Tuesday, 14 February 2012

My Rant (An Indulgence that I try not to Allow Myself Often)

I try not to "rant" - but I just couldn't help myself today.  Sorry.

As I have been spending some time lately investigating the way that kids learn (ha ha - if you know me, you know that "some time" has been the last two years) - I was rather jarred by a photo that I saw on facebook this morning:
It is a list of rules that kids apparently "should" know - if you would like to view it more closely - here is the link.  Among these rules I found the statement

"your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not.  In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer.  This doesn't bare the slightest resemblance to anything in real life."

Really? Are you sure about this? 

I would like to take issue here (obviously).  As an adult I have failed repeatedly and been given second chances often  ...  by children.  They just keep on forgiving, over-looking, and loving me anyway.  Sometimes I am late to pick up my kids - currently I live 14 hours drive away from them, sometimes I forget to buy groceries for them and they have to take something weird in their lunch like mashed potatoes (fortunately my daughter thinks this is a treat).  For years I let them drink pop every day and I am not nearly as diligent about making sure that they brush their teeth as I should be (my son has an abscess on his gum right now that's turning my hair gray).  I have gotten tired and irritated and taken it out on them by being grumpy and short with them.  When that happens, they look at me sympathetically - and sometimes they even blame themselves (horrible!).  I have put my foot in my mouth so many times when it comes to parenting that I have learned to be good at apologizing and asking for forgiveness - not that this is a good way to solve that problem - I'm just trying to be honest.

Kids spend all day in a school five days a week - while it may not be the equivalent of spending hours at the stock exchange or cleaning prisons - it's actually pretty strenuous.  I dare any adult who hasn't spent the day in an elementary school or secondary school in the last ten years to try it out (of course, you should definitely clear that with the school first - but don't worry, there are plenty of volunteer jobs there that nobody wants to do, so I am sure you can work out a deal of some kind if your intentions are appropriate).  Just talk to my friend who recently became a kindergarten teacher - its exhausting.  She can't help but long for the weekend.  Every minute of a child's day is scheduled and there is very little - or no- flexibility in that schedule.  In our local high school, when kids go on breaks, they have no where to actually sit down.  So they don't actually relax at all during the day.  Everything they do is judged.  Every assignment they do is graded, where they sit at lunch time and who they hang out with during recess places them into the complex strata of the school social status system (talk about "winners and losers").  On top of that, they often do not get enough sleep or eat enough food.  In my final practicum there was a group of boys who sleep-walked through the day on Tuesdays because they had 7am hockey practice on those days.  Teenagers often go through a period that might last years where they have insomnia.  They start the day tired.

So give them a break.  If they come home and need to spend 30 minutes to an hour alone with their thoughts - let them have it.  When I have a full-time job, I need to spend a bit of time alone every day even if it means locking myself in the bathroom or getting up at an obscenely early hour.  It keeps me sane.  And what parent doesn't want their child to have a happy childhood?  Isn't that supposed to be one of our goals as parents - to make this whole "growing-up" experience generally pleasant - or, at the very least, not torturous?  Here's an idea: why don't we encourage them to take a piece of time every day to spend with God.  We could give them resources to support this or even read the resources to them - and then just listen to them and their concerns or joys for a while.  Wouldn't that be wonderful?  (It is).

Furthermore - I have been forgiven often by employers and teachers - as an adult who has long since graduated from high school.  I can think of multiple times when I have made a mistake and not been fired for it.  This is not me saying that I think that we shouldn't strive to do well in the workplace - we should, but the world is not actually a horrendously evil, unforgiving place.  In fact, making stupid mistakes (like being late or not taking a conversation that should be taken seriously, seriously) is essential to the learning process - which continues long past childhood and, hopefully, all the way until the day we die.  I am a big fan of a willingness to learn - even from dumb mistakes - especially from dumb mistakes.

Sure - it's no crime to tell kids about "the real world" - they need to know it, but don't assume that their world isn't very "real" too, just because they haven't yet become jaded and bitter.  Instead - lets raise them up strong through the tenets that God provides.  Psalm 78:5-8 reminds us to consciously raise our own children so that they do not become a "stubborn and rebellious generation, whose heart [is] not loyal to God, whose spirit [is] not faithful to Him."  When this is the focus, doesn't it become more important to get off of this tendency to rant and preach at the kids about what's "not" reality and start preparing them for actual reality?  Doesn't this kind of ranting just create bitterness?  It sure doesn't inspire me.  I can think of a few places where some of these rules might be justifiably applied to adults - so why are we picking on kids?  Because we're bigger?

Ultimately God has given us forgiveness as a gift.  Let us focus on teaching these little sponges how to employ it - lets get rid of the "it's not personal - it's business" mentality.  Lets focus on doing our job as parents.

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