Monday, July 25, 2005

About the pseudo birthday party this weekend.

I took my daughter to a birthday party yesterday. The party was for two of her friends who are sisters, both born on the same day, three years apart (turned 11 and 8). I have to say, the "party" was not quite what we expected, and I find it extremely interested to see how other people choose to raise their children. Here's the gist of it. We were told to meet at a pizza place and from there we would be going to a movie. Ok, great, pizza party and a movie, sounds pretty typical right? Wrong. The parents are small business owners and often use a local barter system for services and purchases. Barter, meaning trade of service or products among small business owners within the system. Well, apparently they decided to only use this barter system so they could have this birthday party for free. Which is still all fine and good, can't blame them for trying to save a buck, which they have plenty of (bucks that is, their business does pretty well). But here's where my problem with it comes in. They only did what was allowed through this barter system and nothing else. They ordered the pizzas (only supreme, what child actually likes supreme?) and then we all sat there for like two hours while the other adults talked and ignored these girls. My daughter was the only other child there, so at least they had someone to talk to. There were no party hats or decorations, nothing to even indicate that this was a child's birthday party. And the real kicker is that they didn't even bother to have a cake! I mean really, could they not at least pony up 7 bucks for a cake from Wal-Mart? I know they could afford it and much more, they just chose not to. Then, finally, after two hours they allowed the girls to open up their presents which consisted of one wrapped present for each of them (from my daughter) and one jar of loose change from one of the sets of grandparents that was there. That's it! Apparently you can't get toys on this barter system. I dunno, but I do know that if we hadn't been there, they wouldn't have had any presents to unwrap at all. So, after that we head over to the IMAX movie theater, which also allows barter, and sat through a fighter pilot show. Now, the show was fine, I enjoyed it, as I'm sure the rest of the adults did, but the slow, documentary style of if probably left much to be desired in an 8 & 11 year old's mind. Then we watched one other show, and that was it. I really just felt like the parents wouldn't have bothered acknowledging this special day at all if they hadn't felt obligated to do so by everyone around them. And this hasn't been the only thing I've taken issue with. The parents have decided to pull the girls out of regular school in favor of home school. Which, ordinarily, can be a wonderful program, if implemented appropriately. Unfortunately, in this case, it has not been. Their home schooling consists of worksheets that are handed out each morning with the expectation of completion without the slightest bit of instruction. There is no routine to speak of, no regular meal times or any kind of scheduled activity. They are largely expected to play, unsupervised, in and around their parents' shop all day and well into the night, and they have little to no interaction with other children their age, with the exception of a weekly playdate with my daughter here in our home. It's heartbreaking really, these girls just want to be normal kids yet their social maturity is so grossly stunted that I fear the implications of their sheltered upbringing may last a lifetime. It's also disheartening to see just how behind they are academically. They've never been taught the basic foundation of early childhood education and it's shockingly apparent in their reading and math skills. My daughter and I feel so badly for them, and we try to make their time here as enjoyable as possible because we know it must be the highlight of their week. I am also at a loss for what I can do (if anything) in this type of situation. The family has been thoroughly interviewed by social services (because of outside complaints) and has passed whatever qualifications are required, so I don't feel like lodging a complaint would be justified, because really, who am I to say that what they are doing is wrong? Yet, I feel that it is, which leaves me feeling helpless. I know that it is not my place to say or do anything, or even to pass judgment, but these are children dammit, and they deserve better!


Anonymous Jilly said...

That was one sad and pathetic birthday party. It makes you wonder why people have kids in the first place...or why they want to provide home schooling to children they don't have the time or inclination to bother with anyway. Very strange. Those parents will be lamenting in a couple of decades how their children have drifted away and aren't close to Mum and Dad. I can hear it now "after all we did for them!"

On the opposite end of the spectrum there's parents like Mabear (Catherine) from 3FC and her husband Reg. I was intrigued to read that they have 11(!!) children and went to her homepage where I saw each child's birthday celebrated in grand style with fancy homemade cakes made to the child's chosen theme and holiday celebrations galore where everyone's involved and having fun (the homemade pig pinada was amazing). Catherine is the ultimate hands-on SAHM and I don't know what Reg does for a living (though I'm betting he's not a high powered executive) yet looking at that homepage confirms you can be rich in many things without material wealth. Mind you, I wouldn't have the patience or desire to have 11 children personally, but it certainly seems to work for them wonderfully.

I don't know if there's anything you can do about the situation of the little girls of your story, other than to keep an eye on things and bring further concerns (such as late-night unsupervised play around workplaces) to the attention of public officials. Other complaints have already been lodged and as the file thickens, social services can't ignore the situation. However, I don't think you'd accomplish anything by speaking directly to the parents (they'd be insulted and stop the girls' interaction with your daughter). Yes, those girls do deserve better and I hope the parents can be enlightened to that fact before its too late.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Dawnyal said...

That is sad. I already have the party favors for William's next birthday. Granted they were on sale at the time and I only paid like 4 bucks for the entire kit and caboodle. All we need now is cake and ice cream and his birthday isn't until Feb!!! We also have Lilly's theme picked out--Barbie's since it is her 3rd and the "official" age for the darn dolls.

I don't know of Ark. home-schooled kids have to pass tests or not but I know more and more states are requiring all kids to take the standardized tests. It might be worth checking into. Here in OK public school students take the tests every year but the grades that count are 3, 7, and 11 I believe.

It makes you wonder why they bothered to have kids except to keep up with the status quo.

3:15 PM  

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