Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Clarity and indecision

August 19, 2008

This event happened nearly three weeks ago, but it still haunts me.  The event haunts me and my immediate response haunts me because of what each represents.   

My parents live just north of Michigan City, Indiana in Long Beach.  I grew up and attended elementary school in Long Beach, and all the time I lived there — about 11 years — I never saw the kind of behavior I witnessed August 1st. 

My wife and I and our three children visited my parents for a final beach excursion before summer ended and I had to start teaching.  As big sister and I tested the shallows of the sandbar I saw a boy on the beach swing a paddle from the ground into the air and run to his friends shouting, “Did you see that?” 

Behind him I saw a flash of white.

“Did you see that?” he called again proudly.

The flash of white became a gull.  The upswing of the paddle was a return from a downward swing.  The boy had clobbered a seagull on the beach with his paddle.  The gull stood and stumbled and tested its wings.  No luck.  

I swam big sister back to her mother and asked if she saw what I’d witnessed.  The boy made similar inquiries among his peers as they made their way to a beach house. 

My wife had not seen the event, but she watched the wounded bird with me, as I scanned the other families on the shore, looking for another inkling that there was another witness.  As I agonized over what I was to do about this, my wife and I watched the bird hobble about the beach.  How strange that my decision making probably took longer than the boy who actually hit the gull.

The bird was not going to be flying anytime soon, and I appeared to be the only witness.  While gulls can be annoying, this one could no longer care for itself.  Escaping a predator would prove as difficult as foraging for food.

Was I to confront the boy?  Was I to ask for his guardians at the home?  Who was responsible for this boy?  Why did I feel so responsible for this gull?  What would I do if he actually killed it?  Would that be, somehow, better?  Should I call Animal Control?  The police?  Isn’t there a law? 

Two grown women came down to the beach from the same house and threw rocks into the lake as I imagine they contemplated what to do themselves.  They watched the bird, threw rocks, and talked.  I felt some relief to believe there was an admission of the crime in the house, but I wanted to know the punishment.  This bird was now tied to them.  They watched him hop on his one foot and flap his useless wings as they chatted with neighborhood friends.  Then two young boys on a walk decided to add injury to injury by throwing stones at the gull.  The women said not a word. 

I had enough and laid into the two boys who did not necessarily know they were throwing rocks at a wounded animal, but who ought not to throw rocks at animals, period.  All this time I felt I was watching the slow development of three sociopaths.

And all this time I was frozen with indecision.

And all this time my children were watching me and learning. 

I called the police.

I was told there wasn’t anything the officer on patrol could really do. 

As I watched the gull hop his way south, I convinced myself I’d done all I could. 

I see now there were other options.  At the time I knew there were other options. 

Why can we see with clarity what we should do, and why can’t we always do what’s right?

Let me be hypocritical a moment

June 6, 2008

I’m not usually a strong advocate for censorship. 

I shiver at the warnings from Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451, and I see our society on course to fulfill many of the social catastrophes predicted for a society that no longer pays attention.  From Mildred’s constant need to be plugged into her seashells and television walls to the adolescent need to perform public acts of violence and the failure to ask why instead of how, I see us on the same path, facing a clear and present danger. 

A father in a restaurant last night with his bluetooth earpiece ignored his three children over the course of their meal as he watched television and talked on his phone.  Middle schoolers are beating up other middle schoolers in horrible wildings and recording it for YouTube.   

What has happened to our moral compass? 

It doesn’t help us raise our children when a catalog for kid clothes and furniture tarts up the models for the cover of the magazine.  A young girl on a beach sipping a red drink from a tulip glass usually reserved for margaritas.  Just inside the front cover a group of four children with a pitcher full of same red drink outside of a beach bar with umbrellas in their tulip glasses. 

The Bratz dolls had a similar ski chalet with blender and bar a couple Christmas toy catalogs ago.  Sure, they’re making milkshakes. 

I don’t want to censor, but I’d like various media industries to make my life as a parent a little bit easier.  Is that asking too much? 

 

Rated E for Everyone

February 12, 2008

Not that I’ve been overwhelmed with comments to date, but of those received, folks have been supportive of the situation we face here at the homestead and in Boy’s school.  There have been questions about the staff at the school:  Where are they when all this is going on, for instance.  And while I’m not saying I’m not asking those same questions myself, I also come back to the other child’s parents. 

A while back, I indicated the director of the program alluded to an earlier conversation with O’s folks, in which video games played a role.  Now we don’t have a gaming system in our home, so I’m not familiar with titles or ratings, but that’s just a personal preference.  I’m not one to judge what you’ve got in your home and what your kids play.  We just don’t have it in our house because it’s one more distraction that would keep the kids (and me to be honest) from doing what needs to get done. 

I bring this up now though because my wife pointed out to me a blurb in our recent Parenting magazine dated March 2008:  “You may not be surprised to hear that exposure to violent media is linked to youth violence (as strongly as poverty, substance abuse, or abusive parents, a new study shows).  But researchers found that violent video games may have the biggest impact of all.” 

There’s that poverty correlation to violence again. 

Desensitization to violence is a step to becoming violent.  Does it lead to violence?  I’d argue not directly, but I would say it brings you closer.  If I wanted to know why my kid is biting and hitting another kid and saying, “No you shut up m—-r f—-r,” I’d evaluate what my child is exposed to. 

Cause for Concern

January 30, 2008

What is the problem?

How do you gather evidence that a three and a half year old is being bullied at pre-school?  It’s not like his memories are clear.  Getting accurate information from one that age is difficult.  Any reference on any particular day could be a reference to an event that actually happened that day, or the kid could be reliving the same event over and over again in his mind.  He threw a rock in the lake and it made a big splash on one day, and when you ask him six months later what he did today, he threw a rock in the lake and it made a big splash.   

 

But after this past New Year’s, when Boy returned to school from winter break on a Monday just fine, yet on Tuesday was so upset his mom had to take him home, I started to get concerned again.  A three and a half year old should not be afraid to go to school, but was he afraid?  Maybe he just had a great time at home on vacation.  Heck, it’s not like I was chomping at the bit to get back to work.  When mom picked him up on Wednesday, she found out Boy had nearly pulled a bookcase over on top of himself (where was the teacher, and what was Boy doing yanking on a bookcase), and then on Thursday it all hit the wall.  The ouch report indicated the kids were walking down the hall, holding on to their loops and O___ bit Boy on the hand.  There were no toys involved, so it was not a sharing issue. Admittedly, Boy has the power to annoy, but the kid bit him hard enough for me to see it six hours later when I got home from work.

 

Some folks we spoke with said, “Get him outta there.”  But why should my kid be the one who has to leave?  I want him to be able to learn how to deal with these kinds of problems.  I want him to be able to assert himself.  I also don’t want him to bite, punch, kick or “hurt him’s bones.”  At the same time, no child should be afraid to go to school.  If at three a child no longer wants to go to school, that’s an ugly looking 15 years on the educational road ahead. 

 

Is there a solution?

The next day my wife talked to the director of the preschool center.  They offered to move Boy to another class away from Biter.  He was in the 3-4 group, and they could move him to the 2-3.  Well, that’s something, I thought.  The director also indicated she’d meet with the other child’s parents.  Again.  Last time it seems there was a discussion about violent video games. 

 

The father said to the director, “Oh, you’re one of those people.” 

 

My wife got the impression that they would probably expel the other child.  What do those 15 years on the educational road ahead look like for a kid who gets expelled from pre-school?

 

What are you prepared to do?

When m – – – – r f – – – – r is spewed from the mouth of a child in a 3-4 year old classroom, there’s a problem.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said those words, and I’ve said them in front of my kids, but not as a part of my everyday vocabulary.  We have no video games at home.  But is that the solution?  Yeah, there aren’t any video games, but the kids have way more time in front of the television than I did as a kid.  I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that I admit I’m not a perfect parent, and I don’t want to tell another parent how to raise their kid, and I don’t think the schools, county, state or feds should raise their kid either, but when your kid bites my kid and there’s clearly a problem, I want you to be willing to find a solution beyond criticizing the director of the center for hating on you because your kid at three or four enjoys shoot ‘em up video games. 

 

Were I the parent of a biter, and evidently an habitual one, I know I’d want to find out what’s going on.  In fact, that’s what I’m trying to do, and I’m taking steps to make the situation a little better for my kid.  What are you doing? 

 

It’s not like there aren’t options, though in early education some of those options are limited.  Look at it this way, if the other kid is at preschool as long as my kid, there’s 2 and a half hours of contact time for the teacher to have with the kid.  That’s not a long time to observe what’s going on.  Plus, when you’re lead teacher for 3-4 year olds, how do you watch a single kid for suspected behavioral issues when you’ve got 5-10 other kids working with permanent colors, glue and simultaneously wetting their pants. 

 

The reason I ask is this: 

MSNBC did a story yesterday morning showing correlations between bullies, victims and ADHD.  As an adult who didn’t know anybody with ADHD growing up, but as a teacher after the diagnostic boom in the early 1990’s I’ve been suspect of some diagnoses in the past, but I must say it’s an issue that holds more water for me.   Regardless, early behavior problems need to be monitored by the school and the parents because the earlier you can catch a problem a kid’s dealing with, the earlier you can help that kid and maybe make her life a little easier. 

 

See, according to the article, kids with ADHD symptoms are “four times as likely as others to be bullies.”  But it gets worse.  “[C]hildren with ADHD symptoms were almost 10 times as likely as others to have been regular targets of bullies prior to the onset of those symptoms, according to the report in the February issue of the journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.”  These aren’t American kids they studied either.  The study was done in Sweden, and I’ve got a hunch the problem is bigger in America than in Sweden.   

 

What does the study mean?  There’re a couple possibilities:  The ADHD kid may just be a jerk, or “it might turn out that the attention problems they’re exhibiting could be related to the stress of being bullied.” 

 

Linda Carroll interviewed Harvard professor William Pollack for the story, and while he doesn’t necessarily contribute anything a rational adult couldn’t figure out for him or herself, he does point to the urgency of the problem.  First, you have a hard time learning when you’re afraid.  I tell you, after some creep spit on me in middle school it got real hard for a long time for me to want to go to school.  Second, Pollack reminds us that bullied kids often turn into bullies.   

 

So what do we do?  Medication for ADHD, the story reminds us, doesn’t treat aggression.  It helps a person focus, it doesn’t deal with depression or anger.   

 

What am I prepared to do?

More than anything, the story starts to look like every other piece of parenting advice out there.  You’ve got to look for signs.  You have to communicate with your kid (and at three that’s a tall order).  You’ve got to look to the school for help and advice when they let you know your child is a problem, and if they won’t help you, maybe you need to find a new setting for your child. 

 

Nature vs. Nurture

January 24, 2008

There are any number of topics I care about that are urgent for me, and which have a certain urgency for various communities.  I’ve become particularly passionate about politics for instance, and with the primaries spread from January until May, there are and will be plenty of issues to discuss both for my class, and for the benefit of discussion.  For one, my frustration as a resident of Michigan and its treatment by the national Democratic party because of the arrogance, ignorance or ineptitude of the state’s Democratic party.  How one of the most suffering states in the nation in regards to unemployment (and I could go on) that happens to be a swing state with a large number of juicy electoral college votes could have been ignored by the party and two of its candidates makes one wonder why the state should go “blue” in the November election. 

I am also a public school teacher, and increasingly over the years both in my occupation and in my daily life as a consumer, I have noticed a culture of entitlement that is disturbing at best and epidemic at worst. 

Perhaps because of the culture and my habit of overanalyzing everything, I feel threatened as a parent by this culture that seems to be out to get my children.  I’m not stupid; I know the culture of America is about creating little consumers, but there are other cultural concerns I have regarding how best to raise my children.  As mentioned above, I am also a teacher, and my classes have just finished Fahrenheit 451 and Frankenstein, and both texts explore the cultural issues that concern me and parenting, respectively. 

I have mostly settled on exploring bullies.  Dealing with bullies and what makes them are issues with roots in both the culture and parenting.  I am a father of three young children.  Two daughters and a son sandwiched in the middle.  The oldest started kindergarten this year, and on the school bus before winter holidays, an older student expressed disbelief in the man in red with the beard.  This is not quite the bullying I intend to explore, as the aforementioned issue is one that has to be dealt with eventually by any parent whose child experiences life outside the confines of the homestead.  Such a discussion gets into issues of faith and hope and love which are good discussions to have with a child at any age. 

The youngest just turned one, and the only bullying she’s experienced is her own low grunting growl she’s developed when someone removes a toy from her reach or somebody pays too much attention to Mommy at home. 

It’s the boy that I intend to discuss.  Now three and a half, I’m coming to realize he is at a key point in his life.  Not to say that the others aren’t and I’m not worried about them too, but as a former boy myself, there are experiences I had that I don’t want him to have to know as directly as I did.  I have lots of questions, and I don’t know that I will have answers, but I invite you to join the discussion as it progresses.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers