Incompetent Parenting 101

Right on schedule, Elizabeth has started having disciplinary problems at school again. In a new twist, so has Luke. I’m pretty sure it’s no coincidence that they’ve both been totally immersed in the Calvin & Hobbes books since I got them out a couple weeks ago. Last Wednesday I got a call from the school: Luke needed to be picked up from the Principal’s office. That same day Elizabeth received a citation for insubordinate behavior in class.

So what’s a mom to do?

I won’t say it’s not tempting to ban the C&H books again. I mean, there is a CLEAR and OBVIOUS correlation between my kids being exposed to Calvin’s naughty influence and then self-destructing at school. But I just really think there’s a bigger issue here than one subversive comic strip. I can put the books away, but I can’t keep Luke and Elizabeth isolated from all the crappy role models of the world forever.

We’re working on expectations and consequences, and leaving the books out for reading. I’ll let you know how that goes.

There was no school Friday, so Thursday night we went to check out the youth group that gets together at our church once a week. Luke had been wanting to go for a while but on a regular school night it’s not really feasible, especially since the church is a fair distance from our place. Anyway, so we checked it out and the kids had fun and Luke wants to go back again which I’m thinking might be wonderful for summer vacation but not so ideal for during the school year. And once again I observed that my kids are going to be mingling with, um, less-than-perfect peers pretty much everywhere they go, so it’s silly to try to shelter them too much.

Friday was gorgeously sunny and warm so we got together with two other moms and six other kids and took a trip down to Oceanside. Luke had never been to the beach before and Elizabeth hadn’t been since she was a toddler, so this was effectively a first for both of them.

I tried to go in the water too, but it was FREEZING! That’s no exaggeration — I was quite the beach aficionado back in my single days, but I’ve never felt the Pacific ocean as frigid as it was Friday. The other two moms come down every week (they homeschool their kids), and they both commented that the water has been unusually cold for this early in the year. Now I keep thinking about the connection between ocean temps and the severity of winters: the colder the ocean the colder the winter. Yikes.

Luke and Elizabeth weren’t deterred by the crust of ice on the waves (okay, possibly a small exaggeration there); in fact Elizabeth had to be dragged in periodically to warm up on the sand or she would have just stayed out there with her borrowed boogie-board till she was too stiff to move.

Around 1:00 Luke, Elizabeth and I walked down the beach to investigate one of the breakwaters that stretch like long thin rocky fingers from the sand into the sea.

About halfway out to the endpoint, the rocks we were walking on were wet from the occasional wave breaking over the side.

Closer to the tip the rocks were wet AND slippery from a permanent layer of slime that coated everything.

So what were we thinking? I dunno. Just about how pretty it all was, I guess. We sure weren’t thinking about what we should have been thinking about.

So we got to the end of the breakwater, and of course Elizabeth ran ahead to the very tipmost rock, because that’s what she does. And I let her because I am an Unfit Mother.

And that’s when an enormous wave crashed head-on into the rocks and very nearly swept my fearless girl off the slippery surface and to practically certain death on the jagged layer of rocks below. The look of terror on her face as she scrambled for a secure hold was something I never want to see again.

And then we left the breakwater and went back to the beach like normal people who have basic self-preservation instincts. If you don’t have ’em, fake ’em, that’s my motto.

The rest of the day was happily non-life-threatening. One of the other girls found a starfish that had lost one of its rays and was just sprouting a new one.

So that was cool. We admired it for a while and then the kids released it back into the sea.

Ironically (or maybe “typically” is the word I’m looking for) it was Luke, not Elizabeth, who came home with the impression that the beach might be a dangerous place. At one point he borrowed a boogie-board from one of the other kids and it carried him a bit farther from shore than he was really comfortable with. So beach=dangerous. Elizabeth? Can’t wait to go back.

Saturday there was a huge rummage sale at the church, and when we’d finally dragged our slothful behinds out of bed (I actually had to go rouse Elizabeth around 8am, which is crazy), we headed over to look for some sweaters and hoodies for the kids. They keep leaving theirs at school, and I can’t afford to keep paying $17 a pop for new ones. At the rummage sale every garment cost 50¢, from the pure wool peacoat I found in my size to the heavyweight hoodies in Luke’s, so that was a big giant score!

Yesterday in church we learned that all the kids in our Sunday school were going to be performing in a Christmas pageant thingie this year, and would begin practicing next week. I LOVE this idea. I just hope Luke and Elizabeth can get their behavior back on track enough to enjoy being a part of the fun.

While we were out at church my sister swung by our house to drop off something for Elizabeth. She was gone by the time we got home, but my phone was ringing before I even got into the house.

It was Steve, demanding to know who had come to my house in a red car.


This morning all three of us apparently shut off our alarm clocks when they rang, and went back to sleep. This is the first time this year that all three of us have overslept. By the time I woke up it was just about time to be heading out the door to the bus stop, and the kids were still asleep. I suppose I could have hustled everyone up and driven them to school and they probably only would have been a little bit late, but instead I declared a holiday and we’re all still in our pajamas. I’ve got that Unfit Mother gig DOWN this week!

And I think that’s all the news. Stay tuned for the post where I use Luke for live bait in a cougar-hunting expedition! Good wholesome fun for the whole family!

Categories: Family, Friends, kids, Life | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Incompetent Parenting 101

  1. kendall

    I’m particularly impressed with Danger Child blissfully overlooking the entire rocky painful ocean threat thing. One thinks there’s an X-treme sports jock coming.

    Great news on the 50c clothing, I’m wondering if you find your own lost items there at some point.


  2. Debora

    That’s one of the coolest things about Elizabeth — to her everything is a learning experience, but very few things are worth losing sleep over. So she hardly ever repeats a mistake, but her mistakes don’t haunt her once she’s lived through them, gleaned the lesson and moved on.

    I didn’t see any of the kids’ old clothes at the rummage sale, but for 50¢ each I totally would have re-bought them!


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