(When this column originally ran in August 2002, our son Anthony was a 17-year-old senior at Duncan High School, while Chris was 14 and in eighth grade. Over the years, several readers have asked I run this again and the start of a new school year seems like the right time.
Dear Anthony and Chris: Another school year has started. No doubt, it’s caught your attention the Strictest Parents in Duncan have resurfaced and they live at your house.
That’s right, fellas, the education ogres are back! The rules are reinstated, the demands and standards are in place. Summer’s over.
Shouldn’t come as a surprise, and because your mom and I are the Strictest Parents in Duncan, we do not apologize for any of this. In fact, we delight in the role. We relish being the ones who push you forward in the pursuit of knowledge and maturity; we gleefully prepare you for the adult world.
This covenant we have with the rest of humanity is not just a, uh, “character flaw.” Long ago, we decided it was our job to mold you into responsible, productive, caring and thinking members of the human race.
Are we doing it right? Who knows. We’re all still learning how to do this parent-child thing, which probably takes a lifetime to master. But so far, so good. We probably don’t tell you enough, but you guys are developing into wonderful people.
Let me confirm your suspicion: There are others involved in this conspiracy.
Your birth father is part of the scheme. So are your grandparents, your uncles and aunts and cousins, and the huge “extended family.” Heck, we went outside the family to recruit people like your teachers, school administrators, counselors, daycare supervisors, coaches and countless others.
Folks you don’t yet know are part of the vast conspiracy to help you be the best Anthony and Chris you can become.
At the same time, the work continues. (You are now allowed to emit exasperated groans!) A huge part of this molding process is education and the Strictest Parents in Duncan are here to make sure you comply with your half of the bargain.
There are basic rules, which haven’t really changed since you entered preschool. During the next 10 months, you will:
n Attend school regularly.
n Abide by the rules of the school and of each teacher, and show respect to school personnel and other students. (If a situation arises in which any of these folks are flat-out wrong, we’ll stand behind you. But don’t expect we’ll always agree with your version of right and wrong.)
n Try not to be a distraction to other students who are also seeking an education.
n Do your best to pay attention and, definitely, avoid substances that alter your ability to reason and learn.
n Do your homework and accomplish the requirements for passing each class. Unless some dire health problem develops, Anthony, we expect you to graduate from Duncan High THIS May. Chris, you’re expected to go from eighth grade to ninth.
We don’t demand all “A’s” or that you’re always on the honor roll. (Well, your mom would love it if, just once, one of you made straight “A’s.”). Want we do expect is your best effort.
If you abide by your half of the bargain, so will the Strictest Parents in Duncan.
That means there will be daily questions about how things are going in your classes — and “Uh, okay” is not the acceptable answer.
We’ll ask if you have homework or projects to work on. We’ll harp at you until those tasks get completed and, although we’ll give you some wiggle room, your social life suffers until they are.
If you’re struggling in a class, we’ll do what’s necessary — tutoring, assisting with homework, etc. — to help you.
Curfew has been adjusted to suit school and work schedules. When you leave the nest, you will tell us where you’re going, with whom, what the plans are and when you’ll be home. Privileges and social time (and us being VERY IRRITATED) are the price you pay for noncompliance.
All four of us are very active, but we’ll get together for dinner as often as possible. Your TV time will be regulated. The computer will be off at certain hours. If you get bored and don’t have anything to do, the Strictest Parents in Duncan will suggest, “Read a book.”
Chris, when you’ve got a sports event, we’ll be there as often as possible. Same with your drama competitions or plays, Anthony. And you guys know your mom likes to volunteer to chaperone school activities. When that happens, y’all don’t have to act like you know us, but we’ll be there just the same.
We know there will be slip-ups. You may think I’m older than dirt, but I do remember being 18 and 14 — and so does Mom. Not all your decisions will be right, and because we’re not perfect parents we may not handle every situation correctly. All we ask is effort, and we’ll give you the same.
Thus far, you’ve both gotten “A’s” in that subject, which makes us extremely proud.