Saturday, September 25, 2010

I’ve attended several community type events in recent weeks, all of which have had parents with children in attendance, including my own. As a father of three, I understand the occasions where the little one is just not going to cooperate, usually because what mommy and daddy find interesting is just plain un-stimulating boring drivel. It happens. But what I fail to comprehend is the insistence by a vast majority of parents to ‘stick it out’ and keep the howling hellion monkeys in play to the complete misery and chagrin of anyone else that cares. It doesn’t matter that you can’t hear the speaker’s presentation because junior needs his fire engine to wail. It doesn’t matter that every 3 feet is another little distraction pulling and tugging and whining and talking and annoying. Mr. And Mrs. 2010 are entitled to have their family in attendance and aint no one gonna tell them differnt. No one dares take little angel out of the room because that would be embarrasing for everyone involved, when of course those same parents and children should be ashamed of themselves.

I don’t blame the children. As the saying goes, ‘some of my best friends are children.” Most children (I’ve stopped calling them kids, as I don’t raise goats) are reacting in a manner that reflects the exact set of guidelines and expectations put to them. It’s a system that is worse than herding goats, as even a goat herder knows better than to say, “stop it!” 10 times in a row expecting the goats to react, before actually doing something tangible. But take the average parent these days, and you’ll see the same behavior repeated as if the parent is telling the same punch line to an old joke over and over again. Maybe it’s just my immediate community, but the level of entitlement parents expect for their unruly children is ridiculous.

I attended a meeting for school chess club with my 5-year-old last week. The speaker unfortunately did not have any amplification for her voice and had to try to talk over a crowd of 30 or so people, over half of which were children. On three separate occasions I went over to a group of about six boys that were arguing out loud to ask them to please be quiet as others were trying to listen. Each time they quieted down for less than ten seconds before resuming their disruption. No other parent assisted me; in fact, no one seemed to care one way or another. Now I don’t know about you, but if my child had to be talked to by another adult for misbehaving, I would be on them in a heartbeat and they would find themselves sitting at my side sans any conversation with anyone. The parents of these boys were nowhere to be found. I watched another girl blow spitty zerberts at her Mother over and over as mom either ignored her or told her to stop while feebly trying to grab at her tongue. Children everywhere began to increase in their volume until by the end the speaker could no longer be heard and the room was on the verge of eruption. I grabbed the paperwork they handed to me and left in disgust. I also noted that the only parents that had their children under control were not born in this country.

Maybe I’ve just had a spell of bad luck. But considering the streaming supply of constant bits of stimulation from TV, video games and music we subject our children to as some form of electronic nanny, it’s not surprising that when taken out of that environment all hell breaks loose. Take that hand-in-hand with the complete lack of consequence for misbehavior, and what does a child have to lose? Consequence does not have to be corporal, it doesn’t have to be verbal (mental) chastising either, but take away some time with the video gods and you’ll see junior at attention and ready. I don’t think many parents are willing to go there, because the cycle of behavior they have to deal with on their own will be reflective of the exact same chaos the rest of us are forced to go through when the child is brought out into public. Knowing that, it’s easier to turn it all back on and up than find a different means to stimulate the child’s mind.

I’d like to say all of this is symptomatic of the state of the American society, but I think it’s more accurate to say that the state of American society is symptomatic of all of this. Too often we point the finger at single moms and family’s of divorce or estrangement as examples of what not to be. It may be time to look within to our own nuclear units and decide what and who is really doing the parenting here, and when is it going to be too late to reverse the effect.

If the power turned off tomorrow, what would your family become?