Thursday, March 24, 2011

Green Is Not My Color

Well, last week was a bear. A big, mean, growly bear. But we made it through (mostly) unscathed.

Emily is a member of the advanced choir and a freshman cheerleader at her high school. And last week the choir had their spring Broadway production at the local theater, AND cheerleader tryouts were held at the school. Why these two things ended up scheduled the same week is beyond me, but it made for a very stressful 7 days at our house.

Emi came through it with flying colors, making the JV cheer squad, knocking her musical endeavors out of the park (she was fabulous!!!!) and even making an A on a math test. I wish I could tell you all of this was done effortlessly and without any stress or tears, but unfortunately there were plenty of both. Rehearsals for the show started Monday and ran through Wednesday from 5pm until 9:30 pm every night, with the show taking place Thursday and Friday nights. Cheer clinic started Wednesday right after school until 5pm and ran through Saturday with tryouts on Sunday afternoon. There was stress. And there were tears. But we lived through it.

I use the word "we" because I was dumb enough to volunteer to help with the choir show. When the hubby and I went to the meeting for choir parents a couple of months ago, the choir teacher asked (pleaded, actually) for volunteers for various parts of the backstage area. Not knowing what I was getting into, I said I would be the parent in the Green Room.

For those of you not familiar with theater lingo, the Green Room is the room closest to the stage, where performers hang out just before entering the stage for their part of the show. There are usually couches, maybe a refrigerator, tables, and hopefully a bathroom nearby. In my teeny pea-brain, I thought I'd be calming nerves and encouraging the teen performers before they went onstage.

Au contraire mon frere!

Turns out, my job was to keep 60-70 teens quiet so they wouldn't disturb the performers who were already onstage. I was also responsible for keeping them from eating, using cell phones or leaving the building. For over 4 hours I did this, both for rehearsal, and then again for one night of the show. (Friday night I was able to watch the show from a seat in the audience, thank goodness.)


Now, I live with a very well-mannered, well-behaved teenager. She is still a teenager, which means I typically deal with severe mood-swings, hormonal outbursts, and high drama. But all in all, she is a good kid. She has said on many occasions, both behind my back and in front of me to other people, "I'm scared of my mom. She'd kill me if I did that!" She is not scared that I will hit her or verbally abuse her or anything like that. She just knows that if she does something wrong, there will be consequences. I have single-handedly brought her up to behave in a certain way - to be respectful to adults, to make good grades, to not talk in class, to not throw fits.... you get the picture. Does she fumble on occasion? Of course she does! She is a human teenager. But she knows the difference between right and wrong and knows there will be consequences to her actions, words and attitudes. I've lived with and raised that kid on my own since she was 3 years old.

So I was shocked, to say the least, at the number of disrespectful kids in that Green Room last week. And I'm not talking about kids who are in gangs, or who skip school everyday to smoke behind the gym, or kids who are on drugs. I'm talking about cheerleaders. I'm talking about athletes. I'm talking about the kids who were "raised right." And it was these kids who, when I asked them to please whisper so as not to distract the other teens who were performing at that moment, they would look at me, then go right on talking even louder than before. Or, my favorite of the week, when I asked one particular girl to please "sshh" she rolled her eyes and said, "Whatever."

I have never wanted to rip hair out of a girl's head more than I did in that very moment.

Had that been my cheerleader (yes, she is a varsity cheerleader and I know her parents) she would have been dragged out of that building kicking and screaming, and lost every single privilege she has - TV, computer, phone, etc. - for at least a month.  But for her, there were no consequences. Apparently , there never are consequences for this child or for several others in that group.

While studying for my master's degree, I learned a lot about patterns of behavior and how they are established. In order to teach a child the proper way to act, you should punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. Seems simple, right? Unfortunately, however, I have been witness to many a parent reward BAD behavior.

Let me offer an example: A mom is pushing a young child in a grocery buggy. The kid says he wants that toy, or candy, or whatever. The mom tells the child no. So the kid starts whining. The mom says no. The kid starts crying, and the mom threatens the child with a spanking if he doesn't stop crying. The kid throws a fit, and then, because she is embarrassed and wants the kid to stop screaming, SHE GIVES THE KID WHAT HE WANTS. This teaches the child that the louder he cries, the more likely he will get his way.



Several years later, when that same kid starts driving, they give the kid a car. The kid wrecks the car. The parents buy him another car. This time, the kid doesn't wreck it, but he doesn't take care of it, and somehow it ends up undrivable. Those parents will give that kid yet another vehicle. Why? Because it's easier for them to just buy him something else to keep him apeased, than to teach the kid consequences.

It's hard to discipline a kid. I hate grounding Emily, because when I ground her, I'm basically grounding myself, too. But I know that it is so important to teach her that for every action, there is a consequence. The value of hard work. The importance of telling the truth. I want her to be a grown woman with morals, values and integrity. And I do my best to set a good example for her. Unfortunately, far too few adults in her life and in the lives of other kids care about being a role model and teaching through example. It's too hard. It takes too much effort. And it makes me want to scream.

By the end of my time in the Green Room, most of the kids appreciated my being there. They understood that I wasn't trying to be mean. They understood my job was to protect those who were on the stage - to keep them from being distracted by noise offstage.

But there were still a few. A handful of kids who thought it was cool to be disrespectful. To ignore authority. To not give a rat's behind about "their friends" on the stage. Teenage jerks. What an absolute shame. These kids are talented, and could offer the world so much. Instead, they are self-centered and obnoxious. I pray that someday SOMETHING will straighten them out.

But for now, I am even more grateful for the wonderful child I have raised, and who now my husband is helping me to raise. And I am proud of the young woman she is becoming.

And if I make mention to any of you that I am thinking about volunteering for Green Room duty again next year, please chain me to my house and duct tape my mouth until the show is over.

2 comments:

ShirleyC said...

I just have to comment on this since I am a retired teacher. Everything you said is true. I have seen this same scenario so many time with parent of kids I taught, and they were only in 5th grade. Disrespect like that is the reason so many good teachers are leaving the profession.
I'm proud that you have taught Emily right from wrong, and stick to your guns. It's always as hard on the parent, as you said, to follow through.
We always did the same thing with our kids. If they messed up, they paid the price, and hopefully learned a lesson.
Hang in there! One day you'll be glad you did!

Linnea said...

Shirley, I am already glad! One thing I learned is that you have to start early "training them." The minute kids start testing their boundaries (around age 2) is when you have to start setting them.

It's a sad state of affairs that we are losing so many good teachers. Unfortunately, the parents of the kids who are so disrespectful think it's the teachers' responsibility to teach their kids not only educational curriculum, but manners and integrity, too.