Katrina came up in conversation recently, and now E is worried about hurricanes again. The worry surfaces at bedtime, when she can't stop thinking about bad things. I say she needs to tell me about the bad things. She says she is thinking about Katrina, and she is worried there will be a hurricane here. I say there won't be a hurricane here, because, remember, M learned that hurricanes are worst where there is warm water, and here the water is cold. Plus, Katrina flooded New Orleans because New Orleans is low, and we are not low, so there would not be such a flood.
I am confident in what I tell her, because it is largely true (I don't lie to my kids, though I sometimes soften). Then I think of the kids from New Orleans and Mississippi, and how their parents cannot tell them there won't be a hurricane.
Lately, I've been having lots of conversations with parents who are worried about their kids: they are thinking about switching to private school because their kid already knows how to read and isn't learning enough in kindergarten; their kid isn't progressing in school music lessons; there are so many things the school doesn't provide and they have to supplement. They are very anxious and concerned, and they want to talk to me at great length about how much the schools aren't doing, and how much their kids need.
Town strikes me as an ideal place to raise children (that's a big reason we moved here). It is leafy and safe, there is lots to do, kids can go off on their own to the park or the corner store, you can reach urban civilization by public transportation so teenagers do not have to languish in parking lots and malls. Our schools? Our schools are fine. Beleaguered urban districts hail us as an example of a school system that has no problems. We don't have all the resources of wealthy suburbs, but neither do we have the pressure and competition. My kids have art and music weekly. They love their gym teacher. Their teachers know their strengths and weaknesses and help them to learn. Our superintendent's motto is "Going from good to great." That seems right to me.
I am so tired of the phrase "I know my kid." As a friend of mine whose son was just hospitalized for several weeks with depression says, parents of kids who have real problems do not broadcast it. "I know my kid" almost always prefaces a long disquisition about how conventional circumstances are not adequate to the needs of said kid. And almost always, I don't buy it. Kids are a lot more resilient and adaptable than most of their parents seem to think--at least, they are if their parents let them be.
Not ten miles from Town, three middle school kids have been shot and killed in the last three weeks.
I don't think my kids need to clear their plates because children are starving in Afghanistan. I don't believe in guilt. I know that in nice towns like Town, there are children who are hungry and abused and depressed and disabled. I know that everyone has their own troubles, and a hierarchy of troubles is not useful. But it does seem to me that there are situations in which it is much easier to be a parent, and sometimes I wish some of the parents around me would keep that in mind.