Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Book

Ms. Lee and I are talking to a student about his cutting problem. He tells us he lives above a church and that his parents, out of the country, pay the church to take care of him. He then names a half-dozen kids I know, male and female, who are doing the same. It's clear this church's concept of remote parenting entails letting the kids do pretty much whatever the hell they please.

Ms. Lee is horrified.

"You have to watch them like a hawk, especially in this city," she tells me later. Ms. Lee's three kids have all gotten into elite NYC high schools. When she talks parenting, I always listen, hoping to stumble upon one of her secrets.

"Who's going to help these kids?" she asks. "Nobody, that's who."

"It's not just the obvious things, either," she continues. "You have to watch everything. One day my son came home and told me he wouldn't have to do science homework all year."

"Was he just lucky?" I ask.

"Not with me," she replies. "I went to the school and they told me they didn't have enough books, so he couldn't have one. They had given it to someone else."

"How did they decide who to give books to?"

"They told me my son was a good student. They said his partner really needed the book. You're punishing my son because he's smart, I told them. That's unacceptable. He'd better have a book this week, I said."

"What happened?"

"He got a book the next day. What are these kids gonna do without parents?"
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