I’m pretty sure I know what I’m getting for Mother’s Day this weekend. But if you want to know what I really want it’s this: I’d like an entire month where I don’t see another article that explains why American mothers suck and everyone else does it better. Actually no, what I’d like is an entire month where I don’t see another article that explains why American mothers suck without acknowledging and explaining that we aren’t parenting in some vacuum. Maybe it’s because my own mother is a sociologist, but just once I’d like to read a parenting article that acknowledges that parents are part of society and our actions are a reflection of and reaction to that society.
You know all the articles about the Amazonian 5 year olds who use machetes and how Americans are afraid to give their kids butter knives? Guess what, that Amazonian 5 year old uses a machete because every one in his village uses a machete. Since birth he has seen people use machetes and he has learned how to use one safely. You know what else, he needs to know how to use a machete. My children do not live in an Amazonian village, they live in the Village of Oak Park. They have never seen anyone use a machete and will never need to use a machete. They will however need to know how to use a cell phone. Luckily, since birth they have watched everyone in their village use a cell phone and they know how to use one safely. My work here is done.
What about the Japanese kids who don’t ask for snacks and learn to wait to eat dinner until everyone is home to eat dinner together? That would be great, except of course, in our SOCIETY very few of us have nights where we all eat dinner together. Between T-ball, Hebrew School, and work my family has not had a single night this week where we could all eat dinner together. Please don’t tell me that I’m a typical, stupid American mom who has over-scheduled her children. My children are in group sports because we live in a SOCIETY that does not have adequate physical education during the school day, so it has to be provided outside of school. Also, the skills learned in organized group sports are actually skills that our society values.
We also live in a heterogenous society that values cultural diversity. That means my children do not get religious education at school. It’s something that we take care of outside of school. Pain, yes? But, still overall better than living in the homogeneous shtetl in which my grandparents were born.
Every society around the world educates their children to be functioning members of that society. The way children play, eat, and learn reflects the needs and values of that society. The way parents parent reflects the realities and needs of that society.
I’m not saying that American parents are fantastic, that we do everything correctly. I am saying that we don’t do anything alone.
That’s what I want for Mother’s Day, although I will gladly accept the massage appointment.