When I became a father, I knew I would have to be a mentor, a teacher, and a molder of character for my children. One thing that I certainly did not know was that I was destined for duty as my children’s Administrative Assistant. At times I am nothing more than a glorified appointment secretary for flighty, forgetful, somewhat temperamental individuals.
Nightly homework. Field trip supplies. Math tests. Social Studies projects. The book they forgot to take back to the school library. Snack day for kindergarten, which always includes an exhaustive list of gastronomical biohazards that are strictly verboten in the classroom. It’s just so much.
Fortunately, my wife and I share this side of parenting. We stay on top of things well enough, but every now and then something slips past us. Between the swamp of other work and responsibilities we have, I am amazed we don’t flake out more often.
But flake out we do, and the best response is to laugh it off and move on. Find out where communication broke down and avoid an argument. So your kid missed out on Event X. The long arc of human existence will continue. What the child wants more than to attend Event X is to not see or hear their parents fighting, sniping, and arguing. Especially over something that involves them.
The obvious answer is to teach responsibility to your children. But considering how many adults have failed to master this basic concept, and considering the aversion to responsibility that I practiced when I was younger, I try to give my kids some slack. I hold them to a high standard, but when they fall short I help them figure out where things went wrong. Keep trying and get a little better each time.
Exceptions, for now
I could sit back, let homework be forgotten, permission slips go unsigned, and have tests not studied for. If responsibility is still not developed to a minimal degree by high school, there will need to be tough love. But, I look at my son, he’s still a kid. He has his whole life to be consumed by the minutiae of each day.
I actually don’t mind being an administrative assistant for my kids. It keeps me involved, and if it helps them carve out a few extra carefree years before they have to have a smartphone to help manage their lives, I’m all for that as well.
Jeremy Rosenberg gave up the corporate rat race years ago to become a freelance writer and graduate student, as well as a stay-at-home Dad to his two children, Jack, 11, and Eva, 6. He also enjoys playing the guitar, letting his cats fall asleep on his lap, and trying to be
a decent human being.