Monday, June 8, 2009

Spoiled Children--WHY?

Belle graduated from pre-school today. I am extremely proud of her for this accomplishment and thoroughly enjoyed the songs her class sang as well as the presentation of diplomas. It was very cute.

I have to mention that I felt, as always, a little out of place. I think I'm the only mother that works a full-time job, so I'm not part of the coterie of mothers. Belle's babysitter, one of the kindest and most dedicated human beings on earth, drops her off and picks her up. She is a lot more a part of the school world than I am. I don't like social situations where I don't know people well anyway, so putting that together with my neurosis that these people are looking at me and thinking, "Yeah, she's having a babysitter raise her kid because she works a full-time job" and they're probably not even thinking that at all, but it just makes me incredibly anxious. But anyway, that's a story for another day.

After the ceremony, families were invited to a local park to eat lunch and give the kids a chance to play together. This was where things headed south quickly.

I expect my children to be respectful, kind, and polite at all times. This has been an expectation since they were babies, and both Belle and Addie always make me proud with their behavior in public. Of course, both Belle and Addie have been carried kicking and screaming out of Chuck E. Cheese's and the play area at the mall because they did not want to leave. Both learned that behavior like that meant they didn't get to go back for a long time and, when they did, they needed to follow the rules. To me, it doesn't seem that complicated. You make sure your kids know the rules, you enforce them, you help you kids process any behavior issues, and you give logical consequences when necessary (as in, if Belle throws a ball at her sister, she loses the ball; if Addie is on MySpace when she's supposed to be doing her homework, she loses her internet).

I kept pretty close to Belle as she moved from slide to swing to seesaw; she's five, after all, and when there are thirty or forty kids running around, I don't think too much supervision is possible. This is especially true since a lot of parents seemed to think it was okay to let their children run amok while they stood around talking with each other a fair distance away, completely oblivious to what their children were doing.

The prime example I can think of is the little girl who held up the line at the slide by climbing up the other side of the stairs and standing on the ladder, refusing to move. I didn't feel like it was my place to say anything, and neither of the other two parents standing by the slide with a line of ten kids being held up by this one kid did either, evidently. Finally, a kid went and got "Sherry"'s mother, who came reluctantly.

Mother: Sherry, get down from there. The other kids can't get up.
Sherry: So?
Mother: There is a big line of kids waiting, and they can't move because you won't get down.
Sherry: So?
Mother: You need to get down from there right now!
Sherry: (with big huff better suited to an adolescent than a preschooler) Fiiiiiiine!
(At this point, Sherry starts swinging around one of the legs of the slide)
Mother: Sherry, get off the slide.
Sherry: You said not to climb on the ladder.
Mother: You've lost the privilege of going on the slide. Find something else to do.
Sherry: I want to go on the slide.
Mother: Fine. But make sure you are behaving yourself.
Sherry: Oh, I will.
(Mother goes back to social gathering; Sherry cuts the next kid in line and lays flat on the slide.)

When Belle finally got to the ladder of the slide, I told her that we'd be leaving after she went down the slide. She said, "Okay, Mommy." She came down the slide. She took my hand, and we walked together to the picnic table to get the remains of her lunch and to thank her teachers again. We talked about how we knew by the shape of leaves on one tree that it was a maple and by the white bark of another that it was a birch tree. She held my hand as we approached the parking lot. She thanked me for taking her to the park.

It's not like I think my children are perfect. They're not. It's just that I was overcome by how many spoiled children (Sherry was the worst, but she wasn't the only kid with issues like line-cutting, sand-kicking, and name-calling) there are in the world--and the correlation between misbehaving children and parents who were caught up in their own endeavors.

Perhaps it's just because it's a real treat for me to be able to spend a day with Belle, but I don't understand how people would rather spend time socializing with their backs turned than enjoy their children. It's not like I'm anti-social, nor do I think people should hover around their kids obsessively, but it seems like there's a happy medium. When it's children who are in the middle, shouldn't parents be willing to tilt the medium in a child's favor?