Editorial: Parents must play by the rules

By Annemarie Quill

14 comments
Lucan Battison.
Lucan Battison.

They f*** you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.


Oh how right was poet Philip Larkin. For while we might spend most of our childhood agreeing with him, and most of our life as parents trying to prove him wrong, it is true that sometimes parents, in wanting what is best for their child, seem to do their worst.

Napier parents Tania Doidge and Troy Battison are going to battle in the High Court against the decision by St John's College to suspend their son Lucan for refusing to follow school rules and cut his hair.

Sixteen-year-old Lucan seems a nice lad. Only a few months ago he was hailed a hero for saving a swimmer in trouble.

But from now on he is going to be known as the troublemaker with the ponytail.

The Hastings Catholic school for boys' policy on hair is it should be short, tidy and of natural colour.

Lucan's parents argue his hair is tidy if it is tied back. And it might be. But that is not the school rule.

Now here is a point when many parents breathe a silent "hallelujah" to school rules. School rules are not just essential lessons in self-discipline, respect and belonging, but are invaluable counter arguments against all sorts of horrors - arms decorated in coloured looms, piercings, iPhone 5s.

Because if your child won't listen to the rationale of "Because I said so", you can then fall back on "It is against the school rules".

Parents choose the school, and therefore must implicitly agree with the school rules. I have been filling in an enrolment form for a high school this week and it is clearly marked: "this is a legal document, please read carefully", which I have duly noted as another string to my armour "you cannot wear that blue nail polish because it is illegal".

Breaking the rules at school seems part of life's rite of passage, but so is dealing with the consequences for it too. I went to a strict convent school and used to carry a bag of makeup and makeup remover so I could travel to the school with a full face of makeup, clean it off before the school gates, then reapply for the walk home. We rolled up our skirts and stuffed our compulsory hats in our bags. If we ever got busted by the nuns, our parents would go equally ballistic.

Yet in Lucan's case, his parents are backing him and not the school. While I totally admire people standing up for their beliefs, this is not a moral issue. Lucan is not Samson. His parents knew the rules when they enrolled him. For that reason, I am in agreement with TV's Mike Hoskings who lashed out this week at the parents saying he had "a very strong distaste for parents who want to run schools and wipe their kid's bums".

When Mr Battison fronted up to Mike Hoskings later in the week, long dreadlocks and all, I thought two things. First: good on him in a way, he is not afraid to rally against popular opinion and I respect him for that. Secondly: one couldn't help noticing his long dreadlocks - the camera lingered over them, making a visual point: are these part of the story too?

People took to message boards to comment on the dad's dreadlocks. We shouldn't judge on appearances but it is human instinct. I will admit it, I do not like dreadlocks. They fill me with a sense of dread. Much like beards, I wonder what they harbour, and fear that with a slight flick of the head, all manner of things will fly out of the gnarly tresses and hit me in the face.

Dreadlocks convey a certain sense of the rebellious middle finger to society.

Which is fine for Mr Battison because he is a grown man.

But his son, though 16, is still at school and should conform by the rules.

Also, this week, Whakatane gang member Skip Taitapanui is another upset parent taking on his son's school. He was told by the St James Street school principal he can no longer be a parent helper at his son's school camp because he was an active gang member.

Like Mr Battison, I have some sympathy for Mr Taitapanui. Here is a dad who wants to help out, which should be applauded.

He is taking an active part in his son's life. His own dad died when he was 12, which meant he spent time in CYF care. He said the gang became his "family" and he still considers it so.

Reading this made me feel really sad - he sounds like a good dad.

If being in a gang means he just has tattoos and a Boys' Own leather jacket, I don't see why he can't go to camp. But he said he will complain against the school, "I also want to take a stand for other dads who are part of gangs and might come up against something like this".

Wouldn't a better stand for his son be just to leave the gang?

All very well to think that breaking the school rules is just channelling individuality and creativity, but in the real world that won't wash any more than Lucan's old man's hair-do.

Fine to be your own person, but to be a functioning member of society you have to mould.

If someone cannot do this how will they get through life?

Get a lot of parking tickets? Find it hard to get a job? Streak on a rugby pitch and then complain that the security was too rough?

Or just find it hard to do the right thing by your kids?

They f*** you up your mum and dad ...

- Bay of Plenty Times

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