Parental Chaos - In the Hands of Strangers
Essay - Unpublished
Once upon a time, the family unit lived together, worked the farm together in small communities, children listened to their parents, children dated with the approval of their parents-well, mostly-everyone communicated by riding their horses or wagons to the person with whom an intercourse was desired and these are typically the days to which we refer as 'the good old days.' They, of course, never actually happened but we can dream and wish for such a time, where parents still had some sort of control over the structure of the family and, particularly, how children were expected to behave.
There will never be a time when that little 'bundle of joy,' as perceived on the day of his/her birth only, will not be a puzzle when it comes to 'what the heck do we do now?' We shall be asking that question throughout the lifetime of that person, along with 'where did we go wrong?' The fundamental problem resides in the fact that children do not come with an instruction manual, as is often pointed out. There are, however, a gazillion-million experts around who will most happily explain it all to you and, in fact, will give parents detailed instructions how to raise their child. Remember Dr. Spock? Or your mother-in-law?
Yesterday, I listened to a female 'Reverend' on TV, expounding on her theory, which she stated she is already practicing, that five-year olds should be given basic sex education in kindergarten. Give me a break! I firmly believe that this is the parents' job and I certainly would want religion and schools to keep their not-so-clean mental fingers away from my child. Whatever you may believe, it's totally necessary that the parents know what's going on in the various schools their children are forced to attend. This is especially important for working parents since, of necessity, children will be mostly in the charge of strangers. There is nothing easy about any of that but there is also no ducking that responsibility.
Diametrically opposed at times, these instructions add to the general chaos and what's even worse, our society now stresses that not only kindergarten attendance be required for the proper social skills of our little ones, but now also give a lot of credence to the concept of sending our children to 'pre-kindergarten' schools. Very well, let's just give birth to these cute little additions to the human race and then turn them over to the experts. Because we sure as hell don't know what to do with them to make everything come out okay in today's society or volatile environments.
Do parents have a plan as to how they wish to raise their children? Of course, they do. But they all know another famous saying: The best-laid plan of mice and men . . . . They know the rest.
Before I discourse on anything else, let me give you a warning: do not apply anything discussed here or even remotely recommended. When it comes to children, your children, proceed at your own risk. But this will not impede my reiteration of lessons we have learned in the process. And, perhaps, there may be echoes in this wilderness for which we shall be listening.
The first five years of a child's live will determine how the rest of his/her live will play out. Most of today's experts would probably agree on that and when you give it some thought, it makes sense. Language is learned rapidly and if you want to teach your child more than one language, just use it around your home and see what happens. It is simply astounding, like a sponge soaking up water.
I think it was Freud, an Austrian like Hitler, who said it first Give me your child for the first five years of his life and I shall shape his future. That's a paraphrase and perhaps it was someone other than Freud who said it first but surely it was another German, they love shaping people in their image.
Nevertheless, everything you say, every little thing you do, every attitude you display, all the communications in your household are being observed, registered and being acted upon. Yes, the acts follow your action, maybe not right at that very moment but most certainly the first time the child sees the opportunity and has the means. The motive is always there: to be like you, to be like the mother and/or to be like the father because that is all there is. Until, of course, your mother-in-law shows up.
This is a very scary concept since it makes the parents totally responsible for all the child may become. You are being watched twenty-four/seven. Thereby, do you shape your boy's attitude towards women later in life? Of course, you are. Pound into him that all girl things are not for him, one way or another, but show your girl that it is okay to be a tomboy. He/she is watching and listening and will act as soon as he has/she the opportunity and the means, whenever that may be. You have just provided the motive.
I have maintained for all the time I can remember that we are doing something wrong in the raising of our children. I cannot understand from where comes all the animosity and anger men of today are displaying towards women. Some of the evil things men do to women are too numerous, cowardly and contemptuous in nature, and simply beyond understanding. But, totally overlooked, particularly by today's women, are the fact that most men remain the protectors and guardians of the family and of his partner. Just listen to the gossip women engage in when they get together and discuss their less-than-stellar husbands, in or out of bed. I just hope they have no children listening.
Do you think they are not?
During the following ten years or so, these children begin to express their own thoughts, heaven forbid, and with that comes the ability to say no to the parents. We are all being tested then, endurance and patience galore must be present and, above all things, consistency is required. This growth period is also the time children learn to distort the truth of their actions, i.e. they lie and when exposed, they will distort the motivation behind their misrepresentations. All in an effort to comply with what they perceive the parents want to hear.
As mentioned elsewhere, we raised four daughters and I suppose I may have done something seriously wrong in a prior life, which now required a better effort on our part. Each of them challenged our ingenuity early on in our effort to keep track of their various activities, particularly those not necessarily on our parent-approved list.
We had no compunction whatsoever to invade their privacy and their rooms during the school days to discover any and all dangers to which they may inadvertently expose themselves. The trick was to never let them know how we were so all-knowing when we put a stop to certain activities. Once we discovered one of our delightful charges attending a party where alcohol was being served, along with who-knows-what, after she had informed us that she was spending the night with a girlfriend. She was fifteen at the time. We made an anonymous call, allegedly from a neighbor complaining about loud noises and breaking bottles and once police had broken up this party, we picked up our not-so-delighted princess and grounded her for three months. Good girl, she took it like a champ, so it seemed.
Many such anecdotes could be told but the point is simply this: we have always been 'invasive' parents, controlling home and social lives, cell phone access, computer access, which were not as prevalent in those early days. And we are not sorry we did.
Throughout the nation, there has been an alarming increase in crimes committed by children over the last few years. School-shootings, kids shooting and stabbing kids and adults, gang-fights involving children and teenagers resulting in serious, heinous injury. It has to give everyone pause and, more often than not, the question poses itself: where were the parents? We take these children to court and, in the most serious instances, we try them as adults even at the tender age of eleven.
It is way past time that a serious effort be made to hold parents responsible under the law for the criminal acts of their children. At least until the children have reached the age of sixteen, let the parents be charged in court with their failure and their negligence, their permissiveness without appropriate controls, when it can be proven that they have failed to take responsibility in their child-raising efforts. Those should be the adults tried in court as well and sent to jail and/or parenting classes en masse since, based on the statistics, it seems obvious that their claims to have raised children who are 'good kids, they would never . . .' are simply hollow excuses designed to cover insufficient parenting skills or even a total lack of care. It's called negligent endangerment of children.
We were lucky, in the extreme. Our eldest is now a doctor and married. Our second is not yet married but will soon be a lawyer, once she has passed the bar exam. Our third is married but still attending school, struggling to decide her own future. Our last nestling still resides at home and still has to put up with her restrictive environment. She cannot wait, understandably, to bolt away from home once she reaches eighteen but our confidence is high that she is prepared for whatever destiny awaits her.
The lawyer in the family keeps clamoring among her sisters for a class-action civil suit against her parents, that would be us, alleging false imprisonment, kidnapping, harassment and a number of other violations of their civil rights over the years but the twinkle in her eyes belie her assertions and tells us all we need to know. Besides, we keep telling her, the statute of limitations has run out and once she has her own children, we shall be watching her performance as a parent. That's called a counter-threat and, of course, a huge hint. We are extremely lucky to have survived mentally intact, more or less.
We expect them all tonight for our weekly family dinner, held when time permits and, as usual, we cannot wait to tell their great husbands some of those stories. It will be noisy again, for sure.