Should Peter pay for Paul?

It’s graduation season. A cursory look at various social media accounts will show tons of pictures of young people in graduation gowns and prom dresses, in commencement photos and make-up sessions. Signifying the end of one stage and the beginning of another, the commencement exercise here is a rite of passage that starts (incredulously) upon leaving kindergarten.

Last week, a local school made news when the principal made good on his promise not to have a graduation ceremony if the students persisted in behaviour that they had been warned about. After the dust had settled – and to hear some people tell it – it appeared that the behaviour of the students warranted the unprecedented action. But I’m gathering that it wasn’t the entire class – so what about the rest of them? Like others, I could talk about the guilty ones and how it serves them right and question where their parents were in all of this, but what about the rest of them?

I’m trying to rack my brain for a similar example from when I was much younger, and I’m not coming up with anything. I’m thinking that there must have been some story that I can relate from back in the day that parallels this one. You know – where the innocent had to suffer for the guilty, but it taught us a valuable lesson, nonetheless? But I’m drawing a blank.

I could, however, relate some recent examples involving my own children.

My daughter is a Brownie and a few months ago, the Girl Guides celebration of World Thinking Day was marked by several activities – one of which was a hike of several miles. I decided to go along, and donning my walking shoes (because I hate sneakers), we traversed some areas where I hadn’t actually been before. Along the way, the girls attempted to get to know about their counterparts in other companies – but it was really to see who could make it back before the others.

The hike was to culminate with a bonfire around which the girls would sing campfire songs while roasting marshmallows. My daughter was out of her skin when she heard that part. I had to buy a whole pack of those sugar bombs which she shared with a classmate who had a stick, but no marshmallow. Returning to camp after the walk, we lined up for food (some of which ran out), while some leaders started the bonfire.

Each company had to make a presentation in song and there were twelve or so groups. Darkness was descending quickly. The girls were getting restless, and admittedly, a little loud. A bull-horn was used to quiet them down, but it didn’t work very well. By the time the sixth or seventh company had made their presentation, you couldn’t see the face of the person across from you. I was ready to go, but with the bonfire well underway now, there was no way I could even think of leaving.

Another round of presentations. Who knew which company this was? The bonfire roared and the girls inched ever closer. The bull-horn told them to step back – and to be quiet. It was officially night now and the flames from the bonfire were the only source of illumination. Company leaders began to call out for their members because they certainly couldn’t see them. Some left on the waiting buses before it was all over, because they really had to get back. There was a constant hum of anticipation. Finally, the last company made its presentation. The girls had their marshmallow-topped sticks at the ready. After one last entreaty from the bull-horn, the flames of the bonfire were doused. The campfire was over. The marshmallows remained untoasted – because, as we adults like to say, “who don’t hear will feel”.

It was dark, but you could see (and hear) the disappointment. I guess that was the level of quiet the bull-horn had been looking for.

And so, World Thinking Day ended on a sour note because the actions of a few (who I don’t think could have even been pinpointed), warranted punishment for all.

When we got home, I fired up the stove and we had our roasted marshmallows. I’m not a fan of those spongy balls of sugar – but we made the best of the situation and had our “bonfire” after all. Maybe those parents should do the same.

Making a List and Checking it Twice

Image credit: i.telegraph.co.uk
Image credit: i.telegraph.co.uk

How many of us think that our childhood – even with its deprivations – was the best ever?

Most of us will tell our children that with only one television channel that didn’t come on until late afternoon and that went off at twelve o’clock that night, we found activities to occupy our time. We’ll reminisce about the fact that playing outdoors was a thing, and creativity abounded when we had to approximate the items our parents couldn’t afford – or that they just weren’t going to buy for us.

I recently came across the title of a book entitled “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World” by Kristen Welch and I wish I’d written it. If I had, I probably would have called it “Their Eyes Are Too Long” – which is what we say when we have enough but still want more. Most parents fall into the trap of wanting to give their children more than they themselves had, which in itself is not a bad thing but maybe we need to include some caveats before we hand the items over.

While waiting for my turn to discuss my daughter’s end of term results with the teacher, I overheard one parent remarking that her son didn’t have any cows to feed or milk before he got to school. It’s possible that the results on the report card didn’t reflect the easy life the young man was living, so I had a feeling that he might be in for a few house-related chores – if he’s lucky.

As my children grow older and can better understand, I’m tying this to that and rewarding effort when it’s made. By the same token, I won’t be shielding them from reality and sacrificing in an attempt to make things seem normal at a time when things clearly aren’t. Going without – unless it’s food – never killed anybody, is something I’m sure my mother must have told me.

The greatest season of entitlement is upon us and with children knowing who the real Santa Claus is, they’re going to have certain “expectations”. Some might even provide lists just in case they think we aren’t listening. What are you going to do when you get yours?

 

 

Back to school

The new school year is well underway which means that I’m back to doing homework. As my children get older and move up into higher classes, it means that my course load increases. I’m all for being an involved parent, but sometimes it feels as if I’m back in school again.

Image credit: mediamasteryshow.com
Image credit: mediamasteryshow.com

Maybe your parents were different, but I don’t ever remember my mother having to pay quite this much attention to me when I was in school. Now, we have to ascertain whether our children did all their homework, make sure that they finish their projects on time, remind them to study, help them to study, print off past papers, make up test papers, look over their work, ask them where they’re going with that answer – and a myriad of other things.

I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t have the ton of distractions that our kids now have, but going to school used to mean that you paid attention when you were there so that when you came home you could actually do your homework by yourself. If you were lucky enough to have an older sibling, you could ask for assistance if something didn’t stick or (as I once did) call a classmate’s sister when the several thousand explanations my own sister gave me didn’t seem to help.

Of course, part of the reason for the increased attention is because children today are getting more homework than we ever came home with. Having been out of school for quite a while before I went back after having children I don’t know when the change happened. You know, that change which seems to require that our children make up for lost time because the race to the finish has already begun?

There are times when I wonder if my memory is beginning to fail me. How is it that I don’t remember my son dealing with a particular topic that his sister is coming home with even though he went through that very same class? At the very same school? I make sure to keep the text books my son uses in order to pass them on to his sister, but it seems that a word here and there isn’t the only change they’re making in the newer editions.

Most schools require that you sign your children’s homework as a way of ensuring that you actually see how your child is doing. And if you’re loath to sign off on something without bothering to read it, (especially if you think it might be seen as a personal reflection), well that means that you’re going to have to take more than a cursory glance at it which means that – you’re all up in the homework.

So when I came across an article about a parent’s role in homework which gave some tips on how to “stay involved, without taking over”, I was looking forward to the information – until it said something about parents keeping their opinions to a minimum and respecting the child’s decision if she chooses not to share. Now given the griping I’ve been doing, you’d probably wonder why my mouth was hanging open. Not share? Not after I “directly” asked her a question?

To be fair, the writer did talk about teaching the child responsibility and that certain consequences will ensue from certain actions, but she lost me when she warned that parents should not force the issue when trying to create healthy study habits because that might jeopardize the relationship we have with our children. Which relationship? The one where the child recognizes the person in authority and acts accordingly?

I’ve heard that children learn differently, but I didn’t realize they did homework differently too. I’ll spare you what the writer says we should give consideration to, but the long and short is that some kids dig right in after coming home and then there are the ones who don’t get to it right away. I might have been one of the latter, but it wasn’t because my mother allowed me to engage in some “physical activity” to allow my “brain to relax”. And she wouldn’t have allowed me some computer or TV time in order to go “inside” myself to “re-energize and re-focus” either.

That’s called wasting time, see – and I don’t know about you, but I have homework to do.

Adam and Steve – What I’m Telling My Children About Gay Marriage

Image credit: wildsvillegallery.com
Image credit: wildsvillegallery.com

I heard about this commercial which if you watch TV you may have already seen:

A woman is sitting on an unmade bed with a cup of yogurt in her hand. We are aware that in the background there is someone else who is lying in the bed, but the person’s gender is not immediately obvious. The camera gets closer and as the person rises and gathers the bedclothes, we realize that the person is also a woman. The commercial is made by a company that sells yogurt – although it wasn’t selling yogurt that day, but it’s probably hoping to sell a lot more of it in the future.

The 13 year old girl who saw the commercial told her mother that it made her feel a little uncomfortable.

I saw this cartoon which if you love Looney Tunes you may have already seen:

Daffy Duck, up to no good as usual and wanting to get rid of Elmer Fudd, asks him whether he has a fishing license. Elmer replies in the affirmative. Nonplussed, Daffy inquires as to whether he is in possession of a “license to sell hair to bald eagles”. Elmer must have been a boy scout when he was younger because he produces that too.  Daffy then asks whether he has a marriage license to which Elmer replies that he isn’t married. Not missing a beat, Daffy asks, “How ‘bout you and me go steady?”

My two children laughed and said in unison – “But they’re two boys!”

It reminded me that I needed to have that overdue talk with my young ones, and that maybe it was a good thing that I waited this long to have this discussion about the birds and the bees, because it means I won’t have to open up the conversation again since I would have made no mention then about Adam and Steve.

The smartest parents will tell you that it’s better to discuss important or uncomfortable subjects with your children before they get the information (some of which may be wrong) from someone else. My children might not know about the latest American Supreme Court Ruling, but it’s a sure bet that sooner rather than later, they’re going to see two people of the same gender locked in a passionate embrace.

I’ll have no qualms informing them that it’s not something that I believe in or agree with, and I’ll admit that I don’t really understand it, but because somebody who is gay doesn’t share my viewpoint it doesn’t mean that I couldn’t talk to that person and have them as a friend. It’s no different from when they misbehave and I make sure to say that I still love them – it’s the behaviour that’s really the problem.

I know just how I’ll begin the conversation with them, but I’m hoping that anyone else who’s listening and who doesn’t “see with me” knows that we can agree to disagree. I’m perfectly fine with stating my case without trying  to bring anyone over to my side of the argument, so I hope she won’t be disappointed when I don’t make my way over to hers.

There’ll probably also be a  set of people who think that “still and all” I haven’t gone far enough and that I’m being overly simplistic and that the acceptance of things that we never used to tolerate will be the death of us. I’m not attempting to be politically correct – because I contend that trying not to mash corns will kill most of us. It’s just that hurling fire and brimstone really isn’t my thing.

 

Driver on Test

Image credit: static.guim.co.uk
Image credit: static.guim.co.uk

I don’t want to make light of this condition, but because I must be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, I don’t think I’ll be the one teaching my son to drive. 

I remember that when my sister was ready, my mother began the process, but she soon surrendered the job to someone else. So when it was my turn to take the wheel, I knew that asking her was completely out of the question. 

As a driver myself, I think I understand why she bailed. Even now, whenever I’m in the passenger seat next to the driver (seasoned or not), I’m still pressing the brakes, holding on to the door handle and looking out for the crazy drivers conspiring to do us in.

There is so much questionable behaviour that passes for driving these days that I’m convinced that God is on both sides – of the street. How else to explain the fact that they’re aren’t more accidents taking place on a daily basis?

I may have mentioned that I’ve been in an accident or two – but they didn’t happen because I was overtaking around a bend or over a hill or backing out into oncoming traffic. But it’s true that everything does happen in slow motion, which is why I remember the incidents so well.

For months after they occurred I was uber-cautious whenever I approached the site of the accident because it wouldn’t look all that good to have another dust-up at the very same location – since some people might call that not learning from my mistakes. 

However, as time passed without incident I began to relax a little more. Of course, other drivers continued to act as if they were the only ones on the roads and I continued to marvel at how they managed to get away with it. But since I was actively driving two cars – mine and theirs – my comfort level increased.

Until someone rear-ended me. And because my eyes had been glued to the road ahead, I didn’t nearly see that one coming. As typically happens when it’s the other person’s fault, my damage was greater than hers, but given that she ran into me, she immediately knew that she would be paying.

As a result of that unfortunate occurrence, I’ve developed a new set of coping mechanisms.

It’s become increasingly hard to keep my eyes from drifting from the road in front of me to look at what’s coming up behind me. But if anyone gets within 15 feet of me I’m tipping the brakes. When I’m 30 yards away from the turn I’m going to make my indicator is coming on, and my hazard lights (not my running lights) now make a permanent appearance as soon as there’s a hint of 6 o’clock shadow outside.

Image credit: theaa.com
Image credit: theaa.com

This kind of behaviour might be a little difficult for a learner to handle, so I know my son will understand when I suggest that he go with someone else.

This is one time when I won’t mind history repeating itself.

 

My First Project

As if parents don’t have enough to do.

Image credit: worrywisekids.org
Image credit: worrywisekids.org

Now, I’m quite willing to do my part to ensure that my children get a good education. One parent I know always says to her children’s teachers – “Help me to help you”, so that the teacher knows that they’re both in it together.

But I understand how some parents feel when the teachers set the assignments for the children and the parents end up doing the work. Sure, they tell us to supervise while the child puts the project together but which of us is really willing to take that chance.

Besides, the teachers have been in this thing for years – they know when the ratio of parent to child input is 10:1. We’re not fooling them.

So I think that if they really want the child to do the actual work then they need to let the kid do it right there in the classroom. That way there’s no undue influence and I don’t have to compete with Brandon’s father who does graphic designing on the side.

I’ve heard the complaints from other parents whose children are older than mine, but I could sympathize only a little, because my son hadn’t yet been sent home with what could be considered unreasonable expectations – on the teacher’s part.

The last major assignment he had was a group project, and among themselves they pretty much figured out what materials they wanted to use and where they were going to use them.

Of course we had to explain the law of physics in some instances and make a few suggestions, but they shouldered most of it until they ran out of steam when the finished product was taking a little long to appear.

By that time, we wanted to see (the back of) it too, so we didn’t mind helping them to bring the project ashore.

My daughter’s first major project on the other hand, required her to make a model of an animal using recycled materials. Happily, she was easily convinced to choose something less “complicated”, because I’m not that good at drawing – particularly legs. So after I she chose an animal that doesn’t have any of those, we got down to the business of cutting up the pieces that would cover its body.

She had been reminding me about this project every day for a week so now we had two days before it had to be turned in – but since I’m not one to leave things until the last minute, the application was the only thing I could afford to put off ‘til tomorrow. All those little pieces were going to be cut up tonight! We both began together, but she quickly lost interest in the repetitive action. She claimed fatigue, and so I soldiered on.

The next night was application time. She stuck around for longer this time and we finished it up just before she went to bed. Her father added the piece de resistance and I was pretty pleased with the final product. You can bet I was dying to know what the other parents kids had done.

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The item remained at school for about two weeks before it was relinquished. It was a little banged up when it came back, but when I lifted up the fin I was ecstatic.

I got an A+.

 

Easy Come, Easy Go

Some women struggle with infertility issues, while others just have to look at a man to get pregnant. That last bit was a little crass, I know, but that might explain why some people are so careless with their kids.

Or maybe it’s a new parenting style, where you stand off and see how the kid manages on her own, because she’s eventually going to have to care of herself anyway. And you won’t always be there.

We live free and easy here, but others have told me stories about narrowly missing a child who nonchalantly wanders out into the street with the parent nowhere in sight. There’s a particular stretch of road that I used to travel every afternoon. The area isn’t very populated but it can be a busy thoroughfare at times.

Image credit: Madagascar-library.com
Image credit: Madagascar-library.com

It was here that my husband once had to swerve to avoid hitting a child who ran across the road to get to the other side.

I don’t know what so attracted his attention over there that he obviously forgot what his mother must have told him about looking both ways before he crossed the road; but the child looked to be at that age when you have to say the same thing multiple times – and he still doesn’t hear you.

The rearview mirror didn’t show that any adult had seen the near-miss, but how much do you want to bet that if that child had been struck, the person “in charge” would magically appear. And that person (while struggling to hold back tears), would be the first to say that the car had been going exceedingly fast.

A fact which he or she would have been able to verify from his or her perch in front of the TV.

Very recently, I saw a mother who was busy talking on her cell phone, as her child, no more than three years old, walked ahead of her. I imagine she thought that since the child was in her line of sight that he was out of danger. But what if the child took one too many steps to the right? She wouldn’t have been close enough to grab him in time.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m on my phone, I have to actually stop walking so that I can hear better. And if the story that I’m listening to is particularly engaging, and I’m forming from the words, a picture in my head, I don’t even see what’s happening in front of me anymore.

Good thing I didn’t do that when my mother-in-law was looking. This is a woman who used to have no problem stopping her vehicle to upbraid a person who she thought was committing reckless endangerment.

To which the guilty adult would respond by turning around and chastising the child, because really – he should know better.