I am continually disturbed by illegitimacy rates, and I worry so about children being raised by single parents; so often in poverty; too often the product of hit-and-run relationships. I have taught scores of these children, and most will not become excellent students, let alone average ones.
I fault the welfare system — a system that certainly fails to promote anyone’s welfare. I think the State should have named it for what it is: Robin Hood Payouts to Promote and Insure the Corruption of Individuals, the Destruction of the Family, and the Degradation of Community Morals.
It makes no sense to reward individuals for inappropriate behaviors, especially those that so negatively impact so many lives while creating greater problems for the community-at-large. Such rewards only insure that there will be more of the same. I read somewhere (maybe 7-10 years ago, and chances are great that the situation has worsened) that 95% of the individuals incarcerated in this country were born to a teenage mother. I am not surprised.
However, I was born to a teenage mother, but she and my father were committed, married, and ready to parent. Dad was six years older and had returned from WW-II with money that he had saved. My parents were mature; had purchased their first home; had planned and prepared for children. Eighteen-year-olds were older back then, before life became so confusing. Now we live in a world of ever-lengthening school years, enabling schools to divvy out instruction like misers. Months drag into years, yet students are forced to stay in school, rather than to get on with their lives. Schools delay, or simply do not offer, job training. Schools hold the diploma like a carrot before a donkey. Meanwhile society and the media are ever at work to sexualize ever-younger children, including toddlers! Do read, The Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman.
Each day, upon waking, I hope to find that I was only dreaming; only watching CABARET again, in my mind’s eye. I hope that American has not also journeyed so far towards total decadence; that we are not facing The End, as so many other civilizations have done. Unfortunatley, a brief glance at the television, prooves that I was not revisiting Broadway. America is, indeed, becoming more decadent with each passing month; week; day.
In his book, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Robert Bork discusses the changes in society, families, and morals, since the initiation of the welfare system. The book provides much information, and I was especially impressed to learn that, prior to Robin Hood Parenting, illegitimacy was almost unheard of in the black community. It certainly takes hard work to raise children, and two-parent families are stretched to meet all the needs at all the ages — emotional, physical, mental, and financial; to provide strong role models; wise discipline from two parents who are in agreement on parenting issues and methods; and so much more. Two parents, even those working at unskilled jobs, still provide better supports; role models; and goals for growing children. Poverty is not so dangerous as it is made out to be. The welfare system certainly is, however. Handouts cripple individuals and encourage repeat behaviors.
Boys, especially, need a strong father to lead the family, and a Tribe. (I highly recommend A Fine Young Man: What Parents, Mentors, and Educators Can Do to Shape Adolescent Boys Into Exceptional Men by Michael Gurian.)
My brothers had a grand tribe of uncles, scout leaders, older cousins, Dad’s co-workers. In fact, my brothers were gifted with a large circle of family and friends willing to assist my parents in raising boys. Our society is undermining families in ways that insure that problems occur; reoccur; and spread. Boys of single mothers, lacking fathers and family-based tribes, will find their own tribes — neighborhood gangs and/or prison groupings. In Lord of the Flies, we clearly observed how badly boys raise each other.
Growing up in Ypsilanti, Michigan, during the 50′s and 60′s, was wonderfully uneventful. Our homes and our parents provided strong, secure bases from which we could venture out to explore the world — first the neighborhood; then the town; then the state; wonderful family vacations to other states. I have gone on to visit many, many countries and lived in England for a year. I have had a very fortunate life.
Someone once wrote that the last lucky graduating class was the Class of 1967. I tend to agree. I graduated in 1966 — never wore slacks to school; was involved in theater, sock hops, proms, clubs and other school activities. My brother graduated in 1969 — and his class rallied — closing the street in front of the school — and burned their socks to protest a dress code that made sock-wearing a requirement.
In ‘my’ era, most teens, boys and girls, were absolutely certain that their parents would kill them in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. Parents were not cowards and they told their teens, "No!" I have spent many years teaching at the junior and high school levels. Too often kids explain, with disappointment, that their parents never have told them "No!"; never given them guidelines; never set limits; have thoroughly failed their responsibilities as parents.
There were no ifs, ands, or buts about the expectations that my parents had for us. Teens need that clear direction to guide them through rough years. Teens also need a way to save face. I had my ultimate defense ready, to used when pressured, and it never failed: "I guess it will be OK….IF… it is OK with my father." That ended the discussion. Not one of those guys ever found the courage to contact my father and request his permission to assault his daughter. That is the kind of birth control that this society once used widely and wisely. Cheap, too.
Any parent who negates, or wimps out, on their obligation to guide their children with strength, wisdom and clearly defined behavioral guidelines; towards morality and wisdom; is a sorry excuse for a parent. When the teens of such parents become pregnant, therefore putting themselves in a situation of "children raising children," lousy parenting; lack-of-parenting; is passed on to new and future generations.
When my father retired, I flew from Colorado Springs to Michigan in order to surprise Dad. Arriving at the huge reception, I learned that there was to be a roast, and that I was on the program! My mind began flipping through memories, looking for something that would entertain the guests while leaving a little egg on Dad’s face. Finally, I thought of the perfect one.
At the podium, following a few smaller memories, I explained, "My Dad would like grandchildren, but he has forgotten something. When I began dating, Dad told me to ‘Always behave in such a way that, should your mother or I enter the room, or open the car door, you would never be ashamed of anything we would see!’ Believe me, when my Dad teaches a lesson, It Stays Taught!" The audience reacted wildly, for all knew how my father held, and voiced, such strong opinions.
Children need to have morals, guidelines, expectations so clearly taught.
But…you are wondering about the babysitting side of the issue.
I only have one child, and David did not arrive until I was 39 and a half years old. There were to be no more and I have regretted my late start. I cannot blame it on Dad and only do that in jest. I was simply too determined to see the world; study at universities; read great books; think interesting thoughts; meet interesting people; teach other people’s children. Even then, I wondered if my decision was unusual, and pondered why I was waiting; for what I was waiting.
Lynn Johnston, creator of the comic strip, For Better or for Worse, (03-18-2007) ended my wondering; answered my questions! Marvelous cartooning showed a teen babysitter as she dealt with food spills; sibling fights; ill-treatment of pets; messy baths; great fatigue, and more. When the parents finally arrived home and paid the girl, the teen says to herself, "HAH!!!…you couldn’t PAY me to have kids!!!" I used to feel just like that for I, too, did lots of babysitting.
By my teen years, Dad would have been earning not much more than $5 or $6 an hour. The family paid for our basic clothing needs; we paid for additional things. My only option, prior to turning 16, was to babysit.
From babysitting, I went to waitressing; from that to department store clerk; from that to grocery store cashier; from that to secretarial work; and on through my work history. When I have been short of money, I have often gone back to old occupations to earn some extra money. Teacher by day; grocery store cashier on evenings and weekends.
However…never have I gone back to babysitting, even though I dearly love children and enjoy teaching. When friends have suggested that, since I, who loves so to teach language, should open my own preschool, I look at them with crazed eyes — recalling years spent in strange homes, until late hours, with unruly non-sleepy children, messy diapers (Shudder!), and huge, seemingly vicious family pets. I relive that and more; rememberiing that I was earned 25 cents an hour for these “experiences.” I, then, become the one who clearly states, "NO!"
That babysitting cartoon was just too funny and I will always wonder…did babysitting play any part in my decision to delay parenthood? Ummm? I’ll never really know but my guess is that it very much did. We may have here a partial solution for the problem of illegitimacy — Jobs for teens! Especially lots of babysitting jobs!
What better way to teach kids the value of money; the value of time; the realities of daily life with children? Have teens spend long hours changing diapers, wiping runny noses; cleaning up messes for many children in many families. That would be much more effective than caring for a computer-controlled fake baby for a 24-hour period — the assignment given in Parenting classes in school. In addition, teens just might learn to better judge relationships and traits to look for in a future mate.
I know that I would like to hear that teens have become…too busy to babysit; tired of caring for children! I hope that teens soon learn to say, "No! I’ve had my fill of kiddies for at least a few years. I have things to do; places to go; and people to see!" I hope that teens start taking time for themselves and their educations before they decide to marry and…then, and only then…to start a family.
Now…if we can get the State to stop subsidizing destructive behaviors…
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is an educational consultant, homeschooling mom, and public school special ed teacher. She is available for presentations, inservices, and workshops.