Way to Go Springfield! (NOT!)

Rant commences in….Springfield’s in the news again. Not only is it a city with one of the highest crime rates in MA (it’s one of the most dangerous places to live in the Northeast), it’s also one of the cities with the worst performing schools. Apparently the city fathers are also concerned enough about the high teen pregnancy rate to propose that condoms be made available in the middle schools to children as young as twelve. Other than absolute disgust, several things stand out in my mind right now: 1. A twelve-year-old is not a teenager 2. Handing out birth control to anyone under the age of consent is clearly encouraging and enabling statutory rape. 3. Schools have no business involving themselves in this type of family matter.

The Viking and I have chosen to disagree on this issue; and our debate this evening was quite spirited. Bless his heart, he does make some good points. For example, he thinks it’s a good idea because “an ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure.” There’s way too many idiot parents out there who either set a bad example themselves, or who are too disinterested or exhausted to give a damn if their twelve-year-old is knocking boots with the 16-year-old down the street. Isn’t it better, he says, if the school gives out the birth control-because then its one less potential baby in the welfare mill? According to the article in the paper, 30% of the preteens interviewed in Springfield were sexually active. (I’m horrified!) He thinks that since these kids parents aren’t stepping up then hey, at least the school is.

So I see his point, however I disagree completely with the idea of basically giving a twelve-year-old cart blanche to engage in activities that should be kept strictly between consenting adults in a loving committed relationship. Plus, supervising and controlling your children’s activities is a parental obligation the school ideally should be assisting the parent not assuming and usurping the parental role. Enough of that goes on as is.

Did you know that your child’s health care providers are not obligated to tell you anything about your child’s medical condition(s) once your child reaches a certain age (12/13/14) if the child does not want you to know? And yet, we parents are legally responsible for said child and their actions until age 18, AND we are paying for their medical insurance and care…. Said child is not legally considered capable of making informed decisions , and we still are not entitled to know a thing. Even the best parents are an emasculated lot these days. Allowing schools to hand out birth control only contributes to weakening parents’ roles and the scope of parental authority. The school nurse certainly isn’t going to tell Johnny’s mom and dad a thing. HIPPA ensures that, unfortunately.

Of course, there’s far too many parents who would be only too happy to allow the schools and others a greater role in the raising of their children. Sad, but true. Like I’ve said before-you should have to pass a test and get a license before being allowed to become a parent. It’s a solemn, joyous privilege and a heavy obligation. Like marriage, child rearing should not be entered into lightly or irreverently. Parents need to provide not only food and shelter but guidance and love in order to help their children set their own moral compasses. This means (gasp!) setting rules, boundaries, limits, and providing structure. It means work, very hard work my friends. Years worth of sleepless nights, tears and arguments. Maybe hearing your kids yell that they hate you. Or worse. Toughest job in the world. Horrible hours. No pay. But- incomparable, wonderful benefits and rewards for those who put the effort in.

But with regard to the issue at hand – it also means that the PARENTS should be setting the limits and telling their kids UNEQUIVOCALLY that it is NOT OK to be engaging in underage sexual activity – and that a high price will be paid if they do. (Those damn consequences again!) It means parent getting involved with their children’s lives, and knowing what they’re doing – and with whom – as much as possible. Then, stepping in if necessary. It means keeping lines of communication open with your children, and assisting them to make good, healthy, morally sound decisions. That’s your JOB Mom and Dad. Its what you signed on for when you had children and kept them to raise yourself. No school has any business handing out birth control to any underage student. Schools are there to provide education to our young people so they can better themselves, & learn to make informed decisions. It’s the parents responsibility to provide the moral guidance and direction. Schools working WITH parents is best. But frankly, this particular issue is best left to the families to deal with. This concludes my evening rant. Thank you, that is all…


13 thoughts on “Way to Go Springfield! (NOT!)

  1. It must be our pragmatic, practical NE upbringing. Set a goal, aspire to be better, but have a Plan B.

    In all seriousness, my better half and I agree that we are happy in our current space and wouldn’t want to be just starting out for all the tea in China.

    Keep on speaking your mind!

    • Goodness! LOL My other half and I said the EXACT same thing last night when we were agreeing to disagree. We wouldn’t want to be just starting out again either. Life is just too complicated these days.

  2. All the ‘shoulds’ in the world aren’t going to change the current reality. I was in Junior High when my class lost our first classmate to pregnancy (she never came back to school). It didn’t end with her. My senior year, no less than six babies were born, and a few others were due for later in that year. (I am, of course, leaving out all the babies that were born in between.) Because of that experience, I myself have passed out condoms while working with kids (12-21 years of age) and provided sexual education for girls AND boys. (How do the boys get left out of these conversations so often? Why is it only the girls who get pregnant getting talked about? Not here, but in general. I never understand that.)

    On top of that? Not everyone holds the same beliefs you do in regards to when it’s appropriate to start having sex. I was twelve when my mother put me on the pill and told me to go get laid. Horrendous? Absolutely. But a reality, nonetheless. (As an aside, those HIPPA regulations are in place for people who grew up like I did. Chances are, if a parent has a good relationship with their child, they’ll know what’s going on, anyway.) Fortunately I had several other figures (mostly teachers) provide proper sexual education. Because of that education I refrained from having sex until I was in my early twenties, when I was ready, despite my mother’s persistent haranguing. Obviously the same sexual education that helped me did nothing to prevent others of my cohort from having sex, but I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only one to wait, either.

    Long story short? Should it be a family issue? Yes. Do people like me appreciate it when schools step in and help us out? Yes. I had plenty of parents get involved when I was working with kids. It WAS a collaboration, and I took their lead when they wanted to be in that role. Other parents were only too happy to wash their hands of what their kids did, and in those instances I educated those kids for their own sake, not their parents’. There is no realistic easy answer to any of this.

    • Thank you! I know all the shoulds arent going to change reality, but its frustrating. Theres no easy answers for sure! And as far as talking about girls, thats where I relate because thats what I have. I don’t know much about raising boys or boy mind-sets. And my husbands not the one to ask because he had an “interesting” childhood as well and had to grow up fast in order to survive. long story short I personally think we need to draw the line at giving out free birth control to those who are at least able to legally consent to having sex. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your story, I appreciate it more than you know! Best! D.

      • Your blog really didn’t leave boys out of the conversation, though. That bit was just me being frustrated about conversations from elsewhere. (This is, obviously, a really hot button topic for anyone working with youth – parents or otherwise.) It is all very frustrating, particularly because there are no clear cut answers. As much as I’d like to think kids would wait to have sex until they can legally consent to it, they’re not. And they won’t, whether they’re provided with contraception or not. And given that? I’d just as soon provide them with the contraception. At least they’ll be less likely to contract disease or have a baby. And, perhaps if some education goes along with the contraception, they’ll decide to forgo sex altogether and that condom can just stay in their wallet or purse as a reminder.

        I suppose to some that would seem like a cop out. “They’ll do it anyway, so why ever try to stop them?” That’s really not what I’m trying to say. I’m saying the forbidden fruit is entirely too tempting. The same thing goes for drinking alcohol. “No you can’t have it, no you can’t have it, no you can’t have it…” Yet in countries where there is a much lower (or non-existent) legal drinking age, they have significantly fewer kids falling to alcoholism. Why? Because they know the risks and they’re expected to make a proper decision. I think there is more danger, by far, in trying to protect a child too much than there is in giving them the necessary knowledge to make a smart decision on their own. I’ve been astounded myself at the decisions kids have made when I simply gave them the opportunity to make them. They will, after all, reach for control of themselves in whatever way they can. Particularly at an age where they are trying to figure out exactly what it means to be nearly (but not quite) grown.

        (That was a big rambling mess… sorry! Hopefully it makes some sense. >.< )

        • Ok coffee in hand, here’s a couple more thoughts. Bingo on the alcohol point. My oldest saw this firsthand when she went to Germany 2 summers ago. 16 is the age there for beer and wine, 18 for other. Very few issues with drunk driving etc in comparison. Different culture and mindset in Europe in regard to bringing up kids. Much more accountability in terms of personal responsibility of the teen. They don’t wanna hear excuses. At least that’s what I’ve picked up on. Boys v Girls: traditionally the “power” in the relationship is the females. They get to say no. So from that perspective more responsibility falls on the girl to set the tone and the boundaries. I’ve always told my two that they’re in control-and should remain so. Boys need to respect, and cowboy up if there’s a whoops. (not play the “are you sure it’s mine?” card) most girls are not promiscuous and have deep feelings for their partner. My turn to ramble, lol.

    • I should clarify – I don’t know much about boys but I should have added that everyone boys and girls need to be taught to be responsible for and accountable for their behavior – stepping up when needed.

  3. Sorry Momma, I agree with the Viking. We’ve had “just say no” programs for drug eradication 40’years and our prisons are still the most crowded in the world, and our young people are Still experimenting at similar rates as 40 years ago. Your position is philosophically correct, no question. But the recent statistic of 50% of live births being to unwed mothers, way too many being teens, precludes any discussions of kids should wait until they are in a committed relationship.

    if a young girl is going to have sex anyway, with all the reprucissions that entails, I’d rather not they be further burdened with an unwanted child and the lifelong impact they will face.

    Yes parents should provide a better example, but they don’t. School children should know better, but they don’t. We should have all, as adults been screaming bloody murder against tv ads and programs that reek of sexuality. But we don’t.

    I understand your position, but prevention is much better than the consequence, In my humble opinion.

    Thanks for sharing this

    • I definitely see your point, and agree to an extent. Where do we draw the line and hold people ACCOUNTABLE for their actions? When do we say enough is enough, this has gone far enough! This also relates to a lot of other things going on recently. I just can’t condone the further erosion of parental authority. So if my 12 year old does have sex, and I find out, could I have the school charged as an accessory to statutory rape since they gave out the condoms and implicitly gave the kid permission to break the law?

      When I had Jill there was a family in the room next door, new mother all of 13 if that, boyfriend at least 17 or 18 if not older and OH MY GOD weren’t they all just soooo happy that their daughter’d had a baby! I was HORRIFIED. Why weren’t they arresting that boy? Why were they so happy? Where was the damn scarlet letter fer chrissakes? (just kidding – maybe….) The whole things just not OK, and with 2 girls, I worry. I worry a lot. so I make sure I talk to them and that they know they can talk to me. I also make sure they know whats right and wrong and the importance of a good reputation. I guess my rant wasnt done after all. Im just so disgusted with excuses, and whining, and “its not my fault.” whew!

      • I think the answer to your dilemma is in your last paragraph. You talk to your kids, you pay attention, you set an example, YOU CARE!!! So the obvious is that you kids would not be the ones running to the school office for condoms.

        Like your neighbors, there are too many parents out there who don’t care, who would never consider disciplining little Johnny or Mellisa, wouldn’t want to hurt their delicate self esteem and all. I know parents who actually are afraid of their children that they might report them or something, or won’t confront them on anything. “I can’t do a thing with my kid!”

        I believe what you are really saying is the issue is with the parents, and I 100% agree. Many parents have totally abdicated their role–both my parents and my wife’s totally believed that is was NOT their job to be our friend, or transporter, or to make our lives smooth as silk. Their job was to train us by direction and example to be successful adults. Look around at how many parents today totally fail in those roles. Why in hell is little 16 year old Melissa driving around town in a new BMW??? If she has that now, what are her aspirations, what does she have to look forward to at 25? Look to your previous column about all kids getting awards. Think that might have something to do with it? I do.

        Until such time as parents can and are held responsible, I believe that although a sad situation, the schools or whoever has to make contraceptives available. The alternative of a single mother with no hope for the future, an unwanted child growing up in a broken home, possibly abused, and their impacts upon society, are just too destructive to everyone involved.

        Its not right, its not fair, but it is todays world.

        • You nailed it! Thanks for summing up things so succinctly. yes lots of folks are afraid to discipline their children for the reasons you describe. I even read an article online last night about a newborn in PA being taken away from her parents because they did not want her to get the Hep B vaccine unless there was a demonstrated need for it. They were also home-schoolers, and had had the baby via midwife at home as well….so the system was looking askance at them to begin with.

          Most of us just do the best we can – these darned kids don’t come with instructions. “common sense” however, would seem to be in short supply. And I’m sick and tired of figuratively cleaning up everybody else’s messes/mistakes with my tax dollars. That said I have to agree that it is cheaper to provide a condom than it is to raise a child. And I agree 1000 % with the rest of your thoughts. In our struggle to provide a better life for our children we’ve “hoisted ourselves with our own petard” and created “monsters” ie the Trophy Kids who are not controllable. What to do??? As Yul Brynner would have said in The King and I “Is a puzzlement” and no clearcut answers.

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