The school board in Portland, Maine has just made the decision to offer birth control pills to school girls in its district as young as 11 years old. And, guess what. Mom and dad don’t have to know.
How toweringly arrogant. How is it possible that parents of young girls don’t have the right to know that the school is giving their children birth control pills? What if the school nurse discovers evidence of intravenous drug use? Do mom and dad get to weigh in on that?
And, for those of you so inclined, please spare me any palaver about the child’s “right to privacy.” You’re born stark naked and totally without privacy. Your parents know literally everything about your life. If given privacy at too early an age, you’ll die of starvation. Privacy is something that comes gradually – and only concurrent with the maturity to handle it. Eleven year-old girls are not sufficiently mature to expect privacy with respect to sex, the taking of prescription medication or a whole host of other life issues.
The school board of Portland, Maine, like many other public school district boards, acts out of current (mostly liberal) orthodoxy with respect to educating children. Put simply, that orthodoxy is, “We, the government, know what is best for your children. After all, it ‘takes a village’ and we run the village.”
My parents, God rest them, would vigorously disagree. They were responsible for bringing me into the world and they bore the responsibility for seeing to my upbringing. Their worldview went along the lines of the quote that goes, “Each generation of children is an invasion of savages that must be tamed before it’s too late.” My dad was fond of reminding me that I did not live in a democracy. For purposes of my consumption, my father’s home was a benevolent monarchy.
My parents weren’t about to give an inch with respect to their role and their authority. And God help me, and whoever served me, if I availed myself at age 11 of anything having to do with the enabling of underage, commitment-free, risk-laden sex.
But therein lies the point. My parents would never succumb to governmental arrogance and would never concede their role in anything so pivotal to my upbringing. They, and the vast majority of their peers, would storm the ramparts and by God stand up for their parental rights. No government body would stand in their shoes and make their decisions for them.
But too many of today’s parents are more than willing to stand down. And that acquiescence crosses cultural and economic lines. Poor, unwed mothers of children born to persistent poverty and affluent parents of children born to comfort and prestige are each too frequently willing to “job out” the duties and responsibilities of child raising.
The poor mother leaves the job to the public schools and the cruel streets upon which she lives. She does so largely because of the overwhelming difficulty attendant to living in an impoverished neighborhood with no resources and no education behind which to get better employment.
Affluent parents contract the job to their child’s school (most likely private) and a full-time nanny. They do so in order to be spared the sacrifices of leisure time, the frequent frustration and the emotional energy costs attendant to civilizing a youngster (who is naturally given to uncivil behavior absent vigorous intervention).
Neither is a substitute for committed parenting.
The resulting vacuum opens the door for pinhead school trustees and administrators to decide that it’s OK for 11 year old girls to go on the Pill without their parents’ knowledge.
If you’re going to have sex and make a baby, you need to buy into the idea that it’s your job to raise the child to responsible adulthood. That means, among other things, that you are going to have to invoke your parental authority with sufficient force so as to convince your pre-teen child that sex at such a tender age is a bad idea with potentially huge consequences. It’s a part of the whole child-rearing package that may mean missing a tee time, a nail appointment or a morning business meeting every now and then.
I have fathered two daughters. I love them both more than I can describe. But raising them has not always been fun or emotionally rewarding. It was and is frequently frustrating. My wife is a fabulous mother. But to be fabulous she has had to sacrifice greatly and she has had to significantly reorder her priorities. It has not been easy for either of us. Good parenting never is. It would have been nice on any number of occasions to have a convenient ‘village’ nearby to whom we could consign the hard parts.
But the fact that parenting is difficult and often unrewarding doesn’t absolve anyone who has conceived a child of the responsibilities of the job. I’ll be damned if I’ll ever sit still and let my younger daughter (now a second grader) be robbed of her childhood by the very idea of obtaining birth control pills from her middle school in lieu of us convincing her that she shouldn’t be having sex to begin with.
That’s our job.
It’s not that I’m opposed to the idea of a ‘village’. A conducive village would be nice. I lived in one growing up. It was populated by committed parents.