The Sleepover-less Generation…does the experiment work?

A few weeks ago there was a local news story about a teenager youth camp counselor sexually assaulting children left in his care. The story was horrible. It was one of those, hug your kids tight kind of stories. And among the comments was one from a local mom who stated that this was why her children would never go to any kind of camp. Because she and I are in many of the same forums, I know that she is a homeschooling mother. I also have heard many times state that her children are not allowed to participate in sports unless she or her husband are the coaches, that they do not attend Sunday School or any church related functions unless she or her husband are with them, and that they are not allowed to play at other childrens’ homes and certainly never allowed to do sleep-overs. Although she will allow them to have sleep-overs at her house. She has mentioned several times in various forums that the deep-seated fear of sexual predators has made her and her husband choose homeschooling as it reduces their protection of their children.

I won’t say she’s making the wrong decision. I am wondering how she is taking the news of Josh Duggar’s abuse of his younger sisters in their own home. While it has not been confirmed that the victims were the Duggar girls or which ones they were, it has been made clear that the abuse occurred in the Duggar home.

Growing up, there were three incidences when my brothers and I were in the acquaintance of pedophiliac predators. One was a public school teacher, one was a coach and one was a priest. Years after our contact, we found out they were sexual predators. By the grace of God, none of us had become their victims. My brothers were altar boys, went on sports trips, and two out of four of us had that teacher for a year. My parents admit it gives them more than just pause to think of how we were exposed. My mother has gone through our dioceses background checks and training in order to work with youth at her parish.

And yet, despite my own personal close calls, I send my children to public schools. I have allowed them to play at neighbor’s houses without me present. They haven’t asked about sleep-overs yet, but I know we’ll face that someday, Moreover, I have a child who cannot speak and who I put on a school bus and spends seven hours out of my care five , days a week. I even send my son to faith formation for an hour once a week. At a Catholic church. I won’t say that I don’t worry about pedophiles. I won’t say my parenting is fearless. Like many. heck, most parents, I pray and discern and God has led me to trust in these decisions.

All of parenting is a risk. What one parent considers protective parenting, another feels as overkill. But the rub…we can never, despite all our protective measures, prevent the bad things from happening to our kids. The Duggar story is a harsh reminder that we can prevent outside pain, or attempt to,  but sometimes it can happen on the inside too. Every person, even a child’s father or brother or mother or sister, could potentially cause harm whether it be sexual abuse or physical or anything else. The perfect solution isn’t to ban all outside contact…yes, abusers are people with access to children. Parents and siblings have the most access to all children be they homeschooled, public schooled or anything else. You cannot prevent anything with 100% certainty. And that has to be terrifying to people already terrified of the outside world.

But even more terrifying is the revelation that despite all these protections, a child can become a predator. You can do everything “right” and your child could go off the rails. Eliminating sleep-overs, sports or church activities doesn’t guarantee protecting children. Neither does it guarantee they will grow up on the straight and narrow and not make major indiscretions.

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Lowering Our Expectations? Or being Realistic…

Recently a few friends have posted on facebook about taking their kids to a local restaurant. This place is, by all accounts, a bar. They said they liked the place and it was becoming a family favorite. Which is great but, it’s a place that was never designed to cater to families or kids (this is not Chilis with a bar, it’s.a.bar.) so I’ve also heard a couple of people who brought their kids there and were shocked in a not so good way. They weren’t treated poorly but it certainly wasn’t what they expected. Dressier attire is required, at least in the evenings, and there really wasn’t a kids menu to speak of. The kids were welcomed and waited on, but it wasn’t the atmosphere people have come to expect from the family restaurants we’re familiar with now.

That was coupled with a post I saw today from a friend who was angry that a higher price-point chain restaurant refused to take her food to the table despite her hands being full. She felt like for the money she spent, she should be waited on more especially with her kids. This is a restaurant that doesn’t have wait staff and caters to professionals, although they are generally friendly to kids in their menu items (although, no chicken fingers, so my kids wouldn’t eat there). She seemed to make a big point that the amount she paid dictated she should have a certain level of service although the chain itself, again doesn’t have wait staff, so most people do not expect that level of service. She also felt her children were not capable to handling their food and drinks (one is elementary school age, the other just under) and that plus the cost of her food justified her need for service. In a place not known for it.

I’ve heard from complaints like these that people feel as if they must lower their expectations. Wait, the place isn’t the most kid-friendly to begin with but when you bring your kids they try and you want to complain that you’ve had to lower your expectations? I know first hand what it’s like to have little kids in a restaurant and try to get food and to have to make trips. It’s a huge pain, but I’m not going to demand someone help me (particularly if I’ve disqualified a child who really probably could help out from helping out). I’m also not going to demand a place that serves primarily beer  but welcomes my kids when they do show up to carry sweet acidophilous milk either.

When you take your kids to a place that typically doesn’t accommodate children because of it’s culture and atmosphere, you shouldn’t be lowering your expectations, you need to go in realistically. They won’t have a playland so you need to pack books or be prepared to entertain your kids yourself. There may not be a kids menu, so you may have to be prepared to order just french fries or split adult size orders between kids and ask for an extra plate. You may have to bring your own liquids in for the underage crowd if you don’t want them drinking anything carbonated but would like more than just water.

You also should not go in expecting service based upon prices of food. This is especially true of restaurants that use high quality ingredients and do not have wait staff dependent upon tips. Higher prices are often used to accommodate for more expensive ingredients and employee wages for their jobs as counter help and in food preparation. And although people know this intrinsically, I believe they’ve lost sight of it because they are used to higher quality food mostly coming from sit down restaurants not your local coffee shop type place or even places like Chipotle.

And as one mom recently mentioned in respect to taking her kids to the beach and having them carry their own stuff: moms, don’t underestimate what your kids are capable of. While every child is different, just because your child has never carried their own sandwich or drink with a lid on it and two hands before doesn’t mean they can’t now.

I get it great service is, great. Kid-friendly is, awesome. But we also need to be realistic in respect to what kind of service and how kid-friendly a place has the potential to be in considering what kind of business it is.