I Got in Trouble...There's a Homework Note

Last week when I picked up Puck and Flower from school, Puck looked anxious. I asked them what they’d done at school and Puck burst into tears.

“I got in trouble. There’s a homework note.”

The week prior he’d had a test he was supposed to bring home for signature. He “forgot” to bring it home on Thursday, and said that he’d given it to his father to sign but his dad didn’t do it. The parent signature was due on Monday, so Puck just signed it himself. But I remembered the Thursday note on Tuesday, and assuming that Dad had seen it, wrote a note to the teacher saying I needed to see it too. If the teacher hadn’t read the note, he would have continued to assume that I’d seen it and that Puck’s signature was my own.

I immediately flashed back to my own childhood. I’d like to say I was an angelic child and never got notes home, but I must have every once in a while. I can remember sitting, crying in a bathroom stall at school over a bad test and hastily writing my mother’s signature. I was scared of bad grades. I didn’t want her to see my bad test. And I guess, for a while, I must have continued doing so. But eventually, I must have had her actually sign something, because at that point the teacher realized that the signatures were different, and called my mom because she thought that the latest signature (which actually was mom’s) was an obvious forgery (because as it turns out, left-handed kids aren’t so good at writing their right-handed mom’s signature). So if I’d kept signing things, I probably would have kept everyone completely in the dark for at least a while longer. My mistake was actually bringing a note from school home.

[tweetthis]My mistake was actually bringing a note from school home. #homeworktroubles[/tweetthis]

I, of course, caught heck from my mom and although I don’t recall my punishment, recall the situation well enough because she’s told that story so many times that it’s burned into my brain. And of course she was much amused when she heard Puck’s latest…(something about a Mother’s Curse…) and she was even more amused to find out that he’d actually passed the test, the teacher was just sending it home to keep us in the loop.

Of course, I didn’t tell Puck my story (as funny as it is to my mom now). Instead, I asked him which part of his story I found more distasteful. He knew immediately it was the lying. In our house, lying is the worst thing you can do. And I’m a little harder on the older two because their father regularly teaches them that it’s “OK” to tell little white lies. Or big whoppers. Not that he says to them “You should tell lies” – more that they see him regularly lying to people. Their doctors, the tutor, their teachers, the principal and of course their mother. He’s such a gem, he also lies to them regularly. Usually à la Donald Trump – “I never said that,” when he really did.

I don’t want them to ever get the impression that this behavior is OK. Even if their father manages to get away with it. Because lies tend to compound, and eventually they’re too hard to maintain. Like Peter and the Wolf, lying means that you’re untrustworthy. And not a good friend or employee. And not a good husband or wife. And definitely not a good ex-husband and, let’s be honest, a pretty crappy father.

So we discussed what happens next time his dad doesn’t sign something. (Because there will be a next time). I suggested giving him a pen with the paperwork and getting him to sign it. Puck says that’s what he did this time. I sighed. Because I don’t think he was lying. So I told him that I’d tell his teacher that I need to see everything and that might mean it gets in past the due date. But really, while I do understand that it’s important for the school to ensure they have a conduit home to ensure that parents are informed, when it’s the parent that refuses to know or get involved, I don’t think the child should be punished for it.

But yes, Puck did get punished, by me, for lying. And after our discussion, I hope he’ll think twice before he tries something like that again.

What do you think about the school’s homework policy? Should the kids be punished for their parent’s mistakes? Is lying as big an offence in your house as it is in mine?

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  1. Lying is a terrible habit. Once it starts, there’s no end to it and the lies get bigger. that’s too bad Puck’s dad didn’t do the right thing (irresponsible?) and then Puck’s anxiety rears its head. Poor kid. Hopefully, he knows now to check with you and that he feels safe to bring notes and tests home to you for signing. I think the policy makes sense at their age. Great topic, Liv.

  2. I don’t think it’s right when it is the parent’s fault. I don’t know how you do it. I keep things will get easier for you, but I see as they grow older the challenges that you will be facing and for that I am sorry!

  3. I think the school would like you to see his grades/work and participate in either acknowledging his hard work or help him rectify anything that’s confusing him, so I honestly don’t see anything wrong in their policy. Now that the teacher is aware that you need to see the homework and therefore the signature will be late in coming, hopefully, that will take care of the issue of his dad not willing to sign.
    I guess the bigger problem is, like you pointed out, the role model that his dad is being. Kids learn more via actions than words and if lying is something that is normalized by one than it becomes really confusing for the child. I’m glad he has a clear understanding that lying is not acceptable to you and he’ll therefore learn that lying is not acceptable, period!

  4. It’s always the lying, isn’t it? Yes.
    Poor Puck. I remember being there.
    Also, Scarlet is left-handed so she gets that handwriting thing! I think Des is too, which is weird. Cassidy and I are not.

  5. There’s not one part of this that doesn’t resonate with me/us in one way or another. Zilla just had an “oops” slip for not getting a paper signed and each one of us was at fault here. In this house where we all have one form of ADHD or another, we depend on a system of checks and balances to get things done and that night it failed. We figured out where the disconnect happened, discussed how to fix it, and moved on. We sign the homework book each night which works for me because it’s part of Z’s plan for her success in managing her ADHD and all its parts anyway. She was really good about it in the end and did explain that even though it was her parents who goofed, it is her responsibility to check and she didn’t. The slip itself was the “punishment” and this part of the year serves as warning only to help build the habit of taking responsibility and not blaming the parent. Sometimes it absolutely is the parent’s fault something doesn’t get done – for whatever reason. And in your scenario, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for all not only to coordinate (we have trouble enough in one house) but keep it from escalating into much more than an unsigned paper. I truly understand. I think we must have ended up sort of lucky in that regard – aside from final report cards, mom was the one who got school communication, period.
    I can remember being the kid who forgot stuff and who faked a signature (or five). I think the funniest one was when I signed “mommy” instead of attempting her actual signature. I was more afraid of being in trouble for not having my paper signed than I was for anything else. And yes, in the end the lying was the biggest offense, as it is here for us. The message to me as a kid – and to ours now – is that honesty has to be the only way to go, no matter what the consequences of truth may be. Today it’s a homework paper, in five years it’s lying about whether they were at a party with beer or drugs.
    You’re doing a great job, mom! Hang in there. Huge hugs for all of you!

  6. Ugh! Poor Puck. Caught between a rock and a hard place, and he made a bad choice. I think the school needs to rethink its policy. I completely understand why the school wants to engage parents/carers and get them involved but if they refuse, the children shouldn’t be afraid 🙁

    1. Author

      It’s likely for 99% of the kids it’s not a problem. I’m hoping though they’ll make an exception if need be for Puck. I’m hoping now anyway he has the tools he needs to make his case to the teacher.

  7. We have the same “sign the agenda” policy in our schools as well. I understand that the schools would like parental involvement, but I agree that they shouldn’t punish the kids. The schools try to market it as “it’s the kid’s responsibility to tell the parent to sign it”. Again, I get it that they are trying to teach responsibility. But I feel like it’s a rather roundabout way of doing it. I’m sure there are 100 things a day that teachers wished their students did on their own. Why not assign those things as responsibilities (with repercussions) instead? But good on you for sticking to the rules, regardless of whether or not you agree with them, and explaining to your son what you expect of him. 🙂

    1. Author

      I’m all for teaching them to be responsible. I don’t feel that it’s his job to teach his father to be responsible. If no one’s been able to do it for the past fifty years, he’s hardly going to start now. We’ll see if it comes up again. I think I’ve given him the tools to get around it next time.

  8. Oh Hugs, Liv! I hear you about the lying and the getting away with it. ergggg 🙁 As for the homework situation, I let all teachers know that both parents need to see the notes, and luckily they’ve been pretty understanding about the two-household situation. Hopefully this will ease the pressure on Puck when dad decides not to sign. Hang in there, Puck! And mom! for dealing with such a *helpful* coparent. Grr!

    1. Author

      I’m finding now that we’re a few years in that the teachers are talking to each other and generally understand what they’re up against, I haven’t even had the conversation yet this year. For the most part we’ve been good – but I completely understand the teacher getting upset in this instance.

  9. Oh, I remember getting a note from the teacher the first week of school! We had missed a homework assignment. My daughter got points taken off and I was scolded with the statement that it is very importantant it is for her to do her homework. It was an honest mistake and it was my mistake.. I guess its a way of holding the student and parent accountable, but stinks that the kid gets affected..

    1. Author

      It does – especially if the parent is consistently irresponsible and the student isn’t.

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