The Results Are In
On my first vacation to Manhattan I’d had experiences with waitresses and cabbies and ticket-takers that taught me the difference between being “rude” and being “frank.” See, I was raised in Dixie, where manners and social graces erased both “rude” and “frank.”
But New York is a tough town–even on the kids.
See, I was taking in a Jets game on a Sunday afternoon and the halftime entertainment involved a group of Pee-Wee football players who’d somehow won the right to play at halftime of a Jets game on a Sunday afternoon.
After about five plays where the capacity crowd cheered either a good run or a good tackle, one 10-year-old is wide open past the defenders. Another 10-year-old throws him a perfect pass (keep in mind this long bomb travelled about 15 yards), which the receiver misjudged. The ball hit him in the facemask and fell harmlessly to the ground.
My first suburban parent reaction: “Awww, man. So close! He almost had it!”
The reaction of 55,000 New Yorkers: Booing lustily, punctuated with catcalls. They repeated the process when the replay was shown on the big screen.
I nudge the native next to me and said, “Crowd’s pretty tough on that kid, huh?”
Native next to me: “Where you from? The kid knows he should’ve caught the ball. The crowd knows he should’ve caught the ball. He’ll do better next time. He’s not gonna get any better if people tell him ‘Nice try!’ and he’s not gonna need a psychiatrist because he got booed at a football game. And if he does need a shrink it ain’t because of what just happened.”
Sure enough, the kid catches a ball a few plays later and gets applause.
And I thought about my childhood where I’d had my moments.
Like when my dad put grabbed me by my collar and told me if I ever used that language to my mother again he’d knock my teeth down my throat and then I’d have to pay for the orthodontia to fix them.
Or when he made me stay in the garage while I had a serious case of road rash from a fall I took skateboarding down Savoy Street, all the while saying, “That was stupid, son.” over my yelps created by the bottle of Bactine being spritzed down the left side of my body. The stupid act was not wearing long pants and/or pads while going down the 2nd biggest hill in the neighborhood and that maybe I should’ve waited another year for that attempt.
Or when I’d had a grading dispute with a teacher and my mom told me, “That’s not my problem. If you’ve got a problem with it, then you need to set up an appointment and talk to the teacher. It’s your problem.”
Or when a coach barked pretty hard at us and when we complained about it to our parents, the party line from our parents went something like, “Well, you should’ve done what the coach asked you to do the first time.” Or if the issue was playing time we weren’t getting, “Work harder.”
Or when your mom hung up the phone after saying something like, “No. No. No. Mrs. Baker, don’t apologize. I appreciate your call and I can assure you this won’t be a problem again. Please feel free to call as needed, and I’ll call you, too, if I need your help with something.” You knew some sort of discipline was coming from your own parents after Mrs. Baker had already read you the riot act.
Now, what I don’t want to do is get a serious case of Good Old Days Syndrome. I know that things weren’t perfect back then and sure, my parents didn’t do everything right. They made mistakes.
But I knew that my parents weren’t going to stand for foul language.
I knew that my parents weren’t going to baby me for not wearing the pads and pants they’d told me 100 times to wear.
I knew my grades were my problem.
I knew that they were going to side with the authority in place in front of me, and if they had a problem with the way the teacher/coach handled something, they’d take it up with them directly out of my earshot…but I don’t think that happened more than once or twice.
I knew that parents looked out for each other, and felt free to inform the other parent what disciplinary measures they’d put in place.
And, again, it wasn’t perfect. Injustices occurred here and there.
But, as far as I know, none of us needed a shrink. And if one of us did need a shrink, it wasn’t because of those things.
Which is why it makes me a little nervous when I read articles in the paper headlined, “More youths think it’s all about them.” The first line reads, “All the effort to boost children’s self-esteem may have backfired and produced a generation of college students who are more narcissistic than their Gen-X predecessors, according to a new study.” It’s based on an upcoming book entitled Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before.”
Which is why it makes me a little nervous when I read a columnist in the next section of the paper under the headline of “Through grade inflation we’re failing our students.” The article talks about how kids are taking all these advanced classes and making grades that have used “changes in the grading standards” while they’re not really prepared for college or the working world.
All this does is reinforce what I’ve been experiencing in the last 5 or so years of student ministry. I can relate to the articles as they put into words what I’ve already been sensing.
And what I’m realizing is that this generation of parents of teenagers isn’t out there trying to mess up their kids. They love their kids. They want the best for their kids. Their motivations are based on doing what they think is right in that circumstance.
But what I’m also realizing is that most parenting is a reaction to the parenting you got as a kid. You’re either making sure to do what “worked” with you so you repeat what your folks did right, or you’re “never going to do” to your kids what they did with you.
And I feel for parents in our society. They don’t know what they don’t know.
It’s a tough town out there.
On both parents and kids.
And what we’re doing now isn’t working all that well in the broad spectrum of society.
And I wonder if it isn’t time to give serious thought to some sort of month-long blog topic on my random thoughts on parenting…if it would even help…or if I’m even the guy to do that.