In Loco Parentis

The other week my daughter came home with information about a new classroom behavioral program that the teacher was implementing. I will call the program “Loco” so I do not get sued for disparaging their amazing product. Loco is supposed to act as a positive reinforcement tool to track your child’s behavior throughout their school day and create a tidy pie chart with a percentage given for positive behavior. The pie chart is broken down into segments detailing positive or negative actions of the student.

For instance, my daughter received points for actions such as “staying on task” or “helping others.” She got dinged for being “off task” at a different time and for “talking out of turn.” Each day, positive and negative behaviors are time-stamped to document when the praised behavior or offense occurred.

When my husband and I logged onto Loco for the first time, we were pretty shocked by this program. I can’t imagine how time-consuming it is for the teacher to continuously update real time information regarding each student and their various transgressions. The program seems big-brotherish to me.

We decided to enjoy the humor of Loco’s behavioral pie chart and not bother bringing any demerits up with our daughter, because presumably she has already been disciplined at school for being off-task or talking out of turn.

I’m not sure how effective a discipline strategy it would be to ask my daughter at bedtime why she was flapping her gums too much at 8:15 a.m. I also can’t imagine if adults had a Loco keeping them accountable all day long. This is what my Loco might report:

– 1 for hitting the snooze button multiple times (6:20 a.m.)

+ 1 for getting my daughter to the bus stop on time (7:10 a.m.)

+ 1 for making my group exercise classes (9:00 a.m.)

– 1 for gesturing at the driver going 20 in a 45 (11:05 a.m.)

– 1 for raising my voice at my mud-caked sons (11:37 a.m.)

+ 1 for making a decent lunch for the kids (11:45 a.m.)

– 1 for not folding that dusty pile of laundry (12:58 p.m.)

– 1 for letting too many dirty dishes stack up (2:13 p.m.)

+ 1 for chauffeuring the kids to their multiple activities (3:20 p.m.)

– 1 for hitting up Taco Bell for dinner (hey, it’s Taco Tuesday!) (5:36 p.m.)

– 1 for forgetting to brush one of the kid’s teeth (6:45 p.m.)

+ 1 for helping my daughter complete her homework (7:27 p.m.)

– 1 for that extra glass of red wine (9:32 p.m.)

+ 1 for getting to bed at a decent hour (10:30 p.m.)

At the end of the day, a huge pie chart would break down my good and bad choices into green and red colored sections with a percentage of my socially acceptable behaviors. I think my days might become a little less colorful if I aimed for a one hundred percent Loco score every day. Sometimes you need to yell a little (even if to no one) to vent your frustration; you might tap into your creativity staying up too late at night; the dishes and laundry will be there the next day, while your ambition to write, create or do anything instead of household chores may not be.

When I first saw on Loco that my daughter was penalized for talking out of turn or being off task, I thought of the hilarious 1980s film, Uncle Buck, played by the late, great John Candy. I remembered the classic scene where Uncle Buck tells off his young niece’s school principal for trying to create robot students:

“I don’t think I want to know a six-year-old who isn’t a dreamer, or a sillyheart. And I sure don’t want to know one who takes their student career seriously.”

Uncle Buck wouldn’t approve of Loco, as this tool doesn’t encourage the dreamers and the sillyhearts to sometimes talk out of turn in their unbridled excitement or daydream to the point of getting off task. Often our best ideas form when we are off task and allowed to simply float in our thoughts. All I know is that I am not downloading the Loco app.

Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Three Kids and an iPhone

I am a busy mother of four – a first grader, a preschooler, a toddler and an iPhone. My little iPhone is the most demanding and needy of all my children. He beeps and buzzes at me through all hours of the day and night, beckoning me to pick him up, cradle him in my hands and caress his buttons. I take my little iPhone everywhere – he sits on the table while I eat my meals, he accompanies me to the bathroom where I catch up on Facebook statuses or the latest news. He is always by my side, in my pocket or within easy reach.

My iPhone is popular with the other children – everyone wants to hold him and play games with him. In fact, they fight over him. Sometimes I pay too much attention to iPhone, and the other children get jealous. I give me iPhone baths on a regular basis – my four-year-old enjoys sneezing on him, so iPhone enjoys a good daily wipe down with an antibacterial cleaning wipe. I haven’t figured out how to brush his teeth yet, but I’m working on that.

iPhone enjoys the newest toys (he calls them his “apps”). He constantly demands the latest and greatest apps. He will frequently throw a tantrum in the app store, demanding the app that tells me where to buy antibiotic-free chicken or where the cheapest gasoline is for purchase. He never has enough apps, and he is always whining for more. I’m not sure how I will afford the app for his college education, but we have opened a 529 account for that.

I can’t hug or kiss my little iPhone, but I can cradle him in my hands. He is too small for a baby carrier so I carry him snugly in my pocket. In the car he rides in a cup holder, as the car seat manufacturers are way behind the curve in creating a restraint to securely hold him. He is never out of arms’ reach. iPhone wishes he could go swimming, but the pediatrician has advised otherwise. Some parents have baby iPhones that ignore this warning and end up swimming in the toilet, which ends badly for everyone involved.

iPhone sees and hears everything. You can’t cuss in front of little iPhone, or he will catch your spewed obscenities on his video recorder. He loves to post photos on social media sites, even the less than flattering shots. He is social and enjoys communicating with other iPhones via text messaging. We relish playdates with other iPhones at restaurants, where the little gadgets sit on the table among the wine and calamari and revel in frequent interaction with the adults, as the humans try to remember how to communicate with each other.

iPhone delights in being the center of my universe. The smallest bing or vibration and Mommy will come running to see what prompted the cry. No meeting is too important; no face-to-face conversation is too vital; the call of the iPhone trumps all.

If I ever leave iPhone at home by accident, all hell breaks loose. Panic rises in my chest, my pulse accelerates and little beads of sweat pool on my brow as I rush home to retrieve the abandoned iPhone. iPhone can never be left unattended or out of sight; the consequences for abandonment are unfathomable. At a minimum CPS (cellphone protective services) will be contacted.

iPhone is very demanding for Mommy’s attention, but occasionally the other children need me to look at them and listen to what they are saying. During one of those rare occasions, I reluctantly (and gently) set little iPhone down and attempt to maintain an authentic interaction with iPhone’s human siblings. Sometimes it is difficult to communicate with the flesh and blood children, as they don’t have buttons or provide any useful information in the way of stock quotes or weather updates, but talking to them reminds me how to be a human.

At the end of the day, after tending to four children, this mommy is exhausted. There is no better feeling than putting the kids to bed and silencing iPhone. Until we meet again in the morning, I will dream of your incoming messages and impending dings. And sometimes those human babies have interesting things to say too.

Featured image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.