Dear Family Coach: A friend told me that she requested for our daughters to be in the same classroom this year. She never asked me about the decision, and neither did the school. I would have preferred for our girls to be in different rooms. What can I do now? -- Ignored Parent
Dear Ignored: The micromanaging and social engineering in today's classrooms is completely out of hand. Parents, especially ones who make significant contributions to the PTA, are given a great deal of influence on where their children are placed. Parents try to avoid teachers that are too strict or not strict enough. They opt out of classes that have a troublemaker, bully or too many special needs children. Or they just want the same teacher their other child had. The trouble is, with every request honored, parents are encouraged to get even more involved in classroom decisions.
The school should not have deferred to this parent's request without discussing it with you. You may have had good reasons for not wanting your children to be together. However, even if your friend had stayed out of it, your children still might have ended up together.
At this point, I'd do nothing. If it turns out that it would be better for the girls to be separated next year, then be sure to let the teacher and principal know about your preferences. However, teachers and school administrations are balancing many competing interests. Also, they often know the children's social, emotional and academic needs better than the parents do. So unless the reason is compelling, simply let the school make the choices for you.
Dear Family Coach: My son is starting 9th grade in the fall. He really wants to run track this year. But he is quite overweight. I worry he will embarrass himself and the kids will make fun of him. Should I discourage him from trying out? -- Concerned Mom
Dear Concerned: Let me get this straight. Your teen son is overweight. He's probably out of shape, too. He says he wants to join a track team that presumably involves extensive exercise, and you are considering discouraging him? Oh, no. Stop that right now.
Sure, kids can be mean. And yes, starting a team when you are not particularly in shape could potentially be embarrassing. But so what? Teens are embarrassed about everything. At least he wants to start an exercise program and join a team. He should be celebrated, not discouraged.
Track is an individual sport as well as a team sport. That means, even if he isn't a stellar athlete he can still compete. He can participate without drastically affecting his teammates. Furthermore, there's an event for everyone in track and field. Maybe your son won't win the 100-meter sprint, but he will have the ability to throw the discus out of sight. Who knows, maybe he has an incredible ability to run through pain, which is an asset in longer races.
Give your son a chance. If he fails miserably, or if they make fun of him, be there with a kind word and a warm hug. Encourage him to do his best and be proud of his achievements. Even if he doesn't win anything he will have gained a valuable experience trying to do something that was difficult. Next time he comes up against an obstacle, he might not be afraid to give it a try.
Catherine Pearlman received her doctorate in social welfare at Yeshiva University and her master's degree in social work from New York University. In addition to having a private practice, Dr. Pearlman is an assistant professor in the social work program at Brandman University.