Do our children have the necessary tools in their backpacks?
I don't mean crayons, No. 2 pencils, notebooks, calculators and folders -- that list of tools provided by school systems.
I'm referring to the life tools that we as parents should have begun providing long before they entered a day care center or schoolhouse. Now is the time for all parents to come to the aid of all children because our children, including those who are barely potty trained, will begin spending long stretches under the control and care of likely strangers a couple weeks from now until June.
So check their backpacks (in spite of the fact that my opinion runs the high risk of sounding preachy and coming off as a Miss Know-It-All).
You say you want to end bullying, but have you taught children the adage that sticks and stones may break their bones, but names will never hurt them?
Derogatory names for Jews, gays and Hispanics are hardly things of the past, but adults who use those slurs are revealing their own true colors, not their children's. Teaching children at home how to ignore such name calling is a shield against bullies.
The same holds true for peer pressure.
Schools, no matter how good their intentions, cannot arm children against peer pressure, which is a natural part of being a member of any tribe.
As our kids grow up, they have to interact with multiple tribes -- on the school bus, during cheerleading and sports activities, as members of science and other academic clubs, on playgrounds and in their own neighborhoods. There also are smoking and nonsmoking cliques and pressure from three of the most problematic groups of all: the tribes involved in violence, drugs and sex.
The best a school can do is react after something happens in a generic way. So you should remind your sons and daughters that their ruler measures right from wrong, even though that measuring stick is in their backpack.
Encourage them to have a healthy self-esteem and remind them of the threshold for punishment.
And ladies, please tell kids and hubbies that you are neither Superwoman nor Wonder Woman and you cannot be in two places at one time.
"But Mom, you promised. ..." "Honey, you said. ..." "You want to reschedule again?" These are three of the most common phrases a mother can hear during the school year. Ladies, take care of yourselves or you're in no position to take care of them.
And, guys, remember sperm fertilizes eggs -- not the other way around -- despite the fact that the sexual and gender equality movements were American hallmarks long before John McCain anointed Sarah Palin in 2008 and ABC gave us its version of what a "modern family" looks and acts like.
Children do not always understand the various shades of gray between black and white. It's our job to explain that to them and help them distinguish between God's rainbow and the ones represented by multiple sheets of colorful construction paper.
We adults should also think about our own tribes and ask where we want our children to be in five, 10, 20 years from now. (I hope you're not waiting for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to tell you.)
As you know, that list of tools that are provided by the school system changes every year, but the tools we provide for our children can last a lifetime.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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