“Are we bad parents?”
By Jason Dubow
Y es, the reports are true—my unschooled twelve-year-old son spent a chunk of this past Friday morning not working algebraic equations, not immersed in Leviathan, not engaged in the revision of his “Purple” poem, but in the custody of the New York City po-lease.
My immediate thought upon discovering this was: “for good is A. the okay? blog!” That moment of cognitive simultaneity (or, if you prefer, insanity) translated reads: “Is A. okay?” Brief pause. “Good for the blog!”
It’s about your son, stupid! But he is okay. And a good story is a good story.
A. spends Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at SFC attending my classes, working with the good folks at the Academic Enhancement Center (a Mitch Levenberg joint), reading and writing in my office. As per my you-can-have-your-kid-around-as-long-as agreement with The Dean, A. is supposed to be supervised always. Always.
But, on occasion, A. does leave the building for one good reason or another: a visit to Sukkah City, an early afternoon saxophone lesson, a Connecticut Muffin sit-down with The Lamenting Mathematician. The good reason on this day was that SmallerMan, nine years old, was home recovering from strep. He wasn’t sick, he was recovering. My brother, in the town from California, was home until 10 AM and then A. was to arrive, after a tutoring session, about 10:30. Skeptic would leave school early and be home by 2 PM. Was this not the right thing to do? Were we courting trouble? Are we bad parents?
In any case, A. left the building and I went to teach my “Brooklyn Fiction & Film” class. We were discussing Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror: the wacky ’80’s, race in America, and the political nature of artistic expression.
My phone buzzed a few times during the 55-minute class. You may wonder, as I do now, how it is possible that a parent with a sick recovering child home alone and another out and about on the streets of Brooklyn, doesn’t think to himself “let me check on these messages and make sure everything is at should be.” At one point, I did glance down and saw a text from A. asking me to meet him on the second floor. I assumed that this was a now-obsolete text from the past (AT&T, you know how it is). As class wound down, I discovered a clearer and obviously recent text from Skeptic: “A picked up by police. Truant.” (Skeptic took all this with good humor, I am happy to report.)
While being interrogated, was A. perhaps contemplating the nature of human existence? Was he, perhaps, developing critical thinking skills (he made the right call: don’t tell the cops your little brother is home alone)? Was he, perhaps, improving his ability to communicate with authority figures?
And then he wrote about it. A complete lesson plan! The aim is! Assessment possible!
Later that day, A. e-mailed his public-defender uncle, Fritz: “Today I was taken into a police van for being a truant. Need your legal advice.” Fritz expressed incredulity and concern, suggested that A. carry a notarized “home school” letter on his person at all times, and then came the mantra: “be polite to the police, don’t answer any questions, ask for your parents [i.e. lawyer-up].” He gave A. his number.
A. was escorted back to campus by an armed trinity of New York’s Finest and left in the capable care of the assistant to The Dean (uh, oh). We are a white family, by the way— A. is a clean-cut, if slightly grungy, white boy—and I do wonder about the relationship between that fact and the reasonable manner in which the “case” was adjudicated.
I can’t, I won’t, say “It’s all good.” It’s never all good FYI.
I can, I will, say, “It’s all learning.” And isn’t all learning good?
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