Sunday, April 29, 2012

Scare Tactics

I ran into a woman I knew only by sight at the little market in town this evening.  I had stopped in for ground beef for dinner and milk.  We always need milk.   I didn't really know this woman's name, but I knew her friendly face from Nick's elementary school, though I hadn't seen her much recently.  I needed little excuse to talk, so I asked how she was doing.  I was glad to get the long answer from her instead of a simple 'Oh, I'm fine.' 

I have to tell you that I have never agreed with the common habit people have of asking, 'How are you?' then saying, 'Oh, I'm fine' and going on their merry way, none the wiser about each other's true state of being.  She was honest about not having the best day and so I got to talking a little about how Nick was working to catch up on math his teacher hadn't clearly assigned to the class until late in the school year.  She said her son was having the opposite problem, that his math teacher was leaving him bored and frustrated because she was working so slowly through the book and this teacher didn't have any tools in her pocket for challenging and rewarding the more advanced students.  I could almost picture her boy, but not quite. 

Then I told her I'd had some frustrations about Nick's upcoming fifth-grade camp.  She told me she'd had problems with when her son went too, telling me about how the high school counselors pretended that one of the staff had been abducted after telling the kids stories about an axe murderer loose in the woods.  It left a whole cabin full of kids crying.  What? 

This woman, who's name I still didn't know, mind you, told me about how she left the Principal's office in tears because she didn't think it was right and she didn't think he was going to do anything about changing it. 

"That sounds like bullying to me," I said.

"You're right," she said. "They thought it was funny to scare the little kids that way, like a rite of passage."  People have always tried to promote hazing as a rite of passage.  Personally, I'm against that sort of thing.  Kids have enough trouble growing up without being put through the mill unnecessarily.  Do you remember getting a whack on your butt for every year old you were on your birthday? Yes, I am that old.  Sometimes, you got that many whacks from each person you invited to your party.  I'm not sure if the hazing at fraternities and sororities continues.  I imagine it does.  What about getting pinched if you didn't wear green on St. Patrick's Day?  I remember coming home with little bruises all over my arms from forgetting just once.  I never forgot to wear green for St. Patrick's again.  Was it really so important for me to remember?  No.  It was just an excuse to hurt someone.  I still know people who will lean over and punch the next person in the arm when they see a VW bug, a 'slug bug.'  What stupid traditions those were. 

Oh, I believe in rites of passage.  Getting your driver's license is a good one, as are your first shave, the prom, going off to college, and getting a car or your own apartment.  I just don't believe that you have to down a whole bottle of whiskey in one breath in order to prove you're a manly man. 

I listened to this woman talk about how she decided to tell every mother she knew about this tactic at fifth-grade camp so that more of the campers could be prepared. I told her I'd put it on my Facebook status.

"If I tell eight mothers and you tell eight mothers and each of them tell eight mothers, ..." she said.  I liked her plan. 

"Then maybe we can warn the entire fifth-grade and some moms in the fourth grade too," I said.  We both laughed. 

"Then I want you to friend me on Facebook so I can follow this," she said.  Oh no!  I didn't know her name.  I admitted my total ignorance and she told me, not looking the least bit offended.  It was actually a very cool moment.  Her son was in Cub Scouts when Nick was younger.  Oh, I knew her son and her husband too.  No wonder I could almost picture the boy when she'd talked about his difficulties with his teacher.  It was a really nice moment, being able to connect two people into one family in my community of people. 

Now I'm Facebook friends with my newish friend and I've thrown out the question of this scare-tactic at camp.  Already, I've gotten one comment from a mom about how inappropriate that would be considering the fact that, until this afternoon, there was a murderer hiding out in the woods nearby.  Remember the murderer in the bunker by Rattlesnake Lake?  Well, I wonder if we could teach our kids to set up tiger traps along the paths to their cabins at camp?

Thank you for listening, jb

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