One of the unwritten duties of anyone working in public education is preventing parents murdering their children. This duty is implicit, if not explicit, in all public education contracts from the Custodians right up through the Principal. Nowhere is this more necessary than on a High school campus.
So it was this morning, when answering the main phone line for our over-worked Front Office staff, I did my duty.
“Lewisville High School; how may I help you?”
“My daughter, Jane Doe, is in the office there, waiting for her dad to bring her binder to school and I’m just about to kill her.” Her tone rang of many, many forgotten binders, lost lunches and permission slips needing parent signatures yesterday.
“Oh, don’t do that. Society frowns upon us murdering our young, however much they deserve it. Do you know if she’s in the Front Office or her Attendance Office?”
“I have no idea.” Mrs. Doe heaves a great sigh. It is a sigh that ripples through the ages, the sigh of every parent, everywhere, who has ever had a teenager. “She wants to turn in extra credit for Science, but left the binder here and her dad is running it up to the school now.”
“Let me go see if I can find her. Hang on for a minute.” I went and hunted for Jane. She was in neither the Front Office nor her Attendance Office.
“Well, I’m having no luck finding her. Do you know who her teacher is?”
“No idea, but I just got a text from her. She’s in the hallway but says they’re not in the class. She’s just standing there!” Another sigh.
“Hmmm... let me check her schedule and see which class she’s in.” I note the time, and tell Mrs. Doe to text Jane and tell her to get to her Attendance Clerk so she’s not marked absent.
“She’s really gonna need that extra credit now, if she misses class! The extra credit that cost me $30 last night…. She’s just standing out there in the hall….” Mrs. Doe poses the Great Question all parents through the ages have asked the Universe 7,429 times throughout their children’s teenage years. “What is she thinking?”
“She’s not, or at the least she’s thinking like a teenager and, by definition, they are all insane. I had one like this, too. I finally told her around the time she hit High school I wasn’t leaving work, flying home, retrieving forgotten homework or lunch and making deliveries. There were some uncomfortable moments, but she started remembering her stuff. It was hard, letting her crash and burn those first few times, but she got better. It will get better.”
By now, I’ve pulled up her schedule and let Mrs. Doe know that Jane’s Science teacher is an experienced, strict-but-fair teacher who will deal justly with her tardiness and probably accept the extra credit assignment if she turns it in today. At the same time, she gets a text from Jane, who has located her wandering Chemistry class, which was checking out textbooks. Mrs. Doe is calm now, though I can almost hear her shaking her head and rolling her eyes at her daughter.
It all has me considering, and not for the first time, that it truly does take a village to raise a child. God makes babies cute so we don’t eat them during their colicky stage or the Terrible Twos and, if we’re very lucky, we have a village around to stop us killing them through the teen years. Because surely we were never as silly, patience-testing, forgetful, or unthinking as our progeny. Surely not.