Big difference

(I realize the blog has been heavy on the sorrowful early September school observations, so I’ll try to make this the last one, at least for a few days…)

This week’s  New Yorker cover is a drawing by artist Chris Ware which seems to be calling attention to some of the things I’ve been carrying on about lately.  It also reminds me of this thing I hear every fall at this time, at least a few times and usually several. Sometimes it’s a parent or neighbor to one child, others it’s national advertisers or public figures broadcasting it throughout the land:  a condescending chuckle with a tough-luck-for-you, too-bad-you-kids-don’t-like-it-that’s-just-the-way-it-is sort of a tone.

Interestingly, it’s a similar tone to the one we often take with one another, in shared woe on a Monday as the work week starts.  The difference is that wherever it is we’re implying we’d rather not be on a Monday is someplace we’ve agreed to be.  We may well feel that we had little choice in being there, because we have to work somewhere, but the reality is that no one said to us “This is what you’ll do for the next 13 years and this is where you’ll do it whether or not you feel safe, whether or not you feel productive, whether or not you feel like it’s a waste of your time… OK! Have a good day, see you later!”

We say we send kids to school for their own good, we say they’ll thank us later, we say it’s the best we can do.  And I think we do mean to send them for their own good, and we hope they’ll thank us later, and at least some of the time we believe it’s the best we can do.  Mostly, though, I think we just think we have no choice and there’s nothing to be done about it.  We certainly acknowledge left and right that schools are struggling and we must see that they’re taking kids down with them.

So we could just keep at it, laughing it off when they protest.  Or we could ask ourselves what the long faces and the dragged heels might be trying to tell us about the arrangements we’ve made for our young.  We could decide not to turn a deaf ear any longer; at the very least we could decide to stop making fun of them about it.

We could confront the fact that we operate as though we deserve the dignity of considered feelings, opinions, and preferences when it comes to how we spend our days, but children don’t.