Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What a difference a generation makes

Do all y'all remember going to elementary school? Some grownup would boot you out the door at the appropriate time, and you'd walk to the bus stop or directly to school, carrying your lunch and books and, at least in Michigan in the winter, wearing your snow suit. You'd get to school, struggle out of your snow gear (ah, the complete humiliation of getting stuck in one's snow pants....I don't think I ever recovered) hang up your coat, put your lunch in your cubby and come to order before the bell rang.

Well, kiddies, I'm here to tell you it doesn't work like that anymore.

Firstly, one must drive one's offspring to school. Winter or summer, fair weather or foul. Then, having battled through the shoals of minivans, (the only time there are traffic jams here in Mayberry) you find a place to park. Then you unload all the kids, put the baby in the stroller, grab the toddler before she dives in front of cars and everyone heads to class. There is practically one adult on campus for each and every child, plus teachers, the principle and the volunteers on playground supervision and crossing guard duty. The place is positively swarming with grownups.

Claire and Aeron's class enters through the "back yard" door of their room, because the morning class is exiting through the front door. Mrs. Davis is outside, collecting papers and putting name tag stickers on all the kids. Backpacks, jackets and lunch bags are left outside on hooks on the wall. Once the bell rings and I give hugs and kisses to my girls, I join the stream of parents, grandparents and daycare providers and we all head to the main gate and back to our minivans. There is lots of chatting and admiring of babies and moms chasing down the runaway toddlers. Kids are strapped back into car seats to sound of "Sierra! Stop that!" and "Colin, don't hit Logan!" and everyone drives off. We in minivans had to be careful pulling out so as not to hit the few intrepid souls who walk, pushing strollers to and from the school.

This scene is played out three times a day! Don't these people have jobs?

Three reasons for all this parental involvement, as far as I can tell. First, there is no bus service in Mayberry. We can't afford it and still have things like music and libraries. Second, people are afraid to let their kids out of their sight. The media would have you believe there are child molesters behind every bush, such is our culture of fear. And, lastly, there is the meteoric rise of that dreaded creature, the "helicopter parent". A.k.a. the "lawnmower parent". A pejorative expression for the sort of mom or dad who "hovers" over their kids, micromanaging them or "smooths the way" for their darling poopsie.

I used to feel guilty about making Kayla and Cameron walk to school, but not anymore. Kayla, in particular hates it, probably as she feels it makes her look bad socially. So then I start talking about studies which found that kids who walk to school do better on tests and come closer to meeting their exercise goals. (which gets me eye-rolling every time) Plus, I just hate the idea that I must be a chauffeur to the kids. They have feet. They have expensive bicycles. They should use them.

Of course, I can't just pitch five-year-old little girls out the door. It's a twenty minute walk, at best speed. So I drive 'em to the park, and then walk them the few blocks in. One day last week, I dropped Claire & Aeron at the gate and they walked themselves to class. They were so very proud of themselves! Today, I walked them to class, but they didn't want me to. They wanted to be big girls and do it all by themselves!

I firmly believe the best thing I can teach all my kids is to not need me.

1 comment:

  1. Well, let me say as the mother of 4 kids also, I am so proud of you. I must say I am very proud of my 7th grader. He takes the bus from Santa Margarita to downtown SLO and then on to Laguna Middle school. What can I say, yes it left me feeling anxious (he doesn't own a cell phone), but in the end great he is launched.

    THe senior in high school takes the bus to high school too. I don't know if she hates it or likes it, but I do know they are better for it.

    Go Aeron and Claire - you rock! I am so proud of you!