A few years ago I took care of a 10-year-old while the mom worked Fridays through Mondays. So after school on Fridays and Mondays and during the weekend, the girl would spend time with us. She wanted to do what she did at home, park in front of the television all day. What we did was involve her in all the things we normally did including food shopping and meal preparation, sewing, some light cleaning, and other normal activities including going to church. We chatted at the dinner table and shared stories about things we had done that day.
We read together and played games and yes, we worked on homework also. She hated that. She was not used to being accountable for doing her work.
One day the mom was also with us as we went somewhere in the car. I was driving and I pointed to a road sign, one of those orangey-yellow ones that showed a curve coming up. I asked the girl if she knew why the sign was yellow.
Now this was the kind of question I had been throwing at my children since they were little to get them thinking, so I did not think it was particularly difficult.
Not only did the girl have no idea but neither did the mom. So I stepped them through the logic, asking the colors of the traffic lights and what the green, yellow and red mean. Once we got through the typical giggle that yellow means go faster and agreed it was a caution color, I figured they would get the connection. It didn’t happen so I simply said “yellow signs are warnings. Not hard rules but strong suggestions for safety. So when you are driving and see a yellow sign, know there is a caution there, something to be careful about.”
Instead of the “oh” acknowledgement I expected, the mom got angry and shouted “Is everything a teaching opportunity for you?”
I make enough dumb moves in my life. If I can avoid a repeat bad performance, I will. But there has to be some brain involvement to think about why things went less than smoothly. Otherwise, rinse and repeat will be the life activity, not the life lesson.
As a parent, I have the responsibility to raise my kids to be healthy functioning adults. To help them develop their own skills to be able to do what they need to do and to make decisions as wisely as they can. To love them enough to not always do what is easiest. To love them despite their own stumbles in their choices. To love them enough to expect they will succeed, knowing I have done what I can to teach them life skills.
A friend of mine moved to Croatia after retirement. Her parents were from there and she had fallen in love with the country whenever she visited family. She knew her small retirement funds would stretch farther in that economy and so made the move.
Much of her experience is joyful. Much of it is similar to the life she would have had she stayed in California. But there are differences.
She often says that the Adriatic nation’s male dominant culture is where the US was about 50 years ago. Little boys seem to be raised that they are the correct ones, and she often sees adult women deferring to their 10-year-old sons. She sees young women who feel they are unable to do what they want because of the roles society has given them. What amazes her is that women are the ones who perpetuate this situation. They often are very angry and domineering to other women, trying to maneuver for a small bit of power in their restricted world.
When I hear this current contrast I remember the way I felt growing up wishing I was a boy not because of gender confusion but because I recognized, even as a 5-year-old, that boys could chose to do whatever they wanted but girls had to comply with more rules. I knew that was not fair, not equal. I wanted to be able to chose my own pathway.
And when I hear woman friends talk about statements their boys make that put women down and laugh because they think it is funny, I see we have not come so very far after all.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Facebook has a lot of nonsense and a few bits of wisdom, I have seen a theme more and more recently, mostly posted by adults in the 50-70 age bracket. Generally it is a list of all the things we did as kids that kids today can’t/don’t do. We rode bikes without helmets. Sat in cars without seat belts. Got spanked. Had chores. Were respectful to our teachers. Went to church.
The punchline: we turned out all right.
The concept: Kids today are not well behaved and as nice or respectful as we were.
What is missing is the understanding that we are the current kids’ parents. We raised them to be the way they are.
So either we didn’t like the rules we had as kids and changed our parenting methods in reaction or we just abdicated our responsibility without any thought. We wanted to do what we wanted to do without any thought to the consequences down the road.
Also on Facebook I get into some conversations with people who are strongly anti-abortion but do not want any sex education in the schools. They feel that this is the family’s responsibility and yes, I agree, information about the maturation of the body is part of what parents should be discussing with their kids.
Age appropriate discussions should start when the kids are toddlers about touching and move on to making responsible decisions about all things through childhood. Before age 10 the understanding that their body will be going through a normal change needs to be started. Before age 12 kids need to learn that their body may get some feelings they never have had before and there are responsibilities to take on, things to know, so they don’t have unwanted consequences. They need to know about pregnancy and disease.
But many parents don’t have these discussions. Many feel it is “not the right time yet”. Many deny their own sexual feelings as a part of the human body’s system. Not discussed, it is secret and forbidden. Normal feelings are understood to be dirty and should be hidden.
And so, unless we empower the schools to step in, we have a problem. We have 12-year-olds who are sexually experimenting. We have 14-years-olds having babies. We have 18-year-olds with sexually transmitted diseases that will affect them the rest of their lives.
Abortion is a horrible choice. No question about it. But without education and availability of birth control, it is going to be a part of this culture with all its ethical and biological issues.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Consequences. Life happens. You can’t control all of it. But with a brain attached, you can think through your options and develop strategies to avoid unpleasant repercussions. Learn your lessons early to avoid rinse and repeat.