Sep 21, 2010

Kids Today!

I grew up in an idyllic little bubble. Married parents, two kids and a puppy. I'm not being snobby here, just telling you how it was. I knew kids whose parents were rocket scientists...literally. I never saw a pregnant girl at my school. When we weren't with Mom and Dad we were with Grandma, our best friends' parents or the day care run from the local Methodist Church. Mom and Dad weren't perfect but really darn close.

I had my first "what? this isn't the whole world?" moment my senior year of high school when a group in my English class reported on a research project stating that in our area, there was an incredibly high number of college educated people: 25% of adults had at least an associates. I was shocked! I couldn't believe that only 25% of Clear Lake adults had college degrees! Of the people I knew, maybe a quarter of the parents' didn't have degrees. Talk about a wake up call.

I had another wake up call in college when I heard religious jokes for the first time. I never knew that people made fun of other religions. Naive, sure, but I genuinely had never heard a religious stereotype before. I suppose not terribly surprising given that just in my Texas family we have Catholic, Methodist and Jewish. And my Boston family is even more diverse religiously. But retrospect I'm surprised I never even heard classmates make tasteless religious jokes. I was shocked at how many strong stereotypes there were.

(I'll just call myself on another one: I didn't know how common it was to need more than four years to get a bachelors degree. But I chalk this up to being at a $40k a year university where you didn't dare take more than four years since even your loans from four years had you and your parents eating Raman noodles for a decade. And I swear, I'm not being a snob. I just didn't hardly know anyone in this boat.)

At Girl Scouts, I've had lots of wake up calls. In fact, you could call it an awakening there have been so many. High schools with day care centers for the students' children. (That any school had so many pregnant teens they need a day care center is still possibly one of the most frightening things I've ever heard.) Schools with 90+% of students on free or reduced lunch. Volunteer groups trying to help feed kids during the summer when that free or reduced school lunch isn't available because families can't afford three meals per day for their kids. Parents unable to sign permission slips because they are only fluent in Spanish. I realize somewhat how naive it is...but I just had such a happy, sheltered childhood.

What made all this come to mind was my walk with Lexi today. We're going along the sidewalk, happy as can be, and I see this sweet little boy with his equally sweet little puppy. I assess how we are going to keep the puppies from interacting, easy since I'm on the sidewalk and he's in the park. And then I realize THERE IS NO ADULT with this child. He was being watched by elementary students. If this little boy was older than four, then I'll be a monkey's uncle. Four! Four years old, outside without adults and being watched by kids who haven't even reached double digits! Kids who are letting him run into the street!

I'm not saying this sweet little boy's parents are bad people. I'm sure they love this little boy more than life itself. They probably have him properly cared for by adults most days. Maybe today someone was stuck in traffic. Maybe the sitter called in sick. I'm not passing judgment on these parents at all.

What I am saying though is: Wow. This is how kids get stolen. This is how kids discover {enter troubling item like cigarettes or guns or heck, I dunno, rusty nails}. It gives me, who thought myself to be a cool latchkey kid at 10 when I stayed home for two hours in the afternoon with the neighbor-lady checking the house and several phone calls to my mother, a whole new definition of "latchkey kid."

Four year olds playing unsupervised, day cares in high schools and so many similar things make me realize just how passionately I feel about how my own kids are raised. (Specifically, by me, Ross and adult family members.) And goodness, I just sorta figured these wonderful childhoods like I had happened. I mean I knew parents had to actually parent but I never realized how common it was for parenting to be absent or somewhat failing (again, despite best efforts).

I'll probably shelter my kids way more than many think is advisable. I'll run the risk of being called "over-protective," "helicopter mom" and maybe even "close-minded." As of now, I'm totally OK with that. I suppose I don't have any profound statements to end with. But I am curious, as you've become a grown up, are there things like this that just blow you away? Things you had no idea were so prevalent with kids today?

1 comment:

Jess said...

For me, high school pregnancy was way too common at my high school. All seniors actually had to take a parenting class. I'll never forget the day two student moms got in an actual physical and verbal fight in the hall about who was the better mom and to 'never talk about me/my kid again!' Sadly, it was never that surprising, probably because it was never the honor roll/athletic/middle-upper class students that got pregnant.

For me, it is more the unruly behaviors and lack of manners I see in kids that I can't believe. I don't know how many times Rob adn I have been out to eat at a restaurant or shopping at a store and see kids running all over the place, jumping on the booth or standing on their chair, and screaming. Some say thats kids being kids and you'll understand when you have one someday. I say, that isn't ok behavior in public, and as my parents did with us when we were kids, if we acted out like that we were removed from the situation. If you can't sit and eat a meal out with good manners, then there just won't be many meals out!