Friday, July 08, 2005

Parents Who Don’t Want To Be Around Their Kids

More and more I am hearing admissions that parents don’t want to be around their kids. This comes from stay at home mothers as well as working mothers. But I hear it most from the stay at home mothers!

When the children are younger, such as babies they complain (and rightly so) of the sleepless nights, of fatigue and feeling low energy levels. When they are chasing toddlers they complain that it is tiring and stressful to always have to be on the watch to keep the child out of danger, etc. I understand this and have “been there, done that”. I always tried to focus on the positive and enjoy the good times and take the low energy, or the feelings of fatigue as ‘par for the course’.

When children are preschool aged, that is when the stay at home moms usually send the kids to preschool. I then hear and overhear these same parents fretting over what to do with the kids when preschool is not in session, such as during the summer. Enter: summer camps. Summer camps are also used by working parents as babysitting services.

I have heard so many times, “but what will I DO with my child all day”? These are genuine and sincere questions. I guess they are so used to not spending time with their children that they are not prepared to spend time with them such as playing games, doing arts and crafts, or just letting them play independently and enjoy unstructured play time. Also the disruption in the mother’s personal schedules and having been used to several hours per day of time with no children underfoot is also gone, and they miss that.

The first time they do summer camps and classes it seems truly sincere as an enrichment activity. But over time it seems that the primary goal is as a babysitting service.

There is also the faction who feels that children should be chock full of scheduled classes and sports activities for full enrichment. Some parents go so far as to think that parents who don’t do this to their children are being neglectful. In other words, a good parent would provide every opportunity to master 5 sports and be trained in art and whatever else that is in the summer camps and classes that they enroll their children in. These parents must be ignorant to the facts and studies that show that over-scheduling children is harmful to their developing personalities and minds. They must be ignorant to the benefits of quality time spent with a loving parent and of the benefits of unstructured free play time.

Other parents complain that their children, when not in school, don’t know what to do with themselves. They say their children crave structure and seem to not be able to entertain themselves. Some homeschooling parents say this is a problem caused by too much scheduling and too much of school telling them what to do every minute of the day. These homeschoolers feel proud that their kids can entertain themselves, are not afraid of being bored, and don’t need to be bossed around by adults all day in order to know what to do with themselves. At this point I am not sure that I am in either of these categories.

Then there are other parents who say that their children need many hours of time with other similar aged children in order to socialize, even in the summer. They then assume that time just with mom at home, or with mom and siblings, and also with Dad when he isn’t working, is not enough for them. “Kids need lots of time with other kids.” This is the mentality that leads them to think that homeschooling is unhealthy as it deprives the children of many hours with same-aged children for 180 school days per year. The further misconception that homeschooled children have less friends or less chances to know other children and therefore don’t see those children on afternoons, evenings or weekends during the school year, or in summer, is another level of the ‘socialization problem’, in their eyes. However what I am experiencing is the children who attend school are the ones who don’t have time for socializing during the school year due to long hours at school, on the bus, homework and extracurricular paid activities. I also question what type of socialization they get while in school and if this is the good type of socialization that I want my children to have, such as have a couple of very close friends that they see on a regular basis over many years time.

But what surprises me now is how the stay at home mothers readily admit to wanting to not be with their children. I first heard this about sending the kids to Kindergarten. “I can’t wait to send them off on the bus!”, they would exclaim. It seems the older they get, the more they are wiling to state this opinion of wanting to not be with their children. This type of statement can be heard all over the place, from the grocery store to the waiting room of the local YMCA gymnastics class. The statements change to match the seasons:
“School is getting out soon, I dread it. I need to find three more camps to fill up the summer; do you have any that you can recommend?”
“Four weeks left until school starts, Thank God. I can’t wait to get back to normal.”
“So glad that school just started. Maybe year-round school would be best for everyone.”
“Ugh. Does the Christmas vacation really need to be so long?”

I was at a Cub Scout day camp training session earlier this week as I am going to volunteer at it. I had been told by my friend who volunteered there last year that her younger son, who would not separate from her, stayed with her all day long, and that was fine with the camp staff. I have a different situation on my hands. I have a younger son who wants to do everything his older brother does, but my younger son is too young to attend this camp, as he is too young to be a Cub Scout. I learned at the training that the younger siblings were expected to spend time in the “Tot Lot” babysitting service. I panicked because my younger son thought he was going to be with me and do all the things that the older kids did (as he did during the last two years at Scout meetings.) This younger son feels that when he is put in such babysitting programs that he is being pushed off and away to the lesser-fun place, and he resents it. So I try to avoid pushing him away and only do things in which he can participate in a legitimate manner.

So, I asked if my son could stay with me. Two mothers piped up asking why I would want this as they were sending their kids to the camp so they could get rid of them. They really said that out loud! The reply was that the “Tot Lot” was there if I wanted to use it but that my younger child could stay by my side so long as I could function with him there. Comments erupted from other mothers about them not being able to get anything done with a (pesky) younger child underfoot. I reassured the trainer that he was fine with following directions, etc. and that in the past two years he was better behaved than some of the Scouts in my Den who are 3 years older than he is.

Then the trainer said that it reminded her to address that as camp volunteers we were to indicate on the form we were to fill out, if we wanted to be assigned to work with our own or if we want to be separated from our Scout-children. I was surprised! This again prompted several moms to say that they didn’t want to see their children at all and that was the reason they put them in camp. (The Scout gets to go free if the parent volunteers so I guess they volunteered to save the $160.) The trainer retorted that some parents are involved with volunteering in Scouting so that they could spend MORE time with their child. Chuckles erupted from all around the room, in a manner to indicate disbelief.

So at that moment in time I was really feeling like a wacko, because I did want my older son to be with me as well. This is actually my older son’s first all-day summer day camp experience (7 hours long). I am sure he would be fine, and he is not saying he would have a problem with it, but I was looking forward to being with him for two reasons:
1) I enjoy spending time with him;
2) He is better behaved than other Scouts his age so it would be one less problem-child that I’d have to deal with!

Anyway, all these lead me to that feeling again that our family is living an alternative life experience, akin to feeling that I am living in a parallel universe, living differently than the mainstream parents and children. Sigh. I once expressed this feeling to my Naturopath, who is an Indian immigrant and a woman. She explained to me that as a Caucasian American I am now experiencing a taste of what non-white’s feel like on a daily basis, or what newly immigrated non-whites feel upon moving to America. It was something to ponder. Right now I don’t care that I am not living their parenting way in the sense that I am not part of their crowd, like I am not part of their clique. It just feels strange at those moments in time when I realize that most mothers have a completely different paradigm than I do for what constitutes living a happy life and raising children in a manner that is right and best for their personal development. Some people that I talk to say this is because some mothers and fathers live their lives in a way that they feel is right and best for their own (adult) selves rather than making choices that are right and best for the child. I don’t know if this is correct or not but the evidence to support that case is building!

1 comment:

The Creative Momma said...

It is truly a shame that some parents think that after raising their children to school age, they feel that being away from home is better for the child (and the parents). Fortunately, homeschooling families are on the rise and there are more parents showing their children a more nuturing way of life. I know that I spent almost 8 years trying to become a mom and I have no intention on giving up my ability to share healthy time with my children after they are of school age.