Friday, January 26, 2007

I Bet They're Going to School in RUSSIA!

So Mark called me a little while ago from school and told me I needed to come pick him up. He said he had something with his tonsils or something. So I told him to get his gear together and I'd be right there.

When I got to the school, I told the office staff I wasn't going to bother signing him out yet, since there was a good chance he wasn't coming home. I explained I was going to check him out and also lay down all the rules about coming home sick (which basically means you're IN bed, ALL day, with absolutely no electronics at all including GameBoy, movies, PS2, computer, etc. Soft gentle music like Yanni might be acceptable to facilitate napping.)

He arrives back at the office and I checked. He's got some swelling in a lymph node, but absolutely no pain or tenderness, no fever. It just feels weird to him that he's got a bump on his neck. So guess what? I made him get his butt back to class.

Office staff was impressed that I did not coddle him. Miss G happened to be in the office at the same time (her dad was my fourth-grade teacher, she was Mark's fifth grade teacher, I mentored her when I was in high school and she was in grade school) and she wasn't surprised at all. We both grew up in educational households, after all, and you didn't miss school unless you were near death or contagious. And even if you were near death, you tried to go until they sent you home for vomiting all over the classroom. I'm not *that* bad, but my rule of thumb for keeping a kid home is they have to show one of three things: significant fever, vomiting within the last 12 hours, or contagion. Fortunately for me, my kids are remarkably healthy and rarely exhibit any of these. I can count on one hand the number of times Mark has vomited IN HIS WHOLE LIFE. Come to think of it, Kira, too, but she *does* get more colds than Mark. Although still far less than most other children. I can take no credit for their awesome immune systems, I consider it a freak gene like their height. (Mark is 11.5 and he is less than an inch away from being taller than I am, and he's about the same height as his dad. We have no tall people in our families going back three generations, so I have no idea where it's coming from.)

On the way home sans sick child, I got thinking about when I was growing up, and we had a particular school superintendent who was very reluctant to ever call a snow day. He was actually quoted as saying (and my dad heard him), "I bet they're going to school in RUSSIA today!" as he refused to consider that it might just be better to not risk busses sliding off icy roads and go an extra day in June.

This is greatly contrasted with the snow day we had last week in which there was NO SNOW. Now, that was really TOO cautious. I mean, there should at least be *some* precipitation evident. There's always the option of calling a half-day and sending the kids home early.

It gets me thinking about how much of our generation coddles its children to an almost excessive degree. I got an email forward the other day that talked about all the "risks" we took when we were growing up, and yet we amazingly survived. (you know, drinking out of a garden hose, riding in the "way back" of a station wagon, playing in the neighborhood all day long without cell phones, etc.) What the hell has happened to us? I know that a lot of things that we are doing now are legitimate in protecting our children (I will never advocate repealing seat belt laws, for example), but on many things aren't we going overboard? Our kids are overprotected *and* overscheduled, and I think it's stunting a lot of our creativity and gumption. We are becoming a nation demanding the right to happiness instead of the right to pursue happiness. We blame everyone in the world for our own failures, except ourselves. We put the responsibility for our personal safety on others (see also: overly litigious) instead of taking care. When we were kids, if we fell out of a tree, we picked ourselves up and kept going. Now, the kid's parents sue the person who owns the tree because it wasn't clearly posted as a potential danger. We blame the coach if our kid doesn't make the Little League team, instead of telling our kid that they need to work harder.

I'm not faultless in this new attitude by any means. I'm *very* protective of my children. I like knowing where they are all the time, what they're doing. I schedule playdates and encourage the kids to be involved in organized activities (particularly sports). My kids have all the electronic gizmos that their friends have, including an XBox AND a PS2, as well as a GameBoy each and an iPod nano. (But to my credit, they average probably about two hours a week doing all of these electronic things combined) I hope my kid makes all the teams, and I was pretty excited that he got to play on the school basketball team without even trying out. But I also support the coach when he keeps Mark on the bench to put the better players in, and I don't demand equal minutes, although I would like him to at least see a little play time. When Mark doesn't meet the requirements for a homework assignment, I support giving him a lower grade, not allowing him to re-do it to give him a second chance.

I want my kids to be self-starters, who understand that life isn't fair, the world doesn't owe you anything, and that if you want something, you'd better be willing to work hard to get it.

And oh my gosh, I just took a breath and wondered how I got from telling about Mark's lymph node to this big long rant. Rein it in, markira. :D

Hopping off soap box now to go do laundry. mk


Anonymous said...

Hmm...thought-provoking stuff here. I agree with most of it.

-Ro <------------having deep thoughts

elise said...

Wow, preach it, woman!

What a refreshing and well-thought out piece. I totally agree with you, and I really enjoyed reading this.

If you figure out a way to force the rest of America into agreeing, let me know - I'll go door to door with it! :)

mark said...

This is a great post. Lots of truth in it, and I totally agree. I still drink out of a garden hose in the summer. Screw the consequences. Sounds like you're a great parent and I would like to see your views implanted on a lot of parents who are more concerned with being their child's friend than parent.

markira said...

Thanks, people. This is a pet peeve of mine, so when I get on the subject, I tend to rant a little bit. :D mk

Jenny said...

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Have you read "Confessions of a Slacker Mom"? She talked about a lot of these same issues and it was so refreshing to hear someone say what I was thinking.

Overscheduled and overcoddled.

I couldn't agree more.