Sometimes, as parents, I think we get a peek into the future, to the questions and issues that will face us as our children get older. At 7, Dee’s troubles are easily managed, but every now and again I get a subtle reminder that this will not always be the case, and when that happens, I tend to reflect on the questions that are outside the questions, the issues that are just a little beyond the edges of this current reality.
Earlier this week, Dee’s teacher sent a note home in her agenda. Effectively, she said that she is trying to encourage Dee to avoid being friends with a certain girl in her class, because this particular girl sometimes makes bad choices. She said that she’s already spoken to Dee about this, and has suggested she play more with another girl, who makes better choices.
As much as I love Dee’s teacher, something about the note irritated me. It bugged me that she didn’t name names. If she had already talked to Dee about it, then why was she being so secretive with us? Gee and I have a pretty good idea of who the ‘bad’ girl is, but we weren’t 100% sure. One word to my reporter-in-training daughter and I learned everything I needed to about the conversation between her and her teacher, but I would have rather had the information without the embellishment of a dramatic first-grader.
Regardless, I understood the message: teacher wants Dee to play with X girl instead of Y girl. I don’t really care for Y girl anyway, so it was no big deal to me.
Or was it? Obviously it was, because here I am still thinking about it, still writing about it, 3 days later.
I’m not entirely sure that I want to be telling my child who she can and can’t play with. I would much rather teach her that when she is with someone who starts to make bad choices, she needs to high-tail it in the other direction to get away from the behaviour, and to tell an adult if said behaviour is harmful or destructive.
I’m not sure that I want a teacher picking favourites and teaming kids up so that the ‘good’ ones stay together and the ‘bad’ ones are left to their own devices. I would rather teach my daughter to recognize right and wrong and to stand up for right, maybe bringing one of the ‘bad’ kids back from the dark side as she does so.
I may be over thinking the thing in its current context. Maybe the teacher feels that at this age, we can have direct influence over our childrens’ peer groups, and maybe it’s not a bad thing to guide them toward the children we deem to be morally superior. I don’t know – we deliberately integrate our children with those who are intellectually or physically inferior; why would we segregate them on moral grounds?
I also know that as Dee (and Tee) get older, we won’t be able to control who they like and dislike. In fact, I suspect that the more we try to manoeuver them toward the Good, they will fight their way back to the Evil.
Or worse, what if our judgment of who is Good and Evil is wrong, and we steer them toward the wolves in sheeps’ clothing, the Eddy Haskells of the world, when really, if left to their own decision they might have chosen an ungainly, but inherently good, Wally Cleaver?
Wouldn’t it be better to try to instill a sense of respect and decency in our kids, so that they have their own navigational equipment to guide them through their lives? Wouldn’t it be better to develop strong-minded, independent, healthy young women (and men) whose moral compass always points true? Men and woman with the intelligence to recognize wrong-doing, and the self-confidence to stand up against it, regardless of the consequences?
To me, telling your kids who they can and can’t hang out with is the lazy way to go, and like most lazy parenting, it is sure to backfire sooner or later.