Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Where Are the Parents?

The Plush Duck found her soapbox hidden under some clutter in her house and just couldn't resist commenting. If you are offended by strong opinions, you may not wish to continue reading.
Remember back in 1977 when the popular commercial jingle of a soft drink product was “Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?” Well, I have some new words for that song:

“I’m a Lemming; He’s a Lemming
She’s a Lemming; We’re all Lemmings.
Wouldn’t You Like to be a Lemming, too?
Be a Lemming.
Be, be a Lemming.
Be a Lemming.
Be, be a Lemming.”

Or maybe this tune by Peter, Paul, and Mary would be more appropriate. The words are mine, of course:

“Where have all the parents gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the parents gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the parents gone?
Remained in childhood every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?”

Harsh comparisons and harsh words, you say? Well, I sincerely apologize for the harshness, but not for wondering why my so many of my contemporaries, like lemmings vaulting over a cliff, have abdicated their roles as examples for their children. Just examine these situations if you need some anecdotal evidence. Frankly, I am appalled at the attitudes exhibited by both the parents and the children involved in these incidents, not to mention some of the school officials. Please note that, for clarity, I have posted the school responses in orange, the parent responses in red, and the student responses in yellow.

Hanover, New Hampshire
At the end of the 2006-2007 academic year, nine students from Hanover High School, all seventeen-year-old males, stole keys in order to gain entry to their school and some teachers’ offices after school hours. Their goal: to steal the final exams that were to be administered in their math and chemistry classes. Some students committed the actual theft, while others acted as lookouts in the hallways. After gaining possession of the tests, these young men apparently set up an “answer order system” to distribute exam information to as many as fifty additional students.

The school response (that I agree with, by the way):
School officials opted to alert police rather than suspend the students. After a lengthy investigation, the prosecutor last week brought criminal charges against nine of the students.

Parents were told a decision to go to trial could result in the charges being raised from misdemeanors to felonies, which carry possible prison terms of up to seven years.
The parent response:
[One father] said that he never really lectured his kids about academic integrity. He just never saw the matter as one of the biggies, like drugs and drunken driving.
The student response:
“I think they [the school administration] came down way too hard, and they didn’t have to get police involved. Cheating is not such a big deal. It happens everywhere. They [the students] shouldn’t be charged that hard for this little thing." --- Mike Rotch, junior

I mean, seriously, they are good kids and they made a mistake. And I think they know they made a mistake. --- Ethan Forhour, freshman
New London, Connecticut
Several months ago, a local newspaper and the local police obtained a twenty-two minute videotape showing street fights around the city, street fights that involved both teenagers and adults. According to Captain William Dittman of the New London Police Department, the footage shows evidence of criminal behavior ranging from inciting bodily injury to second-degree assault to inciting a riot; hence, the issuance of more than thirty-four arrest warrants, some of which were executed a few days ago when teenagers were arrested at the local high school during school hours. It is important to note that some of the teenagers in question were arrested on multiple warrants, while others were already in prison serving time for other crimes. Upon learning of the arrests, concerned parents gathered at the police station. For the record: I agree with the police department on this one.

The school response:
“We have a population of almost 800 students,” [Principal] Sullivan said. “Certainly this is not representative of us as a school. But just because these students made errors in judgment, we can’t just abandon them.”

“I believe in kids,” said Christopher Clouet, superintendent of schools. “We need to decide where to go from here. Two things I want you to know: First, no one has been suspended because of this. And each student will be dealt with on an individual basis.”
The parent response (all by the same woman):
“I want my damn child out of your jail.”

“It was called childhood when I was growing up.”
The student response:
Returned to freedom after six hours in lockup, a sixteen-year-old told her mother police took her mug shot. [The general tone of the article implied that processing this child as if she was a criminal was, somehow, unacceptable.]

“It was random fights,” she said as she bent on the sidewalk, putting her laces back in her shoes.
Looking at just these two situations, it seems to me that my contemporaries have gone so far over the cliff of “encouraging positive self esteem” in their children that they are either unable or unwilling to distinguish between crime and childhood antics. Like it or not, theft, burglary, and assault are crimes, not childhood pranks or errors in judgment. In the past, these types of behaviors were held up by the community (and parents) for exactly what they are: examples of anti-social behavior. Now, it seems that we can’t refer to these incidents as anything more than simple mistakes for which children should be exonerated, citing always the mantra: “They are good kids.” I disagree.

First, quoting from Romans, chapter 3:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
This leads me to the conclusion that a truly “good” kid (for that matter, a truly “good” person) doesn’t exist. Young people, like the rest of us, are sinful by nature. The best any parent can hope for is a child who listens, learns, and practices wise decision making, the foundation for which is laid in the home. Not only that, but "good" is generally not a descriptor that society applies to individuals who commit crimes.

Second, all choices have consequences and learning works best when those consequences are experienced in a direct way. Unfortunately, some choices carry severe consequences like prison time and death. It is always tragic when people elect to live on the extreme margins of the choice-consequence continuum, but it is especially tragic when young people decide to camp there. Again, the best any parent can hope for is a child who listens, learns, and practices wise decision making, the foundation for which is laid in the home.

But wherein lies that hope? It lies in the preparation for life that parents are supposed to provide for their children. It consists of parental nurturance, instruction, counsel, and discipline. It is demonstrated by parents who enjoy, respect, and love their children; and I mean love in the sense of self-sacrificial commitment, not just warm fuzzy feelings (or the sacrifice of money for parental subcontractors). And, for me, that hope lies in the fact that everyone in this picture, parents and children alike, are guided by the Lord.

Which brings me back to one of my original song-lyric questions: where have all the parents gone?

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