Bring Your Parents To Work Day

According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s becoming increasingly common for businesses to host “Bring Your Parents to Work” days.  The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that around 1 percent of American employers host such an event, with advertising and tech companies like LinkedIn leading the way.

fullsizerender__1_Companies see such events as appealing to young employees who are close to their parents. (Or, stated alternatively, some companies may realize that they’re hiring Gen X/Y/Zers who have helicopter parents who have always been deeply involved in every facet of their children’s lives and expect that to continue into core adulthood activities like working at a job.)

The article reports that the parents who attend these days wander around the office, wearing matching “Josh’s Mom” and “Josh’s Dad” t-shirts and snapping pictures of their kids at work and posting them on Facebook.  And, parents being parents, it’s not unusual for them to corner executives and pepper them with questions about how the company is doing — and, presumably, why their gifted kid isn’t moving faster up the corporate ladder.  For that reason, some of the children admit that having Ma and Pa at the office can be an anxiety-inducing experience.  Others, though, think that visits from their folks will help their parents understand what they do and where they spend a lot of their time.

It’s another example of how family dynamics have changed over the years.  My parents were interested in making sure that I got a job, kept a job, and became self-supporting, because that was part of the road to responsible adulthood, but they sure didn’t express any desire to experience the workplace with me for a day — and I really wouldn’t have wanted them to do so, anyway.

Some people obviously see the notion of “Bring Your Parents to Work” days as a way for parents who are close to their kids to further cement that bond.  I see the workspace, in contrast, as off-limits territory, where people should be making it on their own, without oversight from Mom and Dad.  I think it’s part of the boundary drawing that has to occur as children grow up and make it on their own.  Apparently, not everybody wants to draw those boundaries these days.

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The Kid Who Wouldn’t Leave

A family drama is playing out in Camillus, New York.  That’s where two parents have had to institute legal action to get their 30-year-old son, who has lived with them for eight years, to finally move out of the house.  This week, a judge formally evicted the son and ordered him to leave the premises.

mr-1038x576According to the son, whose name is Michael Rotondo, in the eight years he’s lived with his folks he’s never been expected to contribute to household expenses or assist with chores or the maintenance of the property.  He doesn’t have a job and is a self-described “liberal millennial.”  His parents have encouraged him to get a job and buy health insurance, but instead he’s focusing on a custody battle about his own son — and continuing to live under their roof.  He says he is “an excellent father” who “would forgo buying clothes for myself so that I could take [my child] skiing.”

In fact, Rotondo believes his parents’ action was retaliation for his loss of visitation rights with his son.  Their first letter to him, in February, apparently came a few days after he lost visitation rights, and said “we have decided that you must leave this house immediately. You have 14 days to vacate.”  His parents then stopped feeding him, and later letters reminded him of the deadline, and offered him $1,100 and advice on how to move out.  But Rotondo resisted, saying he needed six months to leave.  Ultimately the eviction lawsuit was filed, and the judge decided Rotondo had to go.

A lot of people have been laughing about this story as the ultimate “failure to launch” tale about the unappreciative slacker kid who made no contribution to the household and just wouldn’t leave.  I don’t see much that is humorous in this sad case, however.  I’m sure the parents aren’t celebrating their victory over their own child; they’re likely heartbroken about it.  They provided their son with shelter, support, and a safe place to land, and eight years later, with no end in sight, they reached the end of their rope and saw no alternative to turning their personal family story into a very public drama.

And now the son they supported for eight long years is being quoted in the press as saying, “I wouldn’t characterize them as being very good parents.”  That’s the kind of remark that would cut any parent to the quick — not because they agree with his assessment, but because they probably feel they’ve failed in rearing a child who could be such a colossal, oblivious ingrate.

Parental Eavesdropping

Like many states, New York has a law that bars recording communications unless at least one of the parties to the communication gives consent.  Earlier this week, the highest court in New York considered whether parents can legally eavesdrop when one of the parties to the communication is their child — and held that parents can do so under certain circumstances.

The ruling came in a case where the divorced father of a five-year-old boy, over an open phone line, heard his son having a “violent conversation” with his ex-wife’s bodybuilder boyfriend.  The father recorded the conversation.  (Disturbingly, though, the father apparently didn’t contact authorities to give them the recording until months later, when the ex-wife and boyfriend were arrested after neighbors heard screaming and crying coming from the house.)  The boyfriend argued that the recorded conversation shouldn’t be allowed into evidence at his trial because neither party to the conversation consented.

eavesdropping-1stepmother-helpThe New York Court of Appeals disagreed, and concluded that the father had “a good faith, objectively reasonable belief that it was necessary for the welfare of his son to record the violent conversation he found himself listening to.”  Three of the judges on that court dissented, concluding that the ruling raised policy concerns that should be left up to the legislature and could raise issues in divorce situations, with the parties to the break-up planting bugs to record conversations between their children and the other party to the divorce.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone would argue that a parent who heard their little boy being threatened with violence couldn’t making a recording to try to help their child — but then again, it’s hard to imagine that a father who made such a recording wouldn’t immediately take the recording to the police to try to get his son out of a dangerous situation.  The father’s inaction in the case makes the ugly divorce scenarios that apparently motivated the dissenting judges seem more plausible.

But one person’s bad judgment shouldn’t mask a key reality:  parents should be permitted to eavesdrop and intervene when they honestly believe their child is at risk.  Whether it’s bullying on a school bus, or a situation where a child is falling under the sway of a sexual predator, there are many instances where parents could legitimately decide that making a recording of a conversation involving their child was the right thing to do.  It’s not snooping, it’s trying to protect your kid — and we shouldn’t let speculative worries about what might happen in other worst-case scenarios prevent parents from following their basic parenting instincts when it comes to trying to do right by their children.

Dadfacts

What do you do if you are a parent who is frustrated because your child simply won’t eat what you carefully pack in their school lunchbox?  One Dad decided to leave his youngster a note to encourage food consumption that read: “Every time you don’t eat your sandwich a unicorn dies. #Dadfact Love, Dad”

The idea that sandwich noshing might affect the health of mythical horned creatures is a tantalizing one, but what really attracted my attention was the notion that there are “Dadfacts” out there, ready to be disclosed to the waiting world.  This particular note-writing Dad has put his finger on something important.  “Dadfacts,” of course, would be unlike the unconditional reassurances and warming hugs that you receive from Mom.  No, “Dadfacts” would target the things that drive Dads crazy and make a daft, last-ditch, passive-aggressive bid to alter offspring behavior through statements that would make Moms recoil in horror.

I’ve got my list of “Dadfacts,” and I suspect other Dads do, too:

“Toys that get broken because they weren’t put away send out a “naughty” beacon that only Santa and his elves can hear.  #Dadfact”

“All of the adults who now live on the streets began their downward spiral by making their Dads pay late fees for rented videos and games.  #Dadfact”

“Plastic soft drink bottles that lose their fizz because someone failed to screw the top back on can never be successfully recycled.  #Dadfact”

“The amount of acne in teenagers is directly proportional to the number of times they return the family car with an empty gas tank.  #Dadfact”

“If you try to quit a sports team that you voluntarily joined during the middle of the season you’ll never actually see a dolphin or a whale.  #Dadfact”

“Wet, smelly towels left clumped on the bathroom floor retard the growth of facial hair in teenage boys.  #Dadfact”

“Spiders are attracted to the rooms of kids who say ‘I hate my clothes.’  #Dadfact”

Off The School Calendar

A few months ago Kish and I were planning a trip.  “When do you want to go?,” she asked. “I don’t know,” I responded. “I guess over Christmas break, or spring break, or during summer vacation.”

“You know,” my wise and worldly wife responded, “it would be a lot cheaper if we didn’t go on a schedule dictated by the school year calendar.”  She was right, of course.  In fact, travel booked at times of the year when kids are in school and families therefore are chained to their homes is considerably less expensive than travel during the peak school vacation periods.  I felt like a dunce not thinking of that in the first place.

It was shocking to me that, seven years after our youngest left for college, I was still thinking in terms of the school calendar, when all vacations must be wedged into the little snippets of the calendar left open by some faceless administrator.  It probably shouldn’t be surprising, however.  When you are a parent and your kids are at home, over the years your time frames inevitably become synced to the Xeroxed schedule passed out at the first open house of the year.  You become conditioned to thinking that way, and when the kids are gone from the house you stick to the old school-defined vacation patterns, even though you don’t need to any longer.

There are good things and bad things about being an empty-nester — and one of the good things is that you can find some nice vacation deals if you’re willing to travel in, say, early December right after Thanksgiving or the middle of February.  Why not take advantage of the fact that you’re no longer shackled by the notion of “breaks”?

In Favor Of School Lunch Choice

First Lady Michelle Obama has long campaigned against childhood obesity.  One of her targets has been the food served as public schools.  Earlier this week she argued that students should not be permitted to pick what they eat at school because they will inevitably make bad, unhealthy choices.  Instead, adults should control the menus to ensure that meals involving vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are served.

I think the First Lady has good intentions, and I think her real target is parents, who obviously should be focused on decision-making that affects the health of their children.  Still, I groan whenever I hear someone involved with government saying that personal choice should be eliminated, and a federally mandated menu determined by purported experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture substituted instead.  Our government now tries to do so much — and yet does so little of it well.  Can’t something like school lunches be left to the decisions of parents and kids, without officious federal busybodies with taxpayer-funded jobs butting in to tell us what to do?

I’m not suggesting that kindergartners or first graders should be deciding what to eat, but at some point we need to allow kids, and parents, make choices.  Many kids already lead such regimented lives where there is nary a spontaneous moment or free decision.  How are kids supposed to learn how to make good decisions if they never, in fact, make any decisions?  Let them decide what to eat, or let parents pack their lunch — which is what happened when I was a kid.  If they make bad decisions and put on weight, their parents can respond and talk to them — which is what should be happening anyway.

A Little Judgment, Please

The tale of Hunter Yelton is a small story about a small boy in a small town, but it may just teach us a large and important lesson about modern America.

Hunter is the six-year-old boy in a Colorado school district who had a crush on a girl and kissed her on the hand during class.  Their classmates reported it, and the school district determined that Hunter’s action constituted sexual harassment under the school district’s policy, which defines sexual harassment as any form of unwanted touching.  Hunter was suspended and the charge of sexual harassment went on his school record.

The word got out, and the reaction was swift and overwhelming.  People were outraged that a six-year-old boy could be accused of sexual harassment for a peck on the hand, and Hunter’s story became news throughout the country.  Now the school district has dropped the sexual harassment charge and has classified his behavior as “misconduct,” and Hunter is back in school.  He says he’ll try to be good.

The large lesson to be learned from this small incident is that judgment is needed — by the school district, by parents, and by the media.  The school district has a policy that defines sexual harassment so broadly that a six-year-old’s kiss on the hand apparently falls into the same category as a high school senior’s pawing of a freshman classmate.  Obviously, they aren’t the same thing, and school districts shouldn’t treat them as the same thing.  “Zero tolerance” policies can be a problem when they don’t permit teachers and principals to exercise judgment and distinguish between Hunter’s kiss of the hand and conduct that is much more serious and needs to be dealt with much more severely.

At the same time, a knee-jerk depiction of this incident as another ridiculous example of Big Brother run amok isn’t quite right, either.  The mother of the girl whose hand Hunter kissed has now been heard from, and she says that Hunter has tried to kiss the girl repeatedly without permission, and she has tried to teach her daughter how to respond when that happens.  She appreciates the school district acting to protect her daughter — and wouldn’t you feel the same way if it was your little girl?

The upshot of this story is that school districts should have rational policies that recognize distinctions in behavior, but also that discipline and order in the classroom is important.  When I was in grade school, pestering behavior would be treated by the wrongdoer standing in the corner and, if the misconduct didn’t stop, a trip to the principal’s office, a call to the parents of the misbehaving child, and a stern talk about proper conduct.  It seemed to work just fine back then.  Why shouldn’t it work now?