Upon good-natured urging from a blogger friend, I decided, on a lark, to find out what rating this weblog garners at a site that is dedicated to blog rating. (*yawn*)
Turns out, this weblog is not suitable for general audiences.
Because, within the 109 essays, and probably 1,000+ thread responses, the word ‘gun’ appears twice and the word ‘death’ appears once.
Which puts me in mind of an extremely minor, but still nagging, pet peeve I have about the way some of us are raising our children.
I teach piano. I currently have about twenty-five students, only three of whom are adults. The others range in age from four to seventeen years.
As an invention/motivation builder, I have what is known as a ‘prize table’ in my music studio. Without going into great detail (since I would prefer to have most of you remain awake until the end of this earth-shaking epistle), let’s just say that the perhaps two dozen objects on that table at any given time are there to reward the younger students when they show consistency in practice habits, or do something particularly praiseworthy in their studies.
When a student earns a prize, it is always fascinating to watch the process of deliberation that occurs when it is time for the momentous ‘prize decision’ to be made.
There are those who simply stand in silent contemplation for three to four minutes, then pick up the most valued (to them) object and skip happily out the door.
There are others who will rearrange the entire table into sections – presumably categorized from most to least desirable, before finally narrowing the selection to a single item.
Occasionally, I have had a student spend well into the next student’s lesson standing behind us in deep contemplation over which item will go home with him. (It’s a major life decision, don’tcha know?)
Over the past maybe ten years, two prize-table items have caused considerable distress to my kids:
- (1) a miniature (maybe two-inch long) pen knife that contains a small nail file, a tiny fold-away blade, barely sharp enough to cut butter, and a little pair of fold-away scissors that, oddly enough, cut paper quite cleanly,
- (2) and a very informative, and not the least bit violent (in word or illustration), children’s book about Davy Crockett.
Whenever I come across an item that I believe will be popular on my prize table, I will occasionally buy half a dozen – knowing that several students would like it. Then I will put them out on the table, one at a time, until all six are gone. I had six knives and six Crockett books. Earlier this year, the final one was won, presumably leaving my table forever empty of miniature pen knives and stories of Davy.
But getting rid of them proved to be unexpectedly difficult. Not that the children (the boys especially) didn’t like the little knife or the book. On the contrary – they were among the most popular items.
No, the problem lay with the parents.
Whenever a student (almost always a boy in the eight to twelve-year-old age bracket) would pick up the knife to examine it during the ‘prize selection ritual’, I would advise him that that particular prize cannot go home without first obtaining parental permission.
It turns out that parental permission was sometimes quite difficult to come by.
An example of parental responses (to the children, never to me):
‘We do not have knives in our house!’
‘That’s a weapon. You don’t need a weapon.’
‘That’s too dangerous. Pick something else.’
I have three questions in response to those reactions:
- (1) What ever happened to parental supervision?
- (2) What kind of irrational fears are you instilling in your children?
- (3) Has the generation that was raised in the fifties and sixties, who walked around with significantly larger pen knives in their pockets (granted, we weren’t banned from bringing them to school, but they can be left at home during the school day), turned out to be a generation of delinquent marauders? (the Clintons aside)
On to Davy ...
A few of the parental responses to that particular prize were even more surprising to me. Davy, like knives, was ‘too violent’. He represents an era in our history that apparently some of us would choose to forget -- the modern sins of Brittney, Lindsay and Paris being considered much more palatable.
As I said above, all twelve prizes (six of each) have now been finally dispensed. So there are parents out there who see neither the little knife nor the story leading up to the battle of the Alamo as a threat to their children’s physical or emotional health, or their vision of America.
But, somehow, that handful of parents who see a tiny knife in the hands of a ten-year-old boy as undesirable, or a book on the grizzly but important history of our country as a national embarrassment, will forever remain a sad enigma to me.
(Are you still awake?)