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Dad Daze: Going too far to help your kids

By Ed Condran The Spokesman-Review

I admit it. I cheated. Not on my taxes. Not even on my diet. It goes against my grain. I was raised by a set of parents who were devout Roman Catholics and serious about honoring the Ten Commandments.

When I was about 10 years old, I made sure to compensate the guy who drove his water ice truck in my neighborhood a quarter that I owed him from the previous year.

“I can’t believe how honest this kid is,” he said as he served me a cherry water ice.

As a Cub Scout, I watched as my cars were left in the dust during the Pinewood Derby races since I followed the rules. My father said he would rather have me experience losing with dignity than winning by deception.

Those words hit home. While playing first base in a little league playoff game, I attempted to field a throw on the short hop. The runner slid into first, and a dust cloud shrouded us. The umpire, who knew how sure handed I was, said, “You caught the ball, right?”

I actually told him that I bobbled the ball and didn’t have control until the runner reached the bag. We won the game, and my dad was proud when I revealed what happened.

However, my late father wouldn’t be so thrilled since I helped my son, Milo, with a ninth-grade English essay and a public speaking assignment last month. I revamped his writing after he forwarded his Google doc.

I’ve been guilt-ridden since even though some of Milo’s teachers were piling on homework, and he was having issues with classwork outside bricks and mortar due to the novel coronavirus.

I promised that I would never be one of those parents who left their fingerprints all over their children’s work. Some of my children’s peers’ second-grade science projects appeared as if they were prepared by Stephen Hawking. I always wondered if teachers took into account that some children receive some extraordinary assistance.

I get it. Parents want their children to receive the best grades possible, but school is about learning. Every parent hopes their kid makes the honor roll, but what good is it if you can’t apply what you consume in the classroom to real life?

It’s also best to be honorable. That was the lesson I learned when I was in third grade. Mrs. Boyd detailed why taking the easy way out wasn’t an option. “If you cheat, you won’t be smart enough to one day become president of the United States.”

Well, maybe that’s not the best example now. I didn’t engage in underhanded activity during my dozen years in Catholic school – except in 10th grade. I missed a geometry test, and I was placed across the hall to take an exam. Our instructor, Mr. Windfelder, spoke very loudly when going over the test. “The answer to No. 1 is … well, I felt like Adam in Eden. I couldn’t resist. I called out sick on geometry test days for an entire semester. Windfelder never caught on, and I finished with a 96.

I never admitted my crime, but I’m guessing the statute of limitations is up. I couldn’t resist. I’m sorry. Teenagers make mistakes. My frontal lobe wasn’t fully formed, which explains many of my curious decisions while coming of age.

I’m not a cheat at heart. I never crossed that line again during those parochial school days since the mental and physical punishments were severe if you were caught. I witnessed my share of barbaric beatings. The lay teachers and priests were not to be trifled with, so I kept a low profile.

I was on the straight and narrow throughout my academic career, but I finally was compelled to help my kids.

Some people will do anything for their progeny, and that was well illustrated in the 1996 film “Before and After.” Liam Neeson does whatever it takes to protect his son who may have committed murder.

Parents can go too far if they have the opportunity. Three years ago, my daughter, Jillian, asked if I could proof her English entrance exam. “Your university will let you take the test remotely,” I asked incredulously. I completely revamped Jillian’s essay. To my daughter’s credit, she kept what she composed and still skipped over the introductory English class. But I couldn’t resist temptation.

Fortunately, my ability is limited. Unless you would like to witness me vexed and are looking for a poor grade, don’t ask for assistance in math or science. I somehow avoided the former in college and still left with a degree. Regarding the latter, the only science class I experienced at university was catastrophic geology, which reflected my grade.

Am I the only one who is taken aback by the volume of homework kids have today? It’s daunting, especially when you add sports and other extracurricular activities to an all too rigorous schedule.

“What was most difficult over the spring was the amount of work we had once we were online,” Milo said. “Our assignments were endless, and there wasn’t enough instruction. We never got a break.”

Milo, who has always tried to play the angles in order to get out of schoolwork, shocked his parents by volunteering to take an online Spanish class to better understand the language.

I explained to Milo that summer is full of distractions that might prevent him from excelling, but he sees it in a completely different manner. So far, so good. He handled his first lesson with aplomb.

For once, my academic slacker is motivated. Milo says he wants to learn Spanish to better communicate with potential baseball teammates. He’s played with some kids in Texas and Florida who primarily speak Spanish. Milo is confident he’ll ace the class.

“I want to get an A and not even think about asking you for help,” Milo said. “You helped me last month, and I got a 92 on my English essay. How can a professional writer only get a 92 in a freshman English class?”

How about that for gratitude? My revenge? I’ll convince him to let me assist with his chemistry homework next year.

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