Last Sunday night, my 8th grader, Michael, comes to me and asks, “Hey Dad, Bobby (his 23 yr old brother) wants to take me out at midnight tonight to buy the new Call of Duty game so we can play it together. Can I go?” The rest of this post discusses how we make these kinds of decisions as a family, and why we make them. Why a seemingly preposterous question like that would even be asked and entertained in the first place.
Due to some undeserved genetic wiring formed in the womb, this role has always come super easy to me. The wild and crazy in me often manifests itself by creating some pretty unique and special memories.
Back when my two oldest kids had fun hanging out with just dad, and didn’t need any friends along, we used to do dollar bowling together. The only problem is, dollar bowling was during a school night, from like 10PM to midnight. So, I made a deal with my kids. If you get your homework done right after school, and take a 2-3 hour nap, and your grades and performance in school don’t suffer, we can do the midnight bowling every week. That ended up being a pretty great memory – and also made other people think we were crazy.
I remember driving my oldest daughter and her friends to school, and telling them that if they could name 10 current Bears players before we got to the school, I would try to convince their parents to give them a special day off. Sure enough, they were able to get ten players named, and I had to make some pretty awkward phone calls to parents I didn’t know. Fortunately, they all agreed and we had another awesome memory in the making.
The list goes on. Some of the memories are crazier and grander than others, but all of them have been so very important in creating a healthy perspective of life, family, work and play. Balance in life is so important. I have been a leader of students in many different capacities for the last decade and more. So many students have a myopic and unbalanced view of “success.”
Everyone deserves a break. Grades and school are important, but so often they become “gods” that are worshipped above all else – especially in the lives of conservative Christian parents. School., school, school. Grades, grades, grades, College, etc.
Of course, we take school very seriously. We expect maximum effort as a family. If you are capable of an A and you get a B, you are going to be in more trouble than if a C is the best you can do with maximum effort and you get a C. That’s just how it’s always been in our house. We value school and education. I have a Master’s degree and was a National Merit Scholar top 1/4% finisher, etc. I love education and knocked it out of the park. But we have to make sure we do not worship it. Creating memories is sometimes more important than the routine of school.
When Michael asked me about the Call of Duty release night idea, I asked a few important questions. How are your grades? All A’s and B’s. How many classes would you miss in the morning? OK, do you have any tests in those classes? Any projects due? No. OK. How late will you stay up? 2AM. OK Wake up at 10:00 leave for school at 10:30. We knew what classes he would miss, which ones he would make, and how/what he is doing in all of them.
Michael’s older brother Bobby is getting married next March, and will be moving out. What a great opportunity to make a special memory with his older brother before he is no longer around on a daily basis. This opportunity was too good for us to pass up. Michael is doing well in school, has a history of good grades, has a history of good leadership in school, athletics and church. Why not reward that behavior?
Rewarding good behavior in immediate, tangible, memorable ways is one great way to reinforce good behavior. Not all kids are academically gifted enough to be able to spontaneously miss days of school on a regular basis. Some of our kids were not. If the grades aren’t there, if the history isn’t there to recover from missed days of school, then we, as parents, worked out different ways to make memories – and/or we worked closely with the teachers to make sure the missed special day did not create a chain-reaction of pain later on.
I have done a couple all night movie marathons with Jon Woz. We have done a bunch of midnight movie showings as a family on school days. We’ve done short little day trips, etc. We’ve created some very unique memories in a responsible way – working with the grain – as it were – of each of our individual children.
The Call of Duty release night party was a smashing success. Both Bobby and Michael will remember it for the rest of their lives. Michael is caught up in school – no lingering effects of the day off. Bobby did fine at work the next day, and the routine of life continues. School, grades, academics, are very important and they always will be; but, people are more important than school, family is more important than grades.
Your kids will move out and leave the house one day. It will happen. Give them a great education and a foundation on which to build a successful life. Make sure that foundation has a little crazy fun built into as well. Make some memories. One of the most important roles you will play as a parent is Chief Memory Officer. Do it well!