Meet the parent, understand the child. I’ve heard my dad say it all my life. And in the last decade I’ve spent in the classroom, I have not been surprised to hear it reiterated by most of the teachers I know. Not surprised, but certainly disappointed.
See, I became a teacher so that I could help young people grow into themselves. I wanted to offer a hand to the uncertain, to the trembling. I wanted to help build a staircase for the confident, make sure the handrail was in place. I was never going to be an engineer or a doctor, a policeman or a nurse. I was never going to pilot an Apache or design a $10,000 wedding dress—and I was fine with that. Because I was a teacher.
Teacher. Rabbi. Sensei. Knowledge Acquirement Moderator.
Whatever you want to call it, I was devoted to showing up at 7 a.m. and leaving at 6 p.m. (on an early day; much, much later if it’s my extracurricular's season).
I’ve spent half of my career in the grade I teach currently, and they are my favorite age group. Middle school. So many hormones, so few tranquilizers.
I used to be able to laugh at the majority of the drama I watched occur daily. The “broken” hearts, the busted friendships, the championship games, and the loser teams—all these have their niche in life, and for the most part, all are about as serious in the long run as you remember them being—that is, not very, at all. It was all real life soap opera.
But, Idiot, you and your tribe of fellow child bearers have stopped bearing children and started creating monsters, Frankenstein-style. Or maybe that’s a dated reference now. How about Zombieland-style?
You tell your child he must handle situations himself, not to be a tattle tale. That’s fine. That’s good. That way I don’t ever have to hear “He breathed on me” or “She touched my desk.” Where you fail, in an epic, tragic manner, is when “Don’t be a tattle tale” and “Take it like a man” becomes my not hearing “I hit her to get my stuff back” and “I do his homework, so he won’t steal my lunch.”
Idiot, when you expect children to behave in a right and true manner, you must have first prefaced that expectation with building in them a right and true character. When your child admits to a wrong-doing and suffers the consequence, it is not for you to argue against that consequence. When you do, you show your child that just consequence applies to other people—not to them. This develops, not a right and true self, but a selfish and tyrannical one. Your child becomes a person to whom others matter but little, if not less. Your child sees others as stepping stones to their own wills and desires, conflating the idea of “I want” with “I deserve.”
You have created an ugly thing, Idiot. You and your ridiculous contemporaries have managed to produce in one person a bully and a victim: the bullying for which your child receives discipline becomes ancillary to the “damage” said discipline causes (generally, to his “psyche.”)
“Other kids are going to make fun of her for being suspended.” “His grades won’t recover in time.” “It was humiliating to miss the special event.” “Other kids have done exactly what she did; why aren’t THEY in trouble too?”
Your child hears you say this, hears you rail at the administration and his teachers and, despite the inherent knowledge of the wrong he has committed (because all but a few are born with functioning consciences), the idea germinates that what he’s done is somehow acceptable. Because you, who should be his bastion of integrity, you whose code of honor he will internalize, say it’s all right.
And while we’re at it, let’s get away from the idea of major transgressions. Let’s talk about little rules too. Let’s talk about turning in work on time or following dress code. When you send your child to a school, you agree to follow that institution’s rules. Not the ones that suit your fancy, Idiot, but all of them. And if you don’t like them, you ask to join the committee that determines those rules and work to change them for next year. But you shouldn’t destroy your child’s moral compass a little bit at a time with every sly maneuver you decide to execute in order to skate fair consequences. For every loophole you exploit, for every spirit of the law you violate for the letter, you teach your child that honor has become, at best, an anachronism and at worst, nonexistent
But you see, Idiot, children lack perspective. They have very little experience, and what you are teaching them is not that you love them to the point of true stupidity, but that no deed is so egregious that it can’t be defended and excused away. There are no lines they can’t cross. What is the matter with you that you don't understand that what you foster in their character now is what they will be?
So I end with a thank you, you stupid mother fucker. Thank you for creating a generation of self-serving, ego-maniacal assholes. I hope your retirement fund and their trust funds are doozies. Your kids sure as hell won’t be supporting you without either. There won’t be anything in it for them.