The Portal. It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, the gateway to an alternative universe that lures, then traps the unwary in its nefarious web of illusion, where things are never what they seem.
If the previous sentence sounded to you like Rod Sterling intoning the intro to “The Twilight Zone,” then you too are old enough to thank your lucky stars that The Portal did not exist when you were in school.
The Portal, for the blissfully unaware, is a website the techno-hip 21st Century parent visits at least once daily to get the very latest updates on her child’s grades, upcoming and incomplete assignments, test results, and anything else the child’s teachers deem important, like “Billy seemed distracted today.” If you’re a parent and you’ve never visited The Portal, I have one word of advice: DON’T!
One school’s Portal advertises itself as providing parents with “important, up-to-date information” concerning their children’s progress in school. No, the information in question is not important. First, in days gone by, when there were no portals, kids achieved at much higher levels. Second, the best research into parent involvement finds that regardless of demographics or ability, children do best in school when their parents do not monitor and help with homework. But then, America’s education establishment pays no attention to research in education.
The Portal either turns parents into micromanagers or pushes already existing parental micromanagement over the edge. Micromanagement is driven by anxiety, always. Parents who visit The Portal on a regular basis are not simply curious. They are anxious control freaks. They are also their kids’ (and their own) worst enemies. Micromanagement never improves the performance of the person being micromanaged. It always produces stress, an unwillingness to communicate, and various manifestations of pushback. Sometimes, the pushback is subtle, sly, covert, and sometimes it is blatant, even belligerent, as in, “LEAVE ME ALONE! I’M SICK AND TIRED OF HAVING YOU LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER! GET A LIFE WHY DON’T YOU!”
Yes indeed, the micromanaging parent needs desperately to get a life of her own. There is no emotional boundary, you see, between the portal-obsessive parent and her child. To paraphrase The Beatles, she is him and he is her and they are all entangled. (And yes, I’m using the female pronoun purposefully because in probably nine of 10 instances — and that may be a conservative estimate — the mother is the micromanaging, anxiety-driven, Portal-obsessive in question.) Over the past two generations, co-dependency in the mother-child relationship has become normative, and this is yet another manifestation.
Being in a co-dependent relationship has nothing to do with being a woman, however. My mother was not in a co-dependent relationship with me and my peers testify likewise concerning their moms. This is all about the post-1960s Good Mommy Club, which demands of its members that they be crazy about their kids (not crazy happy, mind you, but truly crazy) if they want to remain in good standing.
Without any evidence that The Portal is working to do anything but transport mothers to a Twilight Zone where they begin to believe their real name is “Mom,” public and private schools nationwide are pushing portal participation like it’s the next best thing to tablets (which the research also says are counterproductive). It’s as if they say to themselves, “Let’s build The Portal and find out later if it’s working!”
Come to think of it, I did have a homework portal when I was in school. It was called the “blackboard.”
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.