“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” – Robert A. Heinlein
So I’m talking to our sister today and she’s telling me that she is probably going to have to take her kids out of private Christian school and put them into public because they can’t really afford the steep tuition anymore. Her main concern is that in public school the girls will be bitten by the morally undead and be her daughters no more. In their stead will be these foul mouthed, skimpily clad creatures that sell stolen copies of the third grade spelling test and deal grape scented markers so that the fifth grade class can sniff their cares away. She loves that the school the girls are in now is pretty sheltered, and would like to keep them protected from the world for as long as possible, yet she knows that at some point they need to get out there and figure out how to survive. What to do?
I totally get this. If I could I would encase the children – body, mind, heart and ego – in bubble wrap. I recall that you kept trying to get them to wear bubble wrap clothing. The kids never really take to it. Something about sweat collection and loud popping sounds when they sit at their desk.
Anyway, it is not easy to let your sweet, naïve child enter the often unkind world. Problem is, you may be able to keep them out of the world for a while, but despite your best efforts, the world tends to find them.
I remember when Timothy was two and we would take him to the mall to walk around. He was such a happy, outgoing little guy and would enthusiastically greet every person we passed with a big smile and a friendly, “Hi!” Most people – even the grouchy ones – would smile at him adoringly and greet him in return, but one day a group of teenage boys passed us and instead of acknowledging him as the little ray of sunshine that he was, rolled their eyes and mocked him. I will never forget the look of confused hurt that crossed Timothy’s little face. I saw myself grab the ringleader, slam him against the food court pillar and say, all quiet and Dirty Harry like, “My little boy said hello to you. Now you’re gonna wave and smile real pretty-like at him aren’t you, punk? Or do you think today is a good day to waffle-fry your face?”
I didn’t do this. Even though Troy said my restraint was probably for the best as we didn’t have any money for bail, I still kind of regret it. Reality discipline is the best thing for wayward teenagers. Right?
And we’re back.
At some point we have to let our children leave the carefully constructed cocoon of love and acceptance to enter Darwin’s godless survival of the fittest savanna. This transition tears at a mother’s heart, but it’s a part of parenting. Some day you won’t be there to protect them and the later they enter the world the less strength they will have to resist and exist in it.
Or I can keep working on that bubble wrap thing. Either way.
Love, Older Wiser You