Monday, 7 April 2008

Caught between two worlds

I see myself, as parent and child in this article.

Like Carl Honoré, I too (and probably many of you) had free reign of our neighborhood, heck most of the town. I stayed out with friends or alone, until the street lights came on. Mom and dad were back at the house, gardening, doing chores whatever it was parents did when their kids were off playing. It was a fantastic childhood. We explored creeks, streams, railroads, trees, abandoned barns and houses. We built snow forts and tunnels, played "war", had bike races, played pick-up hockey, baseball and basketball. We biked through the country and explored forests, fields and gravel pits.

And all of it was without adult supervision.

Now? I hardly see the kids in the neighborhood without a parent standing in the driveway watching them. Kids don't bike out of their parent's view. Most of the time they are inside. My wife and I have been frequently asked if we went south for a week or so. Our entire family is already tanned from playing outside in the March sun. We never left the neighborhood. But we never saw the neighbors, hence the queries about exotic travel.

On walks with my sons we walk through empty street after empty street. Its all so eerily quiet, well other than the occasional man in a garage working on a car with the radio blasting, but kids playing? Some days you never see one.

Granted, the media have us parents so shit scared about pedophiles, kidnappers, drunk drivers, its hard to let your kids play outside without supervision. And that's where I find myself. At the moment with a toddler and a 3 year old, they're not quite ready for that level of independence. But somehow I feel that even when they're older, they won't have anywhere near the freedom I had.

Also, this statement hit home

A survey for the association found 30 per cent of parents would be "disappointed or embarrassed" if their child went to college. "It's pretty pervasive," says Linda Franklin, president and CEO of Colleges Ontario. "Students tell us their parents will pay every cent of a university education, but not a dime to go to college."

I was, and remain, a lazy student. I only put enough effort in school to get by. "Needs to apply himself" was the annual comment on my performance report sent home. I realized early on that I wasn't cut out for University. I then seriously considered apprenticing to be an electrician. But that didn't pass muster at home. "Its bad enough you aren't going to university! You are at least going to college!" That was the message from my mother. More-or-less dutiful son that I was, I resigned myself to community college. Even then it took 3 attempts for me to get my head on straight and apply myself enough to pass my Computer Science course.

The irony? A friend of mine is now a certified electrician, and is pulling in way more money than I'll ever earn. And I'm damn well paid for what I do, within my field. My IT manager and I regularly lament that we didn't go into a trade instead of IT. Better money, less stress.

So on that front I have already resolved I will support any career path my sons choose. Heck, if the trade shortage continues, I'll even nudge them in that direction. But in the end, it'll be their choice.

I definitely agree that there is a homework crunch in todays school system. Many of our friends with older children are baffled by the workload their children receive. The insanity hit a new level last year. On the first day of kindergarten, my neighbors son came home with homework. He had to care for a gross looking pupae in a jar, report regularly on any changes, and wait for the developing fly to emerge. The expression on his mothers face was priceless, by the way, a real Mastercard moment. I admit, it was a cool assignment. But its KINDERGARTEN!!!! For cryin' out loud, can't that kind of assignment wait until at least grade 5?

This part of the article appealed to me

Parents are driving kids to distraction, and overworking themselves in the process. This explains the column's guiding mantra, "leave them alone," and its subtext: a lazy parent is a good parent.

I'm all over that. "Son, can you go get me a beer and put the Jays game on? Thanks son, now go play somewhere." ;-)

1 comment:

Ken Breadner said...

Fantastic post, Catelli--there are at least three blog entries in that one.
Next door to us, for the first time in four years, we have young kids. They play outside, weather permitting, pretty much all day every day. I was reflecting to my wife the other night that it's so rare to hear the jolly screams and screamy giggles of kids any more...and also noting that it's damned odd how that noise doesn't bother me in the slightest, whereas somebody's stereo turned up a few notches too high gets on my nerves right quick.