Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2002 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

A father, a son and an essay | So it's parents' night at school and I'm there on behalf of my youngest son. I look at him sometimes and see a toddler with a gap in his grin and a penchant for gnawing his toes.

But that's just a memory lie. The toddler is a teenager 2 inches taller than I am, a youngster on the cusp of manhood.

It hasn't been a fun passage. Last year, we went through a phase where he felt compelled to challenge everything I said, down to and including, "Hello."

These days, he doesn't so much challenge me as endure me. My son has perfected the thousand-yard stare, eyes fixed on something beyond your line of sight while you're yammering on about a good work ethic, the importance of education or some other bit of useless arcana from the book of responsible adulthood.

There is nothing quite as effective as a teenager for making one feel like a moron.

So anyway, I'm at parents' night. It's just me - my wife is with one of the other kids, my son couldn't be bothered. I'm in his social studies class and I ask to see some of his work. The teacher finds his folder, I page through his papers, and I come across a short essay: The Person I Most Admire.

Turns out it's two people. Some rap entrepreneur ... and me. Most of the essay, in fact, is about the overall wonderfulness of me - about the lessons I've taught my son and the ways I've shaped his life.

To say I was shocked is to understate by half. I guess you never know, do you? You flat-out never know.

This episode came to mind a few days ago as I absorbed the results of a new parenting study, "A Lot Easier Said Than Done," by Public Agenda, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group in New York City. The study (you'll find it on the group's Web site, produced a number of fascinating statistics on parents and parenting. One set of questions from the survey particularly intrigued me. It sought to ascertain how good a job parents feel they've done in transmitting basic values to their children.

The short answer: not very good.

For instance, while 83 percent of parents say it's essential to teach children self-discipline and self-control, only 34 percent feel they've successfully done it. Ninety-one percent say it's important to teach children to be honest and truthful, but just 55 percent think they've managed to do so. And so on.

I thought it was just me who felt overmatched. Turns out it's most of us.

You're anxious about what sort of job you're doing, what kind of adult you're creating. You struggle against the amorality of media, the cockiness of youth, the influence of peers, and most of all, the inadequacy of self, trying to ensure that the persons your children become are, at heart, decent, responsible and good.

But in the end, you wonder, you worry and you doubt. Because some days - MOST days - you'd swear they never hear a word you say.

I had to wonder if my son left that essay for me to find, but it seems unlikely. The students' work folders weren't put out for parental inspection and he had no way of knowing I would request to see his.

Maybe I should have asked him about what he had written, but I didn't know what to say and didn't want to embarrass him. So he'll never know I saw it - unless, I suppose, he happens across this column someday.

If so, I hope it's after he has had some children of his own and experienced what it's like to want for them, to desire desperately and without regard to self, the very best for them. And to receive in response the thousand-yard stare and heavy sigh of someone who is being forced to endure an idiot's blather.

When he knows what that feels like, maybe he'll know why I made a copy of his essay. And why I put it in a trunk of things I mean to keep, always.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s column by clicking here.

10/29/02: Things like this don't happen
10/22/02: Real monsters look just like women and men
10/18/02: Snoop's new tune rings hollow
10/15/02: A reminder of life's random cruelty
10/08/02: He toils in the name of change because he can't just stand by
10/01/02: Sharpton, crossing swords with the white corporate dragon, needs to learn what the civil rights movement really was about
09/25/02: A skewed sense of compassion
09/18/02: On death and a pop-culture mindset
09/10/02: Inconvenience me, PLEASE!
09/06/02: Latest CBS joke isn't funny
09/03/02: A rewarding life as a working stiff
08/30/02: We infants in men's clothing
08/27/02: Sept. 11 - How much is too much?
08/23/02: Cut it out already, media!
08/20/02: Brace yourself for attacks of the stealth ads
08/16/02: Russia, please, pretty please let the rocker hitch a ride into space
08/12/02: Racial 'colorblindness' is silly
07/30/02: Oh, to be famous
07/19/02: In Pop-Music Thriller, Jacko Takes on Sony
07/09/02: The password is 'frustration'
06/25/02: My Head And Heart Are At Odds - I Can't Watch Video Of Pearl's Beheading
06/21/02: Your kid's going to pay for cheating --- eventually
06/18/02: Stuffy 'correctness' robs races of give and take
06/07/02: A gift of the Masai
06/04/02: Now what? Use your 9/11 pain to combat complacency
05/24/02: Has your life changed since 9/11?
05/19/02: New world disorder is nothing to smile about
05/14/02: White men can jump, so why do black kids come up short in the classroom?
05/03/02: Catholic Church should be ashamed for blaming abuse victims
04/19/02: A reminder of how small the world has become
04/16/02: 100 death-penalty mistakes and counting
04/12/02: Until all the bad guys wear black hats
04/10/02: Connecting with history with hope for future
04/08/02: Just me and the boys: A black father's road trip
03/26/02: It's time to give up fighting the good fight and join the masses
03/22/02: It's not the art, it's the artist who's troubling
03/19/02: Don't ask, don't tell when it comes to police work
03/15/02: Do we have an inalienable right to TV?
03/12/02: What will we learn about ourselves as war toll grows?
03/08/02: Marriage madness --- oh, please!
03/05/02: A risk free life
03/01/02: Pentagon's idea of lying to media was breathtaking' in its stupidity
02/16/02: Will the Afghans forgive the U.S. for the beating of innocents?
02/15/02: In search of manhood, some make a fatal decision
02/08/02: Time for blacks to give the same respect they demand
02/05/02: A question of character and "unlawful combatants"
01/31/02: There's only so much a parent can influence a child
01/29/02: Mike Tyson is incapable of embarrassment
01/25/02: Acts of patriotism or acts of desecration?
01/18/02: Waiting for tears in the rain at Ground Zero
01/15/02: A little cultural respect works both ways
01/11/02: Can blacks be racist?
01/07/02: What price for the priceless?
12/21/01: An intriguing study on race
12/18/01: To err is me
12/14/01: Admit it, folks, If you've ever been 16, you can probably relate to Walker
12/11/01: Blacks-on-blacks poll is a healthy project
12/07/01: The best defense against government excesses
12/05/01: Better hoist caution flag
12/03/01: Martin Luther Ka-CHING!
11/27/01: Beauty reflects an ugly truth
11/22/01: Another reason to be thankful
11/19/01: If only they knew our names
11/12/01: Watching a 'dying' man live
08/01/01: Should a man be put in jail for what he's thinking?
07/27/01: It's your responsibility to invade their privacy
07/20/01: Is optimism for fools?
07/17/01: Everybody should have a white man

© 2002, The Miami Herald