Two things happened this week that made me realize that parenting in the 21st century is much more challenging than I imagined it would be. First, my 6 year old son told me that he wanted to kiss a girl, and “not on the cheek”. Well! He did tell me this in private and insisted this remain a secret between us, so I really shouldn’t be blogging about it, but I know you won’t tell anyone! (smile) My son reminded me that he has been waiting six years he’s “done” waiting. Well.
The other thing that happened is that I read on the internet that President Obama was planning to address students across the country on Tuesday, September 8. Not only that, but teachers will be encouraged to talk about U. S. presidents, including President Obama, to write letters to themselves about how they can help Obama, and think about what Obama is asking them to do. Well. The responses on the Facebook page following the video clip of the Fox News announcement were resoundingly negative, from “Leave our kids alone” to “Education, not indoctrination”, and “Get them while they’re young, Evita”. Many parents were considering keeping their kids home on Tuesday.
So how did my son, who usually says he doesn’t like girls, become so passionate about wanting to kiss a girl, and “not on the cheek”? From his friends, of course. One friend his own age and another who is a year older both claim to have kissed a girl on the lips when they were only 5 years old. I immediately told my son two things: (1) You can only kiss a girl IF she gives her permission. If she says “no”, she is off limits. (2) Never kiss and tell. He can tell me about it after, in strict confidence, but he must never tell anyone else about it, and certainly not mention her name. In short, respect her body and her privacy. I had always planned to pass these messages along to my son, I just didn’t think it would have to be so soon.
I spoke to my son’s teacher on Wednesday night, which was Parents’ Night, and she had just received an email regarding the Obama school address, but had not yet had time to read it. I went to see the principal at the school, who was good enough to forward me the file of the curriculum that was sent to the schools. It was pretty much as publicized. It appeared innocuous at first, but as I read through, it seemed like there would be a lot of pro-Obama agenda subtly worked into the message. The principal also explained that they would show the webcast to the classes at different times and use the message to reinforce the school rules – Respect, Responsibility, Safety – and the teachers’ already existing efforts to get the kids to set goals for themselves.
After my evening at my son’s school, I realized I needed to add to my initial reaction to my son’s announcement. I told him in addition to (1) getting permission and (2) keeping it private afterwards, he would have to choose a time and place for this event that would be private. In other words, he could not kiss a girl at school. “Do you want me to wait until I’m 7?” He asked. I told him I wanted him to wait until it’s the right person and the right time for him. That seemed to settle him down a bit. He is still interested, but he is willing to wait for it to happen. He also is willing to wait until he she, whoever she may be, says it’s okay.
Many parents around the country are worried about what message or “indoctrination” their children will receive when Obama addresses the nation’s children in school, particularly those parents who are not in agreement with Obama’s policies. I doubt that he will say anything as egregious as From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. You can read my earlier article to see how I feel about that bit of socialist doctrine. I am less concerned with the President’s actual speech, which should soon be available on the internet for parents to preview. More important will be how the message is reinforced. If my son’s teacher uses the message to reinforce working hard in school, being responsible and setting academic goals for himself, I think that will be appropriate. If the message gets any more “political”, I will be less pleased with the whole idea.
Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, I will send my son to school and encourage him to listen to the President’s address. I will ask him to tell me about it at home. Then I will know how he is processing the message. You see, I cannot prevent my son from being influenced by the outside world, be it friends, teachers with liberal views, older kids, television, or whatever. There is no point to trying to prevent my son from seeing the President’s webcast. My job as a parent is to assert my own influence over him. Right now, what I say and what I think still matter more to him than anything else. This won’t always be the case. However, I can encourage him to think for himself and filter out the multitude of influences that will bombard him over the years.
I still don’t know whether or not my son will kiss a girl “not on the cheek” while he is still only six years old, but at least I have had my say, and he has listened. I cannot really stop him from doing whatever he has set his mind to, but I can use my influence as a parent to encourage him to make the right choices. At some point, I will have to trust him to make the right choices and think for himself. Maybe the 21st century parent has to reach that point a lot sooner than our parents did.