Anybody out there old enough to remember chicken pox parties? When I was a young mother with a five-year old and a six-month old, both with the chicken pox, I was somewhat bewildered when other mothers asked to bring their kids over to expose them to the chicken pox and get it over with. Imagine my surprise to find out people actually had parties just for this reason! Not that kids get chicken pox anymore, but could you imagine that happening today?

   There is definitely a different mindset in this generation of parents compared to mine. When complaining of a leg pain or a friend saying something mean, my pat answer to my kids was, “Life’s hard. Get a helmet.” Okay… not all the time… but I certainly did not lead my kids to believe that they were allergic to mosquitoes, that playing outside was dangerous, and that they should never expect to have mean things said to them.  

  As I write this, I am just home from a weekend of robotics competition with my students. I had 18 middle and high schoolers and one other adult (to help transport kids), and they really did a good job with hotel behavior and being where they were supposed to be on time. What they didn’t know surprised me, though: they didn’t know to take a clean plate up to revisit the buffet bar or how to open the bus door or any of the iconic rock songs the event DJ was playing. Okay, that last one isn’t necessary!

   Every time I take kids on trips, I find how little some of these kids know about the real world. The reasons are diverse. Many are too busy with extra-curricular activities to have a chance to experience “real life.” Some have been taught to fear things outside of the home, but some are just too into playing video games to go out. Newsflash:  the risk of exposure to undesirable elements they face online is exponentially greater than any risk they take playing outside!

   The lesson for parents here is: expose your child to the right kinds of things often. To allow the video game or phone to occupy a large amount of your kid’s time is to risk exposure to mean people, inappropriate content, and possibly even exposure of your private family information.

   I’m encouraging you to teach your children how to do the laundry and how to cook three or four meals. Take them on public transportation, and show them how to tip waiters and taxi drivers and such. Show them how to make a call on a land phone, and discuss current events with them. And, for Pete’s sake, teach them their address and phone number! I have high schoolers who don’t know that information! I know sometimes it’s just easier to do it yourself, but by doing so, you are crippling your child for the demands of adulthood.

  If you are already preparing your children to one day leave the nest, kudos to you! You’re making your child more marketable for college and for a job. We live in a world that increasingly demands less and less of its students and more and more of its workers. You are helping to ensure that your child will stay in college and keep that job.

-          Michelle