So, I was in the dentist’s office yesterday which is its own horrible story. While waiting, there was a mother with some grade school age children there. She was lamenting the horrors and rigors of modern schools. Did you know, she was outraged to report, that children couldn’t have cell phones in school?

I let her go for a few minutes but her umbrage grew and her disdain for the system was exponentially expanding. I butted into the diatribe.

No cell phone zone

I explained that children shouldn’t have cell phones in school. They were the BEST WAY EVAR to cheat. All they had to do was text each other with the answers.

I didn’t mention that they were texting each other all the time, not just during tests. But just to keep up with all the important stuff that goes on in school, like the horrible outfit that girl over there is wearing and how much someone did or did not eat at lunch. You know, really important things, not like what the boring teacher is trying to convey.

Her children, she said, needed to able to communicate with their mother at all time in case there was an emergency.

I pointed out that if there was something she needed conveyed to her children, she could call the office and a note would go to the classroom. She wasn’t worrying about the emergencies out in the world. Oh no. If something was horribly wrong at school, how would she know about it AT THE TIME IT WAS HAPPENING.

I asked if she meant something like a school shooting which the entire nation knows about AS IT IS HAPPENING. She said not that, but something personal.

I pointed out that the office would contact her if something awful happened to her child at school. Not medical emergencies. She wanted her kids to have a cell phone so they could text her if they got into an argument on the playground or someone picked them last for some team.

I pointed out that I was old and was not in constant contact with my parents for my entire childhood. And since she was about the age of my kids, I know she wasn’t either. And her response was the standard lament of all helicopter parents, “It’s a different world now.”

Yes it is. It is a world where it is bullying if your feelings get hurt. Ever. No matter what you personally did. If you pick your nose and someone is grossed out when you eat the excavations and calls you a nose-picker, you have been bullied and should sue somebody – no, make that everybody. There is no reason to teach your child not to pick his/her nose in public.

It is a world where children are not left to figure out how to be in the world. There is a natural pecking order set up in every social situation. When there are a group of people, someone naturally becomes the leader of the group, either overtly or covertly, but someone is seen as the head of the clan. Jockeying for position is part and parcel of the world we live in. Not everyone gets to be king of the hill every time. Some people are natural leaders and rise to the top more often, but even they don’t get to rule the roost all the time.

It is a world where parents have instilled a sense of terror into their children. Nothing is safe. It never was. We have never, ever, ever been safe. There have always been things that could harm us. Invading hoards, cruel masters, virulent microbes. There is no way to ever BE safe. There are always inopportune events out to get us. We need to learn to live with setbacks. We need to find a way to make lemonade out of our lemons.

It is a world where complex issues are dealt with in sound bites. We do need to distill issues down in order to get some idea of how to fix the fixable problems. We also need to be aware of the unintended side effects of each decision we make. This is something children cannot learn if their helicoptering parents interfere and fix their life-altering mishaps (such as not having your best friend liking you back as her best friend).

Kids are cruel. So are adults. We all live in a world of adults. Learning how to function in a world where nothing is safe, there are mean people who sometimes get to boss you around, and things don’t always go just as you wish they would  – all that is part of the childhood learning experience.

This woman’s children are not getting the most of their childhoods because Supermom keeps trying to run interference for them. The whole point is that they need to run interference for themselves. Or else, their adult lives will be stunted.

And the school will call in case of a real emergency.

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