My boy is fair-skinned. If I go overboard with one thing its sunscreen. At the first sign of sun the 50 SPF lotion comes out and it goes on thick: face, arms, neck, ears, legs – everything exposed and then some. Not too long ago I severely burned my back and shoulders on a very southern beach because I was so focus on getting every last corner of his little white body covered that I forgot that my skin, too, tends to burn to a crisp. It was nasty, my whole body ached, I could barely sleep and the southern beach was ruined for me. Never, ever would I want to risk that for the little one.
The good thing about modern times: the sunscreens have gotten so much better since I was a child when a factor 8 seemed like this outlandish number and we generally used something more like a 4. The bad thing: the stuff is still sticky and gooey and nobody likes to apply it . Why I ended up the designated sunscreen-applier in the family I do not know, I do it with the same enthusiasm I take the garbage out.
Where is she going with this, you ask. See, the latest and greatest idea at after-school revolves around sunscreen. In school it is now considered a medicine. Yes, you heard right, like Vioxx – ooh bad example – or the purple pill, or that stuff they tell you you should use for your restless legs, you know the one that makes your legs crawl just from watching the ad. So, it has been declared that henceforward sunscreen is considered medicine and will therefore no longer be applied by the teachers.
The rational: to avoid the spread of communicable disease. How lame is that? Has anybody ever read a story osomebody contracting Dengue fever, Cholera or Chickenpox from sunscreen lotion. Me neither. (btw, if you want to check out a list of communicable diseases, here is a link: http://www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/)
The real reason I think: the teachers don’t want to put the gooey stuff on 20 kids. You know, had they just come out straight and said: “listen, we don’t want to deal with sunscreen, too much hassle, it’s kind of yuck and anyway, we are being paid way too little for this crap.” I would had some sympathy, not a lot, but some.
But communicable diseases?? what it means is that every time (!!) not once a season but every time (!) I want them to put sunscreen on my child I need to fill out a medicine authorization form. Of course, nobody does that and they got themselves out of the sunscreen-applying business without ever as much as admitting that it is for their convenience but putting the tired old “we-just-want-the-best-for-your-child” cloak around it. Know what? It sucks!
Normally fall has me depressed and winter is the time where I browse the Internet for bargain real estate in Mexico but this year – in this one respect – I am glad winter is coming. At least I can postponed the sunscreen hassle for a few more months.
I have noticed a sneaking “friendication” of my son’s world. Again I begin with a disclaimer – a sign of our times: I love my friends, they are important to me. I’d go to hell (and back, hopefully) for them, I’d loan them money, pump up the airbed after a night of too much booze, help them move, listen to their failed love stories, paint their apartments. I let them choose TV programs and I even try to accommodate their dietary restrictions and preferences although that really resembles squaring the circle these days. I would even feed their cats if I didn’t have a violent allergy against cat hair which comes in handy on these occasions. If my friends break something I smile and say “don’t worry, it ain’t important” and, truthfully, it isn’t. I have so far chosen my friends well, I have very good friends and I intend to keep them for a long time to come. Then there are others, acquaintances, people I like, people I think are funny or witty, smart or entertaining. Some of them might become friends – or not.
And then – big ugly confession coming – there are people I can’t stand. People who annoy the hell out of me, who are judgmental, arrogant, nasty, or dull. People who bring out the worst in me. I am not proud of that but also not apologetic . There are people who hate me. No idea why (well, okay, I might have an inkling) I am fine with that, too. Such is life.
Only, my son’s isn’t. He is six and therefore supposed to consider everybody between 2.5 and eight years a friend. He might have friends, good friends, really good friends, and best friends – but they are all friends. And since they are all friends certain rules apply (who would have thought). There are probably more but these are the ones which bother me the most:
We are all friends and therefore every Kindergartner has to give ever other Kindergartner in his/her class a Valentine’s day card. Unthinkable to hurt a friend’s feeling by not giving him/her a card. I mean, when did Valentine’s become a Kindergarten type of affair? And if it must, isn’t part of the deal that one feels special because one gets a card from cute Johnny while little Jane over there doesn’t. Cruel? Well, maybe – such is life. Just wait until you are in high-school, then we’ll talk cruel again.
No kid can bring birthday/party invitations to class and hand them out unless all “friends” are invited. Again the rational is that the friends’ feeling will get ever so severely bruised resulting in lifelong visits to a shrink by not being invited to Mike’s birthday party – even if Mike is that kid one never plays with.
F-ing hassle for the poor mom who has to position herself off the school grounds or lurk in the shadow of some building waiting for the parents of the real friends to walk by before or after school and secretly hand them the incriminating envelop, glancing around right and left to make sure not to be spotted.
The worst: the kids are smart and they are not buying that crap so it is all for naught. Standing phrases in our house are “Jack is my friend but I never play with him and I don’t like him.” or “Janet is my friend – BUT I DON’T WANT HER TO COME TO MY BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!!!”
I tell my child – politically ever so incorrectly: “It is okay, not everybody has to be your friend. It is normal not to like certain poeple and not to play with them. You just have to be nice to them anyway and you cannot ever knock the daylights out of them.”
One day, I know, my son will yell on the top of his lungs “but my mom says it is okay that I don’t like you!!!”. That day I will get a call from the principal. I am working on my defense summation already.
Reading VW you are forgiven for thinking that this is a rant about cars and bikes and things that move. But no, VW does not stand for Volkswagen but for a way more radical and innovative concept: the vegetarian wolf.
The setting: drama class week at after school
The play: Little Red Riding Hood
The issue: the brutality of it all. The mean wolf, eating grandma, the whole concept of carnivorous existence, of meat (let alone red meat) and the impressionable souls of our six and seven year-olds.
The solution: ingenious in its stupidity – after a good scolding for attempting some unsavory wild predator-type behavior the wolf acknowledges the wrongfulness of his ways, promises to better himself and becomes a vegetarian.
Think I am joking? I wish I was.
There is so much wrong with this in so many ways that it is difficult to decide what to focus on. What stands out for me is that the lesson learned from the original story – one that every parent in the world likes their children to comprehend the minute they are born – “do exactly as mom/dad tells you, don’t you think you know better and certainly don’t go goofing aroun
d in places where your little behind is not supposed to be. Or else ….” is completely lost and replaced by some murky concept of how everybody and everything is good and special and if we all just really, really want it the world will be a bubble-gum colored happy place.
If you live in a world like that, where wolves happily munch on celery sticks and processed cheese in portion-size plastic wrappers that Little Red Ridinghood buys at the local supermarket and takes to the woods. A world where it is enough to say “Swiper no swiping” three times in a row to make everybody stop any wrongful behavior immediately, a world where little kitties drink milk all day and never make a bloody mess of a mousie and bears run around with honeypots in their arms – if you live in such a place and your child does not need to learn about bad people and stupid, dangerous decisions, let me know. Because I have never seen such a place and I would be curious to visit.
A few years back I started noticing signs saying “No trespassing” and “Posted Keep out!” mostly in big bold letters. And once you focus on it you realize that pretty much all of California is fenced off. Every field, every pasture, every random piece of dry land has a fence around it and every other tree has a sign threatening trespassers. I have stopped in designated parking areas and taken the trail indicated as hiking trail only to find myself walking between two fences and dead-ending at another after less than a mile. I have walked on paved roads in the Sierra because to the right and left where fences. I tried to explain to my son that as interesting and fun that little creek over there by the meadow looks he can’t throw rocks into it because somebody somehow felt compelled to build a fence around it.
And then there are the slopes: I am not much of a skier, actually I am a lousy, uninspired, balance-challenged, always freezing “I ski if I must” kind of person. Not so my husband. Trained in the Alps he likes to haul up a steep mountains and enjoy the equally steep run down. That is, he did, before the signs popped up. Now he hauls up and then he shuffles down again by signs that read “Area Closed” blocking off the cool routes. Skiing down closed slopes is illegal in California, the fines are considerable and pretty much anything that is fun is closed. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is a responsible adult, he is experienced, realistic about is abilities, and determined to see our son graduate not just from elementary school. He has no intention killing himself on some lonely peak in the Sierras but he feels strongly that he can make the decision where he wants to ski and doesn’t need the Californian government or whoever puts these signs up protect him from himself.
Especially since he just can’t shake the feeling that the signs are not up for his benefit, but to protect the Californian Park Service or whomever from law suits.
My son spent his first 5 years prancing around the backyard of his home daycare, playing, getting dirty and dusty all while learning to speak accent-free Spanish in addition to German, which we speak at home. He read at 4 and counted to 100 in three languages at the same time. Those were the good years.
Then he turned 5 and six weeks later he stood in line in front of the new class room for the Kindergartners at the local public school. We are lucky, really, the school is in a very good district and has an excellent reputation. My son likes it there, likes his buddies, computer class, the weekly visits to the library, and he loves his teacher (according to him, Mrs. M is his favorite classmate). Homework is his least favorite part but how surprising is that. The transition was easier than I thought. For the child, that is, because to this day – over a year later – I am still struggling with it. I am struggling not because I don’t want my baby to grow up to be a boy, not because I feel him slipping away but because I encounter so much nonsense in the course of a week and am confronted with so many rules, regulations, and requests that I feel overwhelmed and annoyed.
Mostly, I am not blaming the school and I am certainly not blaming the teachers. They have to operate within the system and their power to change things is limited, probably severely so. I blame the system, whatever that is. That overbearing and overpowering political correctness that permeates every aspects of our lives. That lack of personal responsibility that has become the new normal – driven by the fear of liability and litigation. That desire to create a world free of danger of any kind. An antiseptic world, a world where all the people we know are friends, nobody is allowed to fall off a play structure, call another person “idiot”, say “I don’t like you and I don’t ant to play with you”, or have a little shuffle over an important issue like who gets to slide first. A world were all kids are perfect little angels, a world were all candy is bad and celery sticks are “yummy”, were everybody has food allergies and therefore nobody can eat nuts. A world where you “use your words, not your hands” to settle conflicts but all the cool words like “stinky, stupid dimwit” are forbidden as well.
I sure would not want to be a child today. I would kick and scream and call people stupid all day long and then they would kick me out of school.
October is breast cancer awareness month. I like it. Let’s raise awareness and raise money for more research. Whether it really helps in any way that Safeway decided to put their sliced mushrooms in pink containers instead of the usual blue I leave to the marketing people to decide. I guess it doesn’t hurt, I noticed it so other people probably will.
But I was already sensitized to the pink cause because of the following contentious issue: wristbands. There are wristbands out there with the following immoral slogan: “I (heart) boobies”.
Yikes, the b-word! (one of many b-words, I can think of a bunch of the top of my head). I actually think “boobies” for breasts is kind of a silly, childish word rather than an off-color one but I seem to be pretty much alone with that opinion and therefore, because of the contentious b-word some schools – I was informed – have banned wrist bands for breast cancer awareness month. I learned about that whole controversy from another parent in my son’s after school program. She told me – whispering so that kids wouldn’t actually hear her say the b-word – that the slogan “is quite as wholesome as it could be.” So what do we do in California, bastion of freedom that we are? Easy, we ban wristbands for breast cancer awareness from the campus of our schools. What else?
I came to California 10 years ago: for the weather, the life style, and the freedom. I come from a country full of signs saying “No playing in the yard”, “No walking, sitting, or playing on the lawn”, “Bouncing the ball off the wall is strictly forbidden”, “Do not throw bottles into the recycling bin before 8 am, between noon and 3 pm and after 6 pm”.
I grew up in a place where everybody thinks it is perfectly normal to “check out” at the local administration when moving from city A and “checking in” in city B soon after arrival. Failure to do so results in stiff fines.
So I came to live the Californian dream, to enjoy the freedom of a place where everything that isn’t explicitly forbidden is allowed and not the other way around. And I found that at first: none of that checking in and out business, lawns are for walking, shops are open on Sunday and the government isn’t collecting “church taxes” by default.
That feeling of living a dream lingered for a while – until it didn’t. I cannot pinpoint the exact time when I found out that I was no longer living a dream but was caught in the California (protective) bubble of political correctness, fear of litigation, and the desire to protect ourselves from and against everything by imposing more and more bans on fun stuff.