We Are Putting Too Much Responsibility On Our Kids

I have three kids.

Most of you know this, if you are new to my blog …well now you know. Two are girls, aged 15 and 11. And my one boy is 2.

My 15 year old has been gearing up to get her drivers permit this fall, and thinking she would go for the driver’s license right away upon turning 16.

But as the months have inched closer to her written permit exam, she’s made a lot of other decisions with regards to her education that ultimately made her choose to put driving on the back burner.

That’s a long winded way of saying that she’s decided to graduate early and wait on driving until closer to 17. Maybe later.

Beyond having homeschooled since she was in 1st grade (so being pretty ahead of the game all along anyway), she really needs some time between graduation and life to figure out exactly what she wants to do and how she wants to go about doing it. We don’t live in a time where kids can just go off to college and everything works out perfectly …kids have high debts and shit jobs when they graduate if they don’t have a clear path in mind. And a lot of times, they do all of that to go into a field that didn’t even need the degree (and high debt).

Doing this will give her a couple years to figure out her real plan for college and/or beyond, and she can start that next step in life (whatever it looks like) at the same time as the rest of her peers. Because she’s a minor she can take some for-credit courses at the community college for free, she can explore volunteer and internship opportunities…and after years of homeschooling with minimal breaks and no summer vacations, she can also relax (for once). It’s a win, whatever way you look at it.

So the exam to accomplish early graduation as a homeschooler in California is administered the March after she turns 16. You guys see the timing is such that it really does make sense for her to focus 100% on that.

And after all, what’s the rush on the driver’s license anyway, right?

When I started mentioning it to people as they brought up her driving in less than a year, I got a backlash from a handful of people (3, to be exact) in one of two veins.

Either 1) they assumed it was really me saying she should wait, in other words sheltering her from the big bad scary roads and growing up; or 2) her not taking responsibility for herself.

People just can’t make decisions for anything anymore without someone waiting in the wings to criticize them.

I shouldn’t even reply to the first point. I wasn’t allowed to drive until I was 17, and in fact California has many laws that restrict what and who can be in the car with teenagers at the outset because of the high incidences of teenage deaths behind the wheel. I am not the catalyst behind her decision whatsoever; but if I were, it wouldn’t be abnormal.

And anyway, my kid my rules.

But to be clear: it was her decision. Hers. Not mine. HERS. 100%.

And it was a decision I found to be rooted in maturity beyond her years. Not all kids would decide on school and studying over the thrill of getting behind the wheel.

As to the responsibility.

Even if it were for fear or not being ready for that level of responsibility, what is this idea that kids under 18 are not still… kids? That their feelings or fears or concerns are completely invalid and they should just man up and grow up?

Repeat after me: they are still children.

And beyond that, has anyone taken stock – truly – of how much responsibility falls upon our older kids, today, as a culture? The shooter drills. The intense college admissions competition. AP exams. Competitiveness in sports. Plus looks, bullying, dating, peer suicide, all-time high incidences of mental illness…

Granted some of that is eliminated because my kids homeschool. But in many ways (because my kids are still very social, have relatively large friend groups, are out in the community daily, and have many of the same goals as their peers), they experience it all to varying degrees.

And in the case of my children, you also have to consider how much responsibility my two older daughters already have and take of their own accord around the house (which, I am sure, is common in other households as well as the business world molds and changes, and local, 9-5 jobs for parents have largely ceased to exist).

My husband works overnight shifts for a marketing firm that contracts with Disney. He’s an editor, so it means long hours, unpredictable hours, and a lot of overtime. When he gets home in the morning, he goes to bed and sleeps all day until it’s time to go back and start it over again. He works weekends and holidays often, and he almost never uses his vacation time. He basically is uninvolved in our lives unless he can actually be off for Christmas or Easter (but of course then he still sleeps half the day, either catching up or just on that different schedule).

That leaves me as the sole caretaker, housekeeper, financial planner, grocery shopper, child care provider, car maintenancer, schedule manager, meal, snack and every in between preparer, launderer, problem solver, medical care provider, educator, ride-giver…and so on…

My kids, being more responsible than some adults I know, have taken it upon themselves to pitch in for the sake of my husband’s dreams and my sanity.

It’s killing me to allow, and yet sometimes I feel I have no other choice; and even other times I realize that letting your kids have responsibility around the home has been proven in study after study to raise kids more capable of managing their lives as fully formed adults.

So my daughter doesn’t want to take on the “responsibility” of studying for taking the exam for her drivers permit, and the behind the wheel test and driving so soon, on top of everything else on her plate.

She cleans up my toddler’s toys every night when I put him to bed.

She helps cook dinner when I’m giving him a bath or nursing him (because, yes, I am still nursing my 2 year old).

She and her sister clean up the poop in the bathtub when he inevitably turns it into his large, personal toilet.

My 11 year old isn’t without added responsibility at home as well. She takes out the trash, regularly, when my husband has been too busy to change all the cans. She also helps keep the laundry moving, does dishes without being asked, and plays with her brother or feeds him breakfast when I’m driving my 15 year old to an appointment or tennis lesson.

Once a week, my kids and I spend hours going through all the laundry that has been done and sort, organize, fold, and put it all away. When my husband sees us doing it, he says “just leave mine on the bed.”

And this is the thing that I want to impress on all of you: my kids are not unique from other kids, and the amount that is expected of them today is phenomenal.

I get it. There was a time when kids did all of this and more. But there are two parents in this home, two adults responsible for it all, and my kids are at the very least helping to carry the load for one that is largely absent. Because they are already more responsible than a lot of adults I know.

So to suggest that my daughter needs to “start taking responsibility for herself,” and that the driving thing is just a sign that she isn’t doing that is – in a word – laughable. And this is what I am largely seeing happen with a lot of her and my 11 year old’s peers: that in the face of already doing it all and more, adults are still pushing the vice down even harder and demanding more of them.

And we wonder why so many kids have mental health problems now.

I feel like we have forgotten that under 18, they are still kids. And yet, at the end of the day, so many of them seem to have it more together than a lot of us did at that age. More together than a lot of us do today.

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Contemporary Children’s Programming: WTF?!

Um, so can I just say what most parents should be saying? Caillou is a little fucking pansy, and I want to stab the shit out of Dino Dan every time he opens his stupid, Canadian mouth.

What in the fuck happened to children’s programming in the last ten or fifteen years, for children under the age of around 8 – 10 that is? When I was growing up, TV was awesome. It was Rainbow Bright, Glow Worms, Popples. It was My Little Ponies and the Smurfs. Sure I watched all the girl’s shows, but there were other ones that boys watched too – like Tom and Jerry, Mickie Mouse, and Looney Toons.

Now, it’s as if contemporary children’s programming is so overly concerned about hurting sensitive feewy-weewings, and being politically correct; as well as not allowing any illusion to violence whatsoever on the TV (because God forbid we have to take responsibility for teaching our children not to be violent, rather than depending on the TV to do it…).

I now have a Contemporary Children’s Programming Shit List, and while I’m sure there are some moms out there changing their 10 year old son’s diapers that think Caillou is just the bees knees, I’m sure the majority of you really agree with me.

Caillou

Caillou is this little, bitchy, bald ass four year old cartoon character, whose every-other-word out of his mouth is “mommy.” I always imagine this show is written by a woman who still breastfeeds her fifteen year old son because it is a tale in pansy, momma’s boy behavior. Ultimately, Caillou would be an awesome show that teaches kids about every day things, if only Caillou and his little sister Rosie weren’t being helicoptered to death.

Peppa Pig

Peppa Pig is (I believe) on the preschool channel – Noggin or Nick Jr. or whatever the hell it’s called now. It started as a short interlude between regular programming, but for some ungodly reason they decided to give it its own thirty minute time slot. Peppa Pig would be more tolerable if only those piggish mother fuckers didn’t snort and belch every couple seconds through the entire show. I get the idea of trying to make it “authentic,” but how authentic can a cartoon about anthropomorphic talking pigs be anyway? If they want it to be authentic, why not go all the way and have the pigs slosh around in their own shit and mud, laying around eating hay all day; rather than what the show really does, which is have these snorting, belching pigs out taking boating trips on their yachts and shit. Pigs on yachts – real values there.

Dino Dan

When Dino Dan comes on the television, I want to get ice picks and stab at my ears until I permanently damage my hearing so that I don’t have to ever hear stupid Dan and his unhealthy obsession with dinosaurs again. And what’s worse is that all the adults in the show enable Dan and his obsession – no matter what situation they are in, what they are doing, what they are learning in school, somehow Dan is always allowed to relate it to dinosaurs and completely derail what is going on into his weird imaginative love of the extinct beasts. Dino Dan teaches kids that it’s okay to have an unhealthy obsession that renders you entirely nonfunctional if not talking about that very obsession. Once I Googled “where’s Dino Dan’s dad” because he never appears on the show; and I found one discussion forum where the first poster said “who knows, probably abandoned Dan and his mom because he was too fucking annoyed by Dan and his stupid dinosaur journal.”

Good Luck Charlie

Yeah, sure – Charlie’s cute, Bridget Mendler is a great actor, and the slapstick comedy is a little more tolerable than the aforementioned shows. But has anyone actually noticed that Charlie has minimal roll in the show at all, not to mention this most recent stunt of the parents having another “accidental” pregnancy? Um, hi! Have we never heard of birth control, Disney channel? What does it say to a generation of little kids, when the world population is completely out of control and there are millions of orphaned children in need of loving homes, that the lovable sitcom Duncan family is on their way to having five kids? That’s +3 population growth – a concept I don’t expect most lovers of this show to understand, but is nonetheless an horrible example.

Ni Hao Kai Lan

The only thing cool about this Dora the Explorer knock off is that we all learn fragments of Mandarin Chinese while watching it. But it’s like the creators of the show sat down and said “okay, we want her to be just like Dora only Chinese, and her voice needs to be even more goddamned annoying than Dora’s, Boots’, and Tiko’s all were combined. In fact, imagine Dora, Boots, Tiko, and the Grumpy Old Troll all screaming at the top of their lungs and let’s make it even more fucking loud and annoying than that. And pointless, too. We know it’ll be hard to make it more pointless than a fucking singing backpack and a map that repeats the same stupid route to rainbow bridge over and over and over again, but we think we can do it with this little annoying Chinese chick.”

I’m sure there’s more. I can actually think of a few more, like Wow Wow Wubbzy (by the way, is Wubbzy a girl or a boy? or a transgender rounded cube that talks and has arms?) But these are really the cream of the crop in terms of annoying and stupid contemporary children’s programming. It’s sad that this is what it has been reduced to. A staple of childhood is watching your Saturday cartoons, or finishing your homework in time to watch that show you love more than the toy in the Cheerio’s box. I feel like mainstream media, bad parenting, and helicoptering of children has destroyed that; has made it this stupid, androgynous whiny and pointless shit that it’s become.

The Lady With the Pink Hat

About a week ago some controversy was spurred over a trend that is growing across the country, that trend being the No Children Allowed Restaurant.  More and more, restaurant owners are responding to the complaints of clientele who would prefer to eat their meals in peace, rather than have it ruined by some bratty kid whose parents are entirely hands-off on the discipline.  On the surface, this seems vaguely reminiscent of the old “one bad apple ruins the entire bushel;” although, to be fair, those without children at the dinner table have just as much a right to eat in peace as those with them have to let their kids run the show.

Some varied responses have been made to this.  Some have agreed, even those with kids, because they recognize the fact that parents these days just don’t believe their child should be disciplined (or, possibly that their child can do no wrong).  Some have disagreed on the basis that, while they recognize children can be completely out of control, it seems inherently wrong to refuse service to people just on the basis of the fact that they happen to be in a particular group of people (dare I call them:  the birthers).

We’ve talked about this before, the notion of people acting as though they are the only people on the planet, and so everyone else should cow-tow to their desires.  And, in fact, it seems to be happening more that people in society feel a sense of being entitled to do whatever they want, even if it means that they and their children are infringing upon the rights (and even safety of others).

Today I was at the library with my father, who happens to be a candidate for full hip replacement surgery.  Nearing his seventies, his bones have become so brittle that even the slightest fall could result in a fracture of his hips.  He even has a handicapped placard for his car.  While at the library, a child was running around and screaming while his mother was nowhere to be found.  Inevitably, the child ran into my father, nearly knocking him over.  My father looked down at the little boy and said “watch where your going, where is your mother?” and the kid ran off without another word.  Five minutes later, though, this lady in a pink hat stalked up to us and started yelling at my dad – in the middle of the library – for daring to respond to her son, who can clearly do no wrong.  After calming the situation down (although I did say that she should learn to be a parent as she walked away), she went off with her bratty toddler and we went about our business.

Despite the fact that the situation was calmed down, though, and the kid and his mother eventually got kicked out of the library because the little terrorist was ripping books off the shelf and screaming, this raises again the issue of the No Child Restaurant.  Had my father (or any other older person that spends a fair amount of their time at the library) been knocked over, he very likely would have broken a bone at the hands of a little boy that was allowed to run all over the place.  And had my father broken a bone, the only people that would have been liable for it in the end would have been the library.  Worse than him running all over the place, though, was the lady in the pink hat:  his mother.  Without knowing the situation or the health or the beliefs of other people, that woman has taken the position that so many other parents today take, which is that the safety and happiness of others is of no matter as long as they can do whatever they want.  That poor, little boy is on a surefire course for destruction later on in life and his mother has done nothing but teach him that he can be a monster, and to raise his voice if anyone questions that.  One day, that little monster will hurt someone in a place other than the library, where the only one liable is him; and then they will all have to pay the price of a mother that simply doesn’t want to deal with an unruly child.

When considering how to act in any public place, it seems we need to remind ourselves that public means that other people will be there, with entirely different situations than ours.    Not everyone thinks a screaming and destructive kid is the cutest thing next to teddy bears.  And sometimes, it can even be dangerous.  To those that still don’t understand why some restaurants have chosen to have a policy that no children be allowed, consider the actions of the lady with the pink hat.