Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Future of America

My mom called this morning.

She had a story.

My mom took my nephew to this child “fantasy land” thing where there are all sorts of slides and playhouses in this huge open space for little kids to play in.

If you have any small children in your life – your own or those of relatives – you probably know what these things are.

So anyhoo, my mom and Mayor Nolan go there.

And surprisingly, Mayor Nolan jumps right in, running around, going in the play houses, and going down the big slides.

So while waiting for the little Mayor to come down a slide, my mom – standing at the bottom – notices this 4-year-old lining up blocks at the bottom of the slide.

Not like foam blocks – but plastic ones. Ones that, if a child slides into them, could be hurtful.

So my mom says, “Little boy, what are you doing?”

Little boy says, “I’m setting a trap.”

(Side note – anyone else find it disturbing that this toddler is planning to intentionally harm other children?)

My mom, flabbergasted, says, “But the kids are going to get hurt. I think you need to move those blocks.”

And the young blond hair child looks up at my 62-year-old mother, and says, “You don’t want to make me mad, do you?”

(Let’s pause here and just absorb that statement. And remind ourselves it came from the mouth of a 4-year-old.)

My mother responds, “Where’s your mother?”

Young boy responds, “At work.”

My mom says, “Who’s here with you?”

He says (perhaps not surprisingly), “My babysitter.”

So my mom took the blocks away from the bottom of the slide so that the other kids can come down and not get hurt.

And the child looks back up at my mom and says, “You can’t do that to me.”

And my mom?

She says, “Watch me.” And she throws the blocks behind the slide.

And all the little kids start to slide down the slide, unharmed, while the little boy goes to hide behind a pole and cry until a parent walks up and asks what’s wrong. He keeps crying and points at my mom.

End of story.

Now, if you’ve hung with me this far, and your dropping jaw didn’t close the blog screen, hang just a step further.

Let’s throw this scene back to, say, oh…circa 1980. Now, picture a Lil’ Meggy (like, put my big ass head on a smaller body in homemade clothes).

If those words flew out of my 4-year-old mouth, you can bet your Big Wheels that my mother would taken my toddler ass right home. And then once at home, my smart mouth would have gotten a bar full of the Dial soap.

Now, I’m not condoning Soaping a child – My point is, my mom wouldn’t put up with that shit. She would be APPALLED if her daughter got lippy with another adult. And she MOST CERTAINLY wouldn’t try to put the other adult in her place, ESPECIALLY if I was the one in the wrong.

But somewhere over the last 30 years, this became okay. It became okay to treat children like adults, and let THEM parent US. Let them make the “adult” decisions, give them the “adult” say. They tell us what they want, and we jump and say, “how much?”

I mean, fuck the rules, the structure, the limits, and (gasp!) the consequences.

And all under the excuse of “But we don’t want to stifle Lil’ Jimmy’s self-expression! We need to let him be who he wants to be!”

These children are allowed to grow up too quick – and now look at us. Surrounded by “adult” children and their “adult” viewpoints. Their “adult” sexual behaviors and their “adult” substance use. I find it near impossible to not choke out the parents that let their children drink and have sex in their homes, “because at least we know where they are and that they’re safe.”

And then we look around dumbfounded at each other when they start having children at age 12, like, “Well how did this happen?”

I feel like I always have to qualify these statements with, “Well now, I know I don’t have kids myself but…” But fuck that. I work with parents day in and out. I can understand and empathize about how hard it is to parent. And in this day and age - man – it’s HARD.

Maybe that’s part of the reason we shouldn’t really encourage or glorify childbirth for teenager, no? Just a thought.

But what it ultimately boils down to is lazy or frightened parenting. Parents too afraid or too lazy to set limits and follow through with consequences.

No one wants to be the bad guy these days – parents all want to be their kids’ best friends.

But that's not your job.

Your kid throws a desk at a teacher? Ground ‘em. Take away the Xbox, and then build on the privledge loss from there.

But my favorite is when you tell people that, they look at you like you have a big nasty booger stuck to your cheek.

And say, “But if he doesn’t have his video games, what are we supposed to do with him?”

Uh, how about talk? Interact? Or maybe just let his ass sit in his room and think about how sucky it is that he has nothing to do and maybe next time he shouldn’t throw a desk at his teachers.

I know this sounds like I am beating a dead horse, given yesterday’s post on parenting. But I see this more as another example of what appears to be an epidemic in this country in regards to parenting, or gross lack thereof. I mean, the kid in my mom's story learned this somewhere. Who is setting this example for him? If he has the balls to tell my mother – an elder – off in a public place, what the hell is this kid saying to his OWN parents?

Gosh darn.

Okay - that's two days of ranting. I'll try to shot some rainbows and puppies out of my ass for the next post.

But don't hold your breath.


anji said...

I work with 28 grade 7 students who almost all are the boss of their homes... I hear ya, totally.

I would NEVER have gotten away with this shit... actually, I never would have dreamed TRYING.

Kolla said...

I'm not a parent... but I can't help but think that the Dog Whisperer has the answer.
A kid that has a strong, calm role model, gets enough exercise and knows the boundaries is going to be a pretty decent kid.

So next time your mom sees the little jackass mouthing off, I suggest a sharp poke to ribs with that "tssstt" sound.
That should take care of it, right after someone puts a leash on him and runs him 40 laps around the playground.

quietandsmalladventures said...

i blame MacCauley Culkin and the 90's emphasis on non-punishment to develop self-esteem for the current state of toddler affairs. my mom would have definitely soaped or spanked me for being insolent. as a matter of fact i remember saying "dang it" in kindergarten which the teacher misheard as "damn it" and i got soaped at school. hehe, this is bringing back movie quotes from A Christmas Story where he fantasizes about going blind from ivory soap :)

Stef said...

"No one wants to be the bad guy these days – parents all want to be their kids’ best friends."

Not sure how old I was at the time but I clearly remember my mom telling me that she was my mother she was not there to be my friend. I thought she was crazy (and probably was about to throw a tantrum or something). But she was SPOT ON.

As you are in this post. I don't have kids either, nor do I plan to. But I know how I was raised. None of us EVER back talked my mom without consequences. Not at 4, not at 10, not at 18.

Punishment evolved over the years from spanking to grounding. Grounding was much, much worse IMO.

At the same time she was a fair, involved, and caring parent who had a lot of self confidence. And, yeah, it was a lot of work for her and for my dad. That they chose to take on by having children in the first place. They took that seriously, responsibly, and held themselves accountable. And she/they did it very well.

The Fire said...

you know the program in our house. I do say that there is one thing you left out of your piece. Kids want/need structure. With the structure they learn limits and while they may step outside the box at times, understand that once outside those boundaries there will be consequences...well maybe not a 19 month old, but we are working on it.

Anonymous said...

Once again great post. I hope you keep copies of all you thoughts they are always to the point!!!
I would have never ever talked to another adult like that, I would not even speak like that today, I am 40 years old. HOLY COW!!!
WADE the Conservative Social Worker

Go Mom Go said...

In my house...that would not fly.

My kids understand the rules, they understand there will be punishment, and they will respect each other and especially adults.

I have offered to bring other kids boot camp or something. Maybe that 4 year old can come spend a week here...he would return much happier and able to understand WHO is in charge.


Eric said...

Parenting isn't hard, it's common sense and you don't have to have children to have common sense. The problem is like you said, too many parents don't want to be "parents".

Kickstand Pam said...

Ah Meg - when my twins were a year and a half I took them to the park. There were 2 mothers there yapping it up. They each had infants in strollers and one had her 3 y/o playing. Well, I was helping my daughter climb something when from the corner of my eye I see my "angelic" son kicking, intensionally the 3 y/o in the head! He was above her on some bar climbing thing and his legs were dangling right into her head. Yes, my son was the bad one. I proceed to grab my son away from the little victim and check to see if she is ok. Then tell my kids we are going home. What does the 3 y/o mom do? Ask if the daughter is ok? See if she needs some ice? Nope, she tells me not to go, that my son didn't hurt her daughter and that everyone is ok! Huh? What? She was afraid she was going to lose some kids for her daughter to play with which would force her to actually pay attention to her little one at the park.

Needless to say I told the mom I wasn't going to teach my kids that it's ok to kick someone in the head and we left. We live in a strange world.

Oh, as far as I know Zak hasn't kicked anyone in the head since then.

prin said...

Your kid throws a desk at a teacher? Ground ‘em. Take away the Xbox, and then build on the privledge loss from there.

That's it? Just take away video games? Whatever happened to taking away their will to live?

And what about us? We express ourselves fine now, right? We've got personalities. We were stifled to hell and we still have robust senses of self. Probably more so than a kid who has everything handed to him by yes men.


Anonymous said...

Eric clearly doesn't have kids if he thinks "Parenting isn't hard...". It's really hard and you have to make decisions everyday that you hope are right. Can I be nice and assume that maybe his babysitter is a softie and he wouldn't be like that if his mom/dad were there? But mom and dad have to work extra jobs b/c of the state of the economy which is all George Bush's fault. How do you like them apples??

Benson said...

I'm mostly with you on this one. Maybe the kid was acting out while under babysitter watch (as suggested by anonymous) but still, way out of line and good on your mom for doing the right thing.

deb_dee said...

Kudos to your mom for stepping up. While I really hope that the kid was just taking advantage of the situation since he was with his babysitter, even so, who allowed the kid to have such bad manners? If he talked that way to your mom, I wonder how he spoke to his babysitter?

Rachel said...

*applause* applause*
Thank you! Amen!

The (IRON) Clyde said...

Read "The Epidemic"...enough said.

21stCenturyMom said...

I don't even know where to start but I will say if a child is behaving in a disruptive and undisciplined manner in public and the parents are too busy visiting with each other I will step in and God help the parents if they get pissed off at me.

When little Megan was 4 she probably wasn't steeped in sitcoms where the lingua franca is the nasty cut down. You know - those one liners desigend specifically to make a person feel very small. The ones that get all that laugh track. Little kids today think that is normal. They think if you can affect that sort of panache you are cool. They are not taught to respect their elders just because so that stuff comes flying out of their mouthes no matter who they are addressing. Their young babysitters do, too.

Frightening. Our culture has lost its way, big time. I don't think we need soap and spankings to fix the problem but we need much, much better mass media and we need parents who understand what their job is.