Saturday, March 05, 2005

Outsourcing Parenthood

A few months ago a mother came to me all excited. She began to tell my about an experience she had in her daughter's elementary school.

It was around Christmas and her daughter came home from school telling her mom all the wonderful stories her teacher had been reading to her. Sadly, the daughter lamented however, none of the stories were about the real meaning of Christmas. The daughter asked her mother if she could come to her class and read to her a story from their shelf about the birth of Jesus. The mother thoughtfully replied that she would love to but that she would have to check with the teacher. The daughter seemed satisfied. The mother approached the teacher about the matter. The teacher told her that any extra reading material had to be cleared by the principal. The mother appealed to the principal who then consulted with a guideline for reading. After a short wait the mother was granted her request on the grounds that the birth was historical in nature. The mother was thankful.

Not wanting to burst her enthusiasm I told her how glad I was that she was able to read to the children. The mother's excitement puzzled me. Why would a mother seek the authority of someone else to read a book to her child and the classroom? The answer is obvious, of course. The mother was not the authority in the classroom. This is as it should be. The mother is not there every day and the teacher must keep control of the room and the principal must keep control of the school. The mother rightly sought their approval because that is the system that she submitted to when she allowed her daughter to attend.

The question is, why would a mother knowingly yield her authority to someone else to the point where a simple request for a story would require the approval of three others? Simply stated, the mother has outsourced her parenting.

We heard alot about outsourcing jobs in the last election. Everybody was worried about the number of jobs moving overseas. Yet, a bigger problem is brewing right here in the US. We are outsourcing parenthood. Parents are knowingly giving the job of raising their children over to another.

No parent would readily admit this of course. But the increased reliance on day care, before school, and after school programs demonstrates something else. We want the schools to provide nurtritious lunches without ever thinking we should pack the child one ourselves. We want the schools to bus our children to school without ever thinking that we could drive them ourselves. There are companies that will send a day care provider (paid for by the company) to the house when a child is ill so that mom can still go to work. On the weekend, daycares will provide overnight care so that the parents can go out on a date or catch up on house work.

When I was growing up we all went home for lunch. Then in the schools began to take on that responsibility. The parents were thankful. Then the schools began to provide clinics. The parents were thankful. Then the schools began to teach health. The parents were thankful. The schools began to teach sex ed. The parents were thankful. The schools began to parent for them. The parents were thankful.

The educational establishment is no longer bashful about becoming the parent. Consider the bills just inroduced in
Rhode Island that would "require school districts receiving state aid to include in their plans strategies to decrease obesity and improve health and wellness of students." Since when did obesity become a school issue? When the parents began to outsource parenthood that's when. And just what does "improve health and wellness" mean. It doesn't matter, the parents are thankful. It is one less worry for them.

The schools are not the only arena that parents have outsourced their parenthood. We don't want the inconvenience of monitoring our children's viewing habits so we expect others to rate the shows for us and then we will decide based on their standard. Never mind that their standard is not ours they saved us the time necessary to do it ourselves. We feel good that we have done something and we are thankful.

We rely on internet filters to strain out the filth from our computers. Sure they miss some things that we wouldn't approve of but we're willing to make the trade off for the convenience of not having to monitor ourselves. We can go on with our own business because someone else is "parenting" the children and we are thankful.

Don't misunderstand, I am not saying that these things are not helpful. But we have come to rely on others rather than God amd His standard to define parenting and the standards by which we raise our children.

As a Christian, I am called to a higher standard. God has given me these children and I take that responsibility seriously. Society may make it easy to oursource parenthood but God will still hold me accountable.


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