despite the rage and frustration I experience every time I attempt to book a family vacation during a system-wide holiday such as Spring Break and suffer heart-exploding sticker shock, I still cannot convince myself to take my kids out of school and/or miss a hockey ice time in order to travel during low demand periods.
And that’s pretty remarkable considering my penchants for thrift. That Seventies/Eighties training was just too thorough. I am unable to break the spell instilled in me back when commitment and duty ruled over all. The resulting impasse is that I not only refuse to remove my kids out of season but I also refuse to pay the inflated prices during peak demand periods. In other words, we do nothing. But, hey, at least my kids are loyal. They’re pasty white and void of memories, but loyal. Too bad there’s not a plaque for that anymore.