Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Negotiating With Terrorists

As a codependent person, I can be excessively solicitous of other folks’ wants and needs. 

I’m also a loving parent. It doubly pains me to deny my three children anything they desire. Despite the various professional and personal disasters that surround me, I’m always trying to get to yes. Indeed, other than my biased and ungrateful dependents themselves, most observers would accuse Papa of indulging even the most outrageous demands, regardless of whether they involve ice cream, bedtimes, videogames, the mall, cellular data, or trips to Canada.

Nevertheless, even I have my limits.

One notorious family story took place outside Denver a few years ago. The community where Pops and Gram lived, and where my Uncle Dennis and Aunt April now live, has the perfect outdoor pool for hosting a sunny family reunion. Everyone was looking forward to splashing around. 

Unfortunately, after receiving numerous opportunities to complete some now-forgotten task, one of my daughters missed out on the day’s swim. As everyone else walked out the door, she was heard to wail, “But Papa, you always give us another second chance!”

This year the Bellingham School District provided a laptop computer to every Eighth Grade student. My daughters now complete most of their assignments online.

The school district also gives each parent a password to log in and track their students’ progress. In the three years since we moved from Seattle, each girl’s “Missing Work” inventory has been the subject of multiple parent, teacher, and family conferences. All to no avail.

No more second chances.

The girls have a Thursday deadline to reduce their “Missing Work” list to zero before losing access to electronics. As I wrote to each of their affected teachers, copying each girl,

This week we're making a concerted effort to bring things up to date. I've challenged ______ to eliminate her Skyward backlog by the end of school Thursday (or face dire consequences, i.e. loss of cellphone and electronics privileges). That means she either needs to finish the work, or arrange for an email from you explaining why that is no longer an option, and identifying any alternative task for her to complete this week.

I know what all you soft-hearted liberals are thinking. Nope, this time it’s is a firm, nonnegotiable deadline. 

We are raising a generation addicted to iPhones since birth. This raises the stakes for parenting. In the old days, kids cared enough about their car, phone, prom, or other privileges to motivate school work. Now the only threat any child takes seriously is the Ultimate Power to Unplug. 

I’m confident no mountain of Missing Work will come between a girl and her precious. Eventually. However, there may be a painful period of adjustment. In the meantime, I recognize it’s cruel to deprive addicts of their fix cold turkey. The Geneva Convention probably requires a daily minimum amount of online access.

So assuming one or more wailing maidens will be spending the weekend without the internet, what’s a reasonable accommodation? Ten minutes twice a day to check messages? Twenty minutes of Minecraft? Is an interactive game more valuable than mindlessly watching YouTube? Email me your ideas.

But no spoilers.

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