Saturday, June 14, 2008

Making Me

In a recent conversation, Cheese and I were discussing accountability in the world, the US in particular. Among the topics were the politics of education and the Democratic way of thinking.
The conversation was started by a recent report of a suburban school here, where about 50% of the 8th graders did not graduate. The school sent notices home all semester, provided tutoring and tons of extra services, but yet the children still did not pass. And then the parents were on the news saying, “It’s not fair, it’s not fair – nobody warned us, they never told us,” and the kids were saying, “Man, it’s not fair – now I gotta go to school in the summer.”

Huh? What part of that is not fair? The part where you didn’t do the work so you couldn’t graduate? Who’s fault should it be?

When do we start holding parents accountable for their children? When do we stop passing off the responsibility of raising children to teachers, and then plead ignorance when the kid doesn’t pass? Where are the parents in this – the parents who should be instilling the ethics of hard work and value of education? That stuff is what is learned in the home – if a parent can't be bothered enough to know how the child is performing in school, or actively dismisses academic reports or teachers phone calls – what does that teach the child? What is that modeling for them?

And during this conversation, Cheese said something that hit me hard – he talked about my grandfather, who was a bridge tender here in Chicago, a real blue collar guy who had no money and no wife (my grandmother died when my dad was like 8), but worked his ass off to get my dad out of the “neighborhood” and send him to private high school. He was a guy that knew life could be better for his son, and worked hard to make that life for him. He was a guy that eventually raised a son who had the same high value on education and work ethic, who didn’t just sit back and say, “I’m poor, so what are you going to do for ME?”

And my father, in turn, was the same way. He was a full-time police officer, pulling himself up through the ranks to captain during his 33+ year career. He worked 5-6 side jobs at any given time, often working up to 20 hours a day, just so his kids could go to the best high schools. Sure, we were living paycheck to paycheck and broke as hell most of the time – but we were educated. And we saw how hard he, and my mother, worked to give us that. We may not have had electricity at some points, but gosh darn, we had diplomas.

And Cheese said, “Do you think your grandfather ever thought that all his hard work would ultimately produce a doctor in his family? I mean, all those years ago, when he was sending your dad through school – do you ever think he ever thought that all those painstaking hours of work would give him a doctor? You being a doctor was three generations in the making – it didn’t happen overnight, and it happen because of the hard work that came before you – that’s what was modeled for you.”

My dad died before I graduated with my doctorate, though he was calling me “doctor” long before I earned that title. In the months before he died, he told me that he thought he was a “terrible father,” referring to his work-related absences, his hard-nosed approach to discipline, and his alcoholic past. I think he regretted a lot of things he did, but yet I don’t know if he gave himself credit for those things, either.

There were a lot of years as a child that I was ashamed of our blue collar status in a white collar neighborhood. I was embarrassed of not having the things my friends did – the summer homes, the designer clothes, etc. But now, looking back on where all those other kids are and where I am – it’s clear that what my father gave me was more important then the things you wear or drive, or the places you go.

My father, with my mother, made me who I am.

I am driven, focused, educated, “hard-headed” and sometimes too hard on myself.

And I am NOT ashamed of that.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

I think you’d be proud.


Michelle J said...

You are a very lucky girl Megan.

Nicely written.

Prin said...

Awww. *sniff*

The luckiest part, imo, is that you realized it. :)

Happy father's day. :)

The Big Cheese said...

I know he would be and that he was proud of you. You're an amazing person. Love you baby.

Anonymous said...

dad was the bomb shit wasnt he. thats a great point cheese made. in reference to myself, our grandfather worked hard and he got a doctor. he never knew it either. he worked just as hard and got a pimp ass well. word up.......cheese your a boner

Molly said...

so sweet...made me teary.
take care

Anonymous said...

thanks for writing about him. ellie

Anonymous said...

Lovely post - so true!

Tri-Angle said...

Nice post McCue.

The Clyde said...

I know your Dad is gone, but as these others have posted, I know he'd be very proud of you Meg.

The Young Family said...

Wow - your dad sounds like he did a wonderful job raising you and putting in all those "right" things for you to learn!

Way to go dads!


I know I haven't been posting as much lately - life has been crazy!!

the fire said...

Not that I have crossed that bridge yet, but I think as parents we simply try to provide the opportunities as well as some guidance along the way. We hope our children make the right choices for them and eventually make themselves happy. Our happiness becomes dependent upon theirs.

Fave said...

you're not just a doctor - you're Dr. IronMeg!
I think that was a great tribute. (I kind of wish I had written one about my late father - he died when i was 13 - and was also one hell of a hard worker)

Dave said...

What a great post... one I can relate to.

I am really moved, now really looking forward to seeing my pops this weekend.