I was in a game store the other day (don’t ask…it was a surreal experience, fraught with pimply teens and testosterone-toting midlife males) and happened to notice a little girl, probably about my daughter’s age. Now, I say “happened to notice”-I mean happened to notice like you happen to notice the tornado bearing down on you or the mom with the cowbell sitting next to you at the soccer game. She was apparently under the impression that she should be allowed four XBox games, not just the measly three she already had in her hand. Upon receiving the news that she would not, in fact, be leaving said store with more than her three, she decided that the best course of action was to infuse every corner of the store with a wail resembling a high-pitched foghorn- a foghorn which lasted several minutes (until they left) and was accompanied by much flailing of the lilliputian arms and legs, but no discernible action on the part of the parent. As the remainder of the store stared in horror, first at the child, and then at the parent- who did nothing to assuage said outburst- I found myself wondering….does parenthood engender some sort of delusion? Are we all somehow blind to the faults in our own children, but superconscious of those in the kids we encounter?
A child in my daughter’s daycare is always sick. I drop my daughter off and squirm at the runny nose, hacking cough, and obvious fever in the child, which I know beyond a doubt I will be seeing within the next few days in my own child. I want to hose my daughter off after picking her up in the afternoon. With Lysol. Or DDT.
Laying aside all the ramifications involving the irresponsible daycare provider, I wonder more about the parent of said GermMonkey. Is the parent really so careless as to not consider the other children and families that will be affected by one’s sick child? Or is he/she really just oblivious to the symptoms, blind to the facts that are so obvious to an outside observer? Seeing what I have seen in other parents makes me wonder if it’s not the latter, and wonder if I am guilty of this parental delusion as well.
A family in my church routinely allows their child to defecate in his pants while in the care of the (volunteer) nursery workers- this child is 6. They are “still working on it”. The child can have a logical conversation about the various differences between the Thomas The Tank Engine trains, but he can’t be bothered to find a restroom when he’s playing. There seem to be issues here deeper than a delay in potty training, issues which point more towards a difficulty on the part of the parent with seeing the obvious.
Maybe we want to think the best of our children. We don’t want to see that they are human and can fail, and that it’s simply not always our fault. I think parenting a child responsibly, with the eventual goal of making them useful members of society, involves a large dose of reality- and that dose needs to be applied to our own children, not just the foghorn-toting ones we happen to notice. Our kids are, after all, the legacy we leave on this earth when we leave it. What, then, are we leaving? Are we brave enough to see clearly, or do we prefer ignorance?