Jonah Goldberg notes that a lot of Conservatives are blaming political correctness and cultural Marxism for the protests raging on campuses lately. Since both of these are decades old, he suggests they are unlikely culprits. He blames the rise in “helicopter parenting” and the epidemic of “everyone gets a trophy” education.
He’s right. I was graduated in 1976 and I experienced political correctness and cultural Marxism. Fortunately, I was already a strong Christian before I started college, so I thought they were both horrible and gratefully fled academia as soon as possible.
The Conservatives are also right. The parents of today’s bratty college students were educated in political correctness and cultural Marxism, the same as I was. But they swallowed it whole and then raised their kids accordingly. What we see today is the fruit of those twisted, poisonous philosophies.
I only dated my then-future spouse because he was a devout Catholic-Christian. I pissed off a number of guys for turning them down flat for even a first date, because I didn’t see the point in dating men who weren’t good Catholic daddy material.
One choice Dearest and I made was what we called “The Sieve Theory of Parenting.” From conception until some point in their infancy, babies need HEPA filter parents who provide the safest and most nurturing environment possible. At about six months, we made the holes bigger, say coffee filter-ish, and let the baby cry it out when we deemed we had met its needs and it was just being a bit of a demanding brat.
The day the kid smirked, cocked her eyebrow at me, and then threw her cereal across the room, we opened the holes to allow for the growth of rules, rewards and punishments. When they were able to understand the concept, we instituted a new “Responsibility and Freedom” for each child, as age appropriate, on landmark events like birthdays, or half birthdays, or start of a new school year.
For example, when our eldest started first grade, she received the new responsibility of remembering her lunch pail and the new freedom of an extra 30 minutes with her light on at night. The first time she accidentally forgot her lunch, the school fed her a cafeteria lunch. I raised the roof. She had very severe food allergies and was not to ever be permitted food that I had not sent in for her. The second time I suspect she accidentally-on-purpose forgot, because she had really liked that mac and cheese they’d given her. We didn’t have that at home, because she was allergic to every ingredient!
The teacher called and demanded I run right down with her lunch pail. I said no and gave her permission to give the kid an apple, to which she responded, “You’re going to let your daughter go HUNGRY?” “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. It is her responsibility to remember her lunch pail, not my responsibility to disrupt my day when she forgets. Hunger will sharpen her memory for the future. And, she’ll be home in THREE HOURS, at which time she can then eat her lunch, which is sitting right where she left it.” The teacher was appalled. Our allergy doctor backed me up 100%.
We realized that our precious little darlings would become adults in the eyes of the law on their 18th birthdays. They’d be legal to go so deeply into debt that it would take years to get free. They’d be legal to join the military and get shot at in places they had never heard of before. They’d be legal to vote! (I am shuddering at the choices Pacifier Protesters will make … provided someone hands them a registration card and drags them out of bed on election day and drives them to their voting station.)
We felt strongly that, if we had not prepared them to actually have the life skills they needed to handle all this freedom and responsibility, then we had failed them.
Eighteen years goes by fast. I was teaching the kids how to balance the checkbook in third grade. It’s just adding and subtracting, after all. As soon as they could lift a load and reach the buttons on our washer-dryer, they got their own laundry baskets. I taught them to iron, sew, mend, cook and use my expensive Rainbow vacuum cleaner properly. Hubby taught them to take out the trash, shovel snow, and use the lawn mower safely. When we DIYed our garage into his new office, they learned to measure twice and cut once, to pound nails straight and put soap on the screws, to clean paint brushes properly and lay ceramic tile, and to wire an outlet so it worked without burning the house down.
We printed family money (“goobers”) with which we paid them for doing community services, like washing dishes or cleaning a shared space. (Their own personal spaces were their own personal responsibilities. If I didn’t want to see their messes, I closed the doors.) They used goobers to buy things like rides to the mall and cash to shop with. They also got a family credit card, briefly. They ran them up to the (very low) limit, paid only the interest for a while, and quickly realized what a slippery sloped pit that credit card thing can be.
In grade school, they were at colander level. If they had school problems, we talked with the teachers and made a plan. In high school, with only two or three years left before the big One Eight, we opened up the holes in our parenting sieve to compost level. If they forgot their homework or missed the bus, they got to choose one of two consequences — i.e., accepting whatever the teacher or school imposed or paying a parental unit muy goobers to make a special trip in the car.
When they had problems, we talked with them about how they wanted us to handle the situation. When one of the girls got into an academic hole, I asked, “Do you want me to talk to your teacher and micro-manage your homework? Or do you want us to back off and let you sort this out on your own, being well aware that if you don’t sort it out, you will be going to summer school?” She chose door number two. It took her a while, but she learned how to learn and will be awarded a Master of Art degree next month. 🙂
I dunno about hubby, but I know I got a fair amount of crap for “not caring enough.” I stuck to my guns, because we had a plan that made sense to us. Personally, I think the fact our kids turned out so great is testament that we cared just the right amount.
Veruca Salt – I Want It Now (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)
My brother gave me a great lesson in parenting when I was pregnant with the first. He recounted when his eldest was tippy toeing along the baseboard, clinging to the frame of the picture window. His fil said, “Shouldn’t you get her? She’s going to fall.” Bro said, “No. She’s only 3 inches up, the floor is carpeted and she’s wearing a diaper besides. I think a small tumble will teach her some valuable caution.”
So at each stage, dh and I identified the threat level and either swooped in to save the kid from disaster or backed off and let a relatively safe, natural consequence occur. For example, I figured flunking a high school class and learning responsibility through the pain of summer school was better than not learning to study properly, then flunking a college class and wasting thousands of dollars in tuition.
I think it’s likely that the parents of these whiny college protesters had moms and dads who parented with a coffee filter for 18 years. It’s natural for their offspring to believe that everyone in the whole world should similarly provide for their every want and make them feel good about themselves at all times.