This morning a 9th grader, who seemed possessed with the imperative need to be on his computer before school started, was relating to me his new plan to develop atom transforming technology that can genetically modify cows, lakes, and heck, whole planets. He apparently had to get online to start researching the project. And play a video game or two. It will never cease to amaze me how some kids have endless creativity to either avoid work or circumvent rules, but when asked to apply the blossoming mind to actual academic pursuits, they are devoid of any artful thought or even basic brain function. Far be it from me to judge, the Master of All Math Avoidance. Heck, I guessed my way through a math exam to test out of all of future required classes in college and I lucked out. So here's to putting that developing brain to work, even if it frustrates the hell out of me during every period of the school day.
Yesterday I was informed by a senior that finishing her FASFA online was far more important than doing yoga in my PE class. Generally I would agree, except that I distinctly remember my high school senior last year doing her FASFA at home on her own time (check that - I think I actually did it for her), and if by 'doing yoga' she means getting that required PE credit in alternative fitness in order to graduate, then.... Perhaps we should reevaluate the statement. But again, A+ for creativity in Yoga Avoidance (yes it's so hard) and also, disrespect. Kids these days. Once again I cannot complain or judge as I recall a certain 17 year old all but cussing me out in front of a math class last year - a 17 year old that I had raised.
There is a difference though, in this generation of egalitarian youth who truly believe they are untouchable thanks to an overprotective, attachment-parenting society. My own daughter got school and social officials involved down in Oregon when she told her teachers that I would not provide her with lunch. The REAL story is that she spent all of the lunch money on her school account on treats and gatorades at the school snack bar and when I realized her account was empty I told her she could pack peanut butter sandwiches from home. Instead, she told her friends and teachers that I refused to feed her and her boyfriend's mom started sending lunches for her. Then the school counselor called me. We were tottering on the brink of a full-scale social services investigation, and the child that clearly needed a spanking had tied my hands completely. Thankfully that kid turned out ok and I think she's even seen the folly of her ways back then... We're a few syllables short of a full blown apology, But that's ok.
How to raise a child is a book that has never, and will never, be truthfully written, because there is no way to encapsulate the behavior of all children into one formula. Parents and educators and psychologists alike continue to chase the pink elephant of a one-size fits all approach to kids, and until we get the science of human cloning down, they'll be out of luck. I raised four daughters with slight variations of the same parenting style, evolving over time. Although each one will tell you they got a rawer deal than the next one, I have been the same mother - over emotional too often, angry sometimes, not nearly as sympathetic or affectionate as I should be - to all four of them. Their personalities, behaviors, flaws and strengths could not be more diverse if they had been raised on seperate continents. But the same creative genius for getting their way flows straight from my genetic makeup through them...
And then there is the 11th grade redneck kid who comes into my classroom every day during my prep period to sharpen his pencil for art class, trying to sneak so I can't see him. Sometimes he is tiptoeing silently behind my back. Sometimes he is plastered to the wall like a chameleon lizard, snaking his way to the pencil sharpener. Today he was slithering on the floor under the tables. The clonking of his cowboy boots on metal and the bright red stripes of his Garth Brooksian western shirt gave him away before he had entirely breached the door frame. I don't have him in any of my classes this term, but he is still hell bent on entertaining me whenever possible, and quite imaginatively. There are a few good ones left.
There is no limit to the human imagination but what age and social dignity call for. Luckily, some of us never find our behavior dictated by these norms, but live in our Peter Pan world - continually seeking out new ways to avoid the things we hate and attain the things we love in unorthodox and often impractical ways - if my four girls are consistent in anything it is this. I have succesfully taught them to believe that boundaries are the places that we learn to grow, to think critically and invent the rest of our story. In return, they have taught me the same thing. All of the most Impossible Things are done because they must be, limits be damned. And for what it's worth, I would consider that a win.