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What is the Plural of Pocahontas? Pocahontai?

No one should parent without friends. It’s too lonely and pitfalls await you at every turn. There’s no way to know exactly where you’re headed and we all know we’re much better parents in hindsight. So do the obvious. Find your parenting Pocahontas and follow her path.

I’m really lucky that I have two women who are about ten years in front of me. Both have boys and girls and both of them are out of the neighborhood so when I text Amy and say “I really fucked it up this time with Jane.” She is able to ignore the nuance, the setting and every other bit of extraneous information and get right to the meat of how absolutely lost I feel as the mother of a teen.

Like many other schools Jane’s school uses something called Powerschool. Powerschool is essentially an online grade book. The teachers enter all the kids’ scores and this way parents have real time access to grades and we can help our children schedule their time accordingly. Jane is on two volleyball teams and a soccer team. If she has any assignments that have not been turned in she cannot participate in sports. It’s not a punishment, but rather a consequence of not having enough time. Also, if Jane doesn’t have all B’s or higher in her classes she cannot participate in sports. Again, not a punishment, but a reallocation of time and resources.

This is a snippet of Jane’s math profile.


You can see that a parent this is a powerful tool. It helps me know that everything is okay, and points me at problems before anyone has a chance to fall too behind.

One of the options is that you can have all the grades emailed to you daily, weekly or monthly. I chose daily.

About a week ago I noticed I was no longer getting daily emails. I didn’t think much of it because I’d been thinking that our mornings were a little rough with me looking at grades before sending the kids to school. I felt like I was nagging Jane and sending her off in a not-so-good way. Since the email system has been wonky I didn’t think much of it.

Well, Jane had two assignments that were not turned in. One was a two point assignment and the other was 10. These aren’t huge assignments, but part of the sports contract is that everything is done. Being rather Sherlock Holmesy I went into the Powerschool system to see if the email options had been manually changed.

Knocked the wind out of my sails.

Jane had unticked the box so that I’d no longer get the emails. I, predictably, went ballistic and screamed at her. Sent her to school terrified and told her that in addition to one month without technology I was going to invent some punishments. I brought the kids to school and drove home in a silent car second guessing myself.

I knew that a month was ridiculous but I’d already said it. It was the punishment that I’d promised. I also felt like I’d set her up to fail by being too tough and by talking about grades in the mornings before school as opposed to the end of the end of day after Jane had slain her dragons.

This week Amy was Pocahontas. She regaled me with stories of punishments for her daughter. The ones that worked and the ones that didn’t. We talked about why we punish kids, are we looking to be punitive or are we looking to teach them something? Is it about taking a corrective action or about anger?

Jane has lost her phone and computer for a week. There will be neither Facebook nor iChat. She is effectively cut off from all her friends. In addition to all of that we’re taking a three day trip. She’ll be stuck with her family and ability to text a friend. We like to call that Family Funishment. Amy thought it sounded a bit like torture for any red blooded 13 year old.

Thank goodness I have these women or poor Jane would be in a convent right about now. They need a token Jew. 

3 thoughts on “What is the Plural of Pocahontas? Pocahontai?”

  1. I don’t blame you a bit for your initial reaction. The girl was deliberate in her intention and actions when she changed the email. She violated your trust in her.

    Even as a classroom teacher, I recognized when I might have gone over the top and I would alter punishments. it doesn’t hurt us as authority figures as much as being over the top, knowing it and sticking to it anyway does.

    I love those gradebook systems by the way. I quite teaching the year before my school district started using one. There are plenty of teachers moaning about it but I already had an elaborate email system going on with many of my parents and this would have simplified my life enormously.

  2. Jessica,

    You’re spot on to have recognized the need for Pocahontai.  The world would be a much healthier place if we all had mentors for different aspects of life.  As you know, I’m not a parent, yet I know a little about life, and rely on my own Pocahontai.  With their help, between Godchildren and employees who report to me I’ve come to learn that it’s not about being perfect.  Instead, it’s about doing the best we can as role models, and the ones with the responsibility for helping shape their futures. 

    When we slip into “monstrous beast mode” (read that “perfectly imperfect human mode”), its an opportunity for us to teach those who depend on us about how to properly follow those outbursts, while using those moments for we ourselves to learn and grow in our own parenting/leadership skills.  And just as important, it’s vital we give ourselves some slack, and allow ourselves to be human.  That too is an opportunity for us as role models to show others that its okay for them to be human. 


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