Thursday, August 31, 2006

Other People's Kids

SpehardiLady has a very thought-provoking discussion about disciplining other people's kids. However, it was actually Out of Town's cute post about her son's first day of school that led me to write the following. (I'll add in the links to you guys later.)

When my son and Out of Town's were babies, they were best friends. Well, they really had no choice in the matter, because we're friends and had them play together. And last year, I spent the first half hour (at least) every day in my son's classroom. So even though I didn't pick his friends, I knew all the kids very well. I could discuss them with him and guide him towards the kids I liked. There was one boy, the most mild-mannered child in school, who my son decided he hated. (In a 3-year-old, "I hate him" sort of way, of course.) I spent months trying to encourage him to reconsider and in the end they actually became friends, though now they are in different grades.

This year, however, I might not be able to be as much of a presence in his social life because of work. And because of him being older and more able to choose his own friends. And I am really scared about some of the kids in his class, and how they could either hurt my son or influence him. There are two boys who were not in his class last year yet he knew them from the playground and told me they were mean. I met them on the first day of school - they are best friends with each other, and they are definitely mean. There's also a little girl who told an explicit potty-humor joke at the lunch table and was making a point of not listening to the teacher.

I had horrible experiences going to small private schools for long periods of time with the same kids. (7 years of elementary school and then six years at another school.) There were not enough of each type of kid to allow healthy friendships. Instead. life revolved around the "popular" group and their decisions about the social structure. I saw a lot of perfectly nice people become scary between entering 7th grade and high school graduation. I reconnected with a former friend recently who had been part of my small group of friends in high school until he decided to become "popular." He spent two years passing us in the halls without a word, chose to remain in he regular classes instead of honors courses that he qualified for, got invovled with drinking and drugs, and I can only imagine what his dating life was like. Then a whole group of them went to the same college and arranged to live in the same dorm. Now, he has gone back to being a normal guy and told me that he really regrets that whole time period in his life, that he really dislikes the type of people he wanted so much to be with, and is now trying to get his life back together. Another very close friend had her life basically destroyed by horrible ahrrassment and sexual pressure during high school. She's also very smart and talented, but also got involved with drugs, excessive "dating" (you know what I mean by this), and presenting herself in a trashy manner with her choice of clothing and lifestyle. As soon as she got out of that environment and into a large university, she was able to succeed academically and socially. She is now a professional who dresses very classy, enjoys talking about literature and her many artistic interests, and just got married to a very traditional guy.

I could really go on with more examples but my point is that I really worry about leaving my sweet little boy around these kids all day. Some of the kids in his class are great kids and at the moment those are his friends. But there are only 15 kids in the class, so he is really going to have to socialize with all of them. Even the potty-humor girl.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Worrying About Other People's Opinions

SephardiLady had a great post today about people butting into each other's business. She was specifically talking about people seeing you having a difficult parenting moment, and choosing to make it worse by adding unsolicited criticism instead of either minding their own business or offering to help. But the bigger point is that there will always be people ready to hand out judgement and criticism of everything you are doing. You have to live your life by doing what is right for you and your family, maybe asking the advice of close trusted friends, but not overly worrying about "what will everyone think".

When we moved to our community, we were familiar with one school which we understood was excellent. The friend who showed me around told me that she wanted me to check out the other school also, which is a Religious Zionist program. Based on our research of both programs, we chose the second one and are very happy. It never meant that we thought any less of the other school, just that we selected one that was right for us.

I heard about several people I am acquainted with whose children are in the other school and have a lot of complaints. But it would never be "acceptable" for them to switch schools. Then I found out that a person whose child has very serious issues is switching to our school because he is not getting the help he needs in his current situation. Unfortunately, the father had to add the remark that "some people won't speak to me anymore because we go to the other school."

First of all, I find that really sad. And also, I wish that this father wasn't so overly concerned with what other people think of him. It seems like this comes up in so many of the "issues" - school selection, shidduchim, choosing what community to live in or whether to learn full time or not. People need to take responsibility for making life decisions and not keep doing things that are making them miserable just because "everybody" will think negatively of them. (Plus they might be surprised at how many people applaud their decision if they make it confidently.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

We're Not the Only Ones...

Church fires teacher for being woman - Yahoo! News

Just thought this was a very interesting tie-in to many of the issues being discussed in the J-Blog world lately about gender issues.