Saturday, July 23, 2011

McDonald's Lawsuit and the Inadequate Parent

It never fails to amaze me just how inept some people are at parenting. I just heard about a lawsuit brought against McDonald's because the company puts toys in their Happy Meals. The mother is suing under the consumer protection laws of California because her children want her to buy the toys and the happy meals are not weight watchers approved. OK, the weight watchers bit I put in, but she said the meals are not healthy. Well duh...its McDonald's not spa food. Just as an aside, if its the toys they want, McDonalds actually used to just let us buy the toys without the food when my boys were little. Just a thought. Or you could buy the meal for the toy and not let them eat the food. It's just a matter of using the gray matter God gave you, but then again brain power doesn't appear to be this mother's forte.

She then goes on to say that she doesn't like to say "no" to her children because it interferes with their relationship. Her children are 6 and 2 years old. Oh she does say that she does say "no" but there is alot of rancor and it is upsetting to her. I would like to know just how this woman thinks she is going to parent a tween or a teenager if she can't say no to a 2 year old without having a panic attack. As someone involved in the special needs community perhaps this mother should get tested for some underlying anxiety issue if saying "no" to a two and six year old causes you issues. Seriously. She may need some kind of support. Well actually she definitely needs something, what it is I am not sure, but I recommend she get it soon.  I swear to God Almighty you can't make this crap up.

I suppose I have been jaded by the fact that I parent a special needs child(ren) and the people I surround myself with are people who are involved with their children's lives and have a good handle on how to parent. Perhaps we as parents of special needs children do not have the luxury of not making sure that everything is in order for our children. We know that if we do not do the right thing then our children will not be capable and able adults. We know that without our constant helicopter parenting, our children would end up languishing in a corner unseen and unheard by society. We know that with developmental and learning disabilities there really are not that many second chances once they grow up. Heck for some of our children there aren't second chances in their childhood either. We know that society is not truly as forgiving as we would like it to be.

But I still just don't get it. I remember when CM1 was going into middle school and the district was about to change the middle school grades from 6-8 to 5-8, several class mothers were lamenting the fact of the switch. Not because they didn't think it was appropriate that 10 and almost 14 year olds share the same educational halls, but they were upset because this meant that their 10 year olds would be hanging out in town, since the middle school is in the center of our little village, and the middle school children go hang out around town after school. I kept thinking to myself have they never heard the word "no."

It's the same thing I faced when going to take CM2 to the driver education class that I eventually pulled him out of. Several of the mothers didn't want to sit in the information session because they didn't want their children to hate them. I kid you not. They were about to trust a total stranger to teach their children to drive a car, basically putting their children's lives in the hands of someone they had never met in their lives, and they were afraid to see how this particular person interacts and deals with their children. They didn't want their children to see them as hovering. Needless to say, the man was a total moron, rude, insulting and jealous of the upper middle class community in which I live and  particularly mean to CM2. You bet I pulled my son out of the class. The problem is that you can't get a senior license at 17 without these classes, which means you can't drive past 9pm, and all the kids want a senior license. So these parents let the kids take these classes. Not even a second thought by these parents. Not even a complaint about this man. Nothing was said to anyone except for me. Again these parents just didn't want to "say" no to their children.

What I want to know is when did people of my generation decide that parenting was a popularity contest? I remember reading an article in The New York Times, back when I bothered to read The New York Times, that said if your children do not tell you they hate you at least once a day, you are not doing your job as a parent. It was a joke for certain, but not too far from the truth either, let me tell you.

One of the issues we also faced as the boys got older was that there are parents in my town who think its OK to give their underage children alcohol and have alcohol at parties. They would rather they drank at home so that the parent didn't worry about them driving. I guess it never dawned on these lightbulbs that you tell your children they are not to drink and if you catch them they will loose their car, their phones, and computers. That they would basically have nothing to do except read some old Life magazines and have to watch you knit all day long.

Now I do understand the idea that parents are also afraid the children will drink and drive anyway and endanger their lives. But you know what, maybe if they took more care in who their children befriended, what these friend's morals and upbringings happen to be, they wouldn't need to worry so much. Also if they made it not such a big deal to call for a ride if they needed one, in fact insist upon it, they wouldn't have to worry so much. Of course you also get the parent who doesn't mind because well, everyone drinks since "its a right of passage."

Here's a clue, it doesn't have to be. Point in fact, at the boys' college if you are caught drinking alcohol, your butt is out of school.  It is ILLEGAL and anything illegal is forbidden. (Don't even mention illicit drugs, the Dean goes ballistic with that one. The police are called and you get to bail your child out of jail. If they bother to call you to let you know.) Unfortunately some schools really don't care and turn a blind eye even though drinking is illegal for anyone under 21. Have fake ID will get bombed every weekend.

Listen we teach the boys that people don't get to skirt the laws they don't like. Try teaching your child that they have to obey the law whether they like the law or not instead of how to get away with things. We do not live in a police state where you have no control over your life and an act of free speech will get you hung. We live in a western democracy and if you don't like the law, get your legislature to change it...If they don't, then you need to deal with the reality of not always getting your way. Perhaps its the notion of entitlement that so pervades this society at present. I don't know. But you can't have it all your own way all the time. Parents need to teach that lesson to their children. It is simple. It is a fact. It will keep you employed, happy and out of trouble and out of prison for your entire life. You don't get to do something just because you want to do it.

Honestly, in truth, I never, worried whether the boys liked me or not. In fact years before I even knew that CM2 had aspergers he had tried to "fire" me as his mother because I wouldn't let him have his way. He literally said, "You are fired." (Donald Trump eat your heart out. Damn, I should have patented that phrase, who knew?) When I told him I was his mother until the day he died and he can't do anything about that, he decided to "unfriend" me instead. Seriously decades before facebook, he told me that he was not my friend. I responded that no he was not my friend, (I still remember the shocked look on that little face. He thought by unfriending me he was going to hurt my feelings.);  that he was my son and that one day when he was a grown man, and if he was lucky and I liked him he would then be my friend. But at that moment he was my son and would do as he was told. By the way, he was all of three at the time of this conversation. CM2 always had a bit of an attitude.

Needless to say, as anyone who reads this blog will tell you, at present CM2 still has an attitude and thinks I am a moron, an idiot and uses rather unpleasant words to address me under his breath at this moment in his life, just like any typical teenager. So not being his friend, holding him to standards ethically and morally as well as requiring him to do well at school, has not hurt that part of his development at all. In fact if anything he is just what I had hoped he would be. Rude, obnoxious, self-righteous, holier than thou and quite frankly a typical pain in the ass teenager. I know, who would have thought that I would quietly celebrate his attitude while punishing and grounding his butt for his nastiness and disrespect. Only those of us in the special needs parent club would really understand that one...But there is hope. CM1 used to be the same way, but today for the most part he is a total sweetheart. Now he does have his moments, as do we all, but honestly teenagehood was simply a phase and maturity does have its rewards. As long as you survive that is, Why do you think parents really go gray. Its not age, its teenagers.

But in the end it does come down to you as a parent doing what you need to do for your children. You need to say "no," often and quite frankly alot more than you say "yes." You need to teach, prepare and mold your children so that they can enter the reality of a world that is not always as forgiving as we would like for anyone, not just for a person with a disability. Parenting is NOT a popularity contest. If all you worry about is that your children should be your friend, rather than a competent, happy and successful adult then you quite frankly are not doing your job. Life is about obligations, ethics, morals and the ability to make choices that are productive. Life can also give you one hell of a big "no" at times. Children need to know how to take a "no," pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep going. And yes this ability begins with being able to deal with a  "no" from mom or dad to the toys and happy meals  from McDonalds.

Until next time,