The Stages of Life

ReemAcaraBride I volunteered to be a "listening mom" in Jonah's classroom today. His school has never allowed a parent to work directly with the kids before, so I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted a chance to get a closer look at his classroom. I also get a kick out of kids, so I thought it would be fun. And it was. I sat in the hallway with individual kids and asked them questions about books that they had completed reading.

In the hallway were posters that the kids had made for health class on the four stages of life. They pasted up a baby picture for the infancy stage, a current picture of themselves for childhood, and made drawings or cut out pictures from magazines speculating what they'll look like when they become teenagers and adults.

For adulthood, Jonah drew a picture of a guy jumping in a pool with hairy arm pits, because Jonah thinks hairy arm pits are extremely funny.

Other kids cut out pictures that illustrated what they expected to be doing when they become adults. The girls cut out pictures of brides and babies. The boys cut out pictures of football players. Someone pinch me. Is it 1963?

23 thoughts on “The Stages of Life

  1. In the early 1980s I had daydreams of being a bride. Along with being a Nobel Prize winner in physics and an astronaut. (Pre-Challenger. And then I decided that wanting to be an author was safer, and picked Stephen King as my role model.) While if the choice was random among multiple images of themselves as adults you’d not expect a particularly long string of brides (although you’d expect some strings–thinking of coin flips), maybe the girls had lawyer-lobbyist-bride dreams…. (How do you illustrate a lobbyist?)

  2. A result like that can be the result of the choices of a few popular kids. If the popular girl chooses brides & babies, many other girls will follow her lead, to protect themselves. Likewise, I assume, for the boys and athletics. To deviate from the class norm makes you a target. No school project is worth that. (Also, who thought that was a good idea? “Why, Jane, make a poster to expose your fondest dreams to the mean girls in class. Better yet, let’s post it in the hallway so that the entire school can see it!”)
    Does your school talk about bullying? I now think that if a public school says, “we don’t have a problem with bullying,” that statement means that there is a problem with bullying.
    Parenting has made me cynical.

  3. I have to say, my perception is that my daughter’s friends are a lot less feminist (if you define feminism in a way that has some meaning) than the women I went to college with. I.e., most of the NYC private school girls don’t seem concerned about sexual objectification, most of them seem to have in mind to marry rich men rather than make money themselves, etc.
    As an exhibit, let me adduce popular music, which is much more sexist than anything the Rolling Stones ever wrote, and yet seems to arouse much less popular objection. (I mean, I knew women who objected to “Under My Thumb” or “A Man Needs a Maid,” but I never hear anyone object to “Candy Shop” or “Shake Your Moneymaker.”)

  4. What does an 8-year-old feminist behave like, exactly? My kids at least are still too young to have this register.
    One thing I do see clearly: they’re just not very p*ssed off. By the time I was 8 I already had a chip on my shoulder, mostly from being told no. (Don’t raise your hand in class so much, don’t let on you dislike babysitting, don’t run and play if it will mess up your dress). My kids just hear this kind of thing much less often than I ever did. Not to mention the death-of-dating phenomenon. I can count on one hand the number of times people have asked my eldest if she has a boyfriend, and she always responds with the same “what are they talking about???” look. I was getting that question weekly when I was her age. I’m not saying it’s a good thing people don’t date any more, just saying it has receded as a way to define girls. A girl’s relationship to boys now seems just one of many ways to define her.

  5. “(Also, who thought that was a good idea? “Why, Jane, make a poster to expose your fondest dreams to the mean girls in class. Better yet, let’s post it in the hallway so that the entire school can see it!”)”
    Good point. A friend of mine (who posts very occasionally here) once made the mistake in early elementary school of presenting classical music as her favorite kind of music. There were major social repercussions.

  6. Nothing wrong with wanting to get married when you grow up, but I suspect their choices were based on the fact that brides, princesses and football players are eye-catching visuals.

  7. Hmm. jen, how old are your children? My 15-year-old daughter doesn’t have a boyfriend, but the concept isn’t foreign to her. My 23-year-old niece has a boyfriend. Etc.

  8. “…I suspect their choices were based on the fact that brides, princesses and football players are eye-catching visuals.”
    That’s another good point.

  9. Laura, that’s awesome. I spent the morning in the annual “Holiday Shop” at the school. Parents send the kids to school with money, and they send the kids in and set them loose. It’s important to teach kids how to be good consumers.🙂
    Then I went home, fought the dog for the comfy spot on the couch, and slept till my little consumers came home. Merry happy* to all!
    *Reference to the tv sitcom “Community,” which you all should be watching.

  10. When I was that age I’d given up wanting to be an astronaut but still thought I might want to be a fighter-pilot. Within a few years the idea of the killing that involved moved me to other things. I don’t think I ever had dreams of being a professional sportsman- though I like sports, and played many, and wasn’t terrible at most, it was pretty clear that I wasn’t going to be good enough to be close to a professional, no matter how hard I tried. I do think I was quite sure that I’d be married much sooner than I was, that I’d have a few kids (I have none), and that I’d be more wealthy. Years of grad school have killed the last one.

  11. I wanted to be a marine biologist.
    I bet stranger’s peer pressure theory is a likely culprit, but it’s also surprisingly hard to find pictures of women doing non-blue or pink collar jobs unless they’re pictures of generic office drones, which no one ever plans to be when they grow up.

  12. When my eldest was younger (6 to 9 or so) she wanted to be a waitress/mother, then she moved on to dentist, singer, and now at 18 (today’s her birthday)she wants to go into psychology research. She wants to do a stint in the Peace Corp and live abroad as an adult(Spain tugs at her). She claims she will never have kids. She’s a much different person than she was as a child.
    My 7 year-old son wants to be an astronaut. He’s color blind, so my guess is that we will be gently prodding him in another direction if still has his heart set that way in middle school. My guess is that we won’t have to.
    It still floors me you aren’t allowed in the classroom. There are 1 to 4 parent volunteers in our kids’ classrooms always. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s rewarding, sometimes I’m watching the clock like a hawk.

  13. Perhaps the selection of magazines could have been wider? Forbes, Business Week, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times all feature pictures of professional women. It might be worthwhile to organize professional parents to donate their magazines to health class.
    As an aside, I don’t think that co-ed health classes are a good idea, at least when they’re discussing human sexuality. I know my daughter learned much more in sixth grade, when the classes were divided by gender, than in 7th and 8th, when they were co-ed. In 6th grade, the girls got a kick out of asking “outrageous” questions, trying to get a rise out of the teachers. In so doing, they asked questions which should be answered, such as, “can you get pregnant by…” That sort of behavior stopped cold when boys were added to the mix.

  14. “What does an 8-year-old feminist behave like, exactly? My kids at least are still too young to have this register. ”
    Hey — come meet my daughter. She’s the kid who complains about the lack of female parts in 1776 (the musical), as well as the year, notices something wrong when she sees a stream of pictures of presidents, and apparently tells people that she thinks she might be the first woman president (and, she doesn’t want to, really, she just says that so that people think there’s a girl who wants to be president). A few years ago, she had a discussion with me about how “Dad would feel bad, when he’s washing dishes, if someone told him that only girls could do dishes well.”
    I just hope the world *will* have opportunities for her, to be a happy person with dreams. Sometimes *I* worry that the safest course for her would be to fall in love with a man who is going to be rich (you know, ’cause after all, it’s just as easy to love a rich man as a poor one, or something like that).
    Our school also does not have volunteers in the classroom, on a regular basis (sometimes they come in to help for special projects).

  15. ” A girl’s relationship to boys now seems just one of many ways to define her. ”
    I do so hope this turns out to be true in my daughter’s social set, as well. I remember reading one of Cleary’s young adult books set in the 50s a few years ago, and struck by how much a girl’s life, in school, was determined by whether she had a boyfriend. I’ve noted in the older social set that I know that it seems like a status symbol. But, I’d like to hope that a number of girls avoid that drama.

  16. Actually, bj, I have to say that my niece’s entire sense of self since she was 14 has revolved around “the boyfriend” of the moment. Of course, there is a lot of individual variation among teenage girls (and boys).
    Interestingly, my niece is much more feminist than my daughter (e.g., she was a big Hillary supporter whereas my daughter is rather disdainful of the concept of a woman president, she wears slightly less skanky clothing than my daughter). But the personal isn’t political in the sense of having an emotional core that isn’t boyfriend-dependent.

  17. “(you know, ’cause after all, it’s just as easy to love a rich man as a poor one, or something like that)”
    Within reason–I’m sure it helps domestic peace a lot to be able to afford a some household help and a babysitter now and then, but based on the spectacular marital flameouts we’ve seen, there seems to be a point where more income is actually dangerous to domestic happiness.

  18. It’s all good until he loses his job or trades you in on a younger model.
    The safest thing is to be born independently wealthy.

  19. Is it 1963? As an academic the host should pray that it is: 1963 was the year in which SAT scores peaked–it’s been a free-fall, “down-hill all the way” trip ever since–despite the watering down of tests, statistically “re-centering” averages to hide the severity of the decline and the emergence of services like Kaplan and Princeton which were almost non-existent in those days and only “retards” availed themselves of them–no self-respecting student in those days thought he needed such services. It was a matter of honor and an admission of weakness to use them–as opposed to standard practice today in which gaming the system is more important that the base knowledge being tested. Those TRULY interested in quality education should PRAY that it is 1963 “all over” again.

  20. “Is it 1963? As an academic the host should pray that it is: 1963 was the year in which SAT scores peaked…”
    Would that be the Sputnik effect? The baseline ideological tendency of 20th century US K-12 education was chiefly toward life-adjustment, with occasional subject-oriented blips like Sputnik. I wonder if the time hasn’t come for another Sputnik-style educational surge. Life-adjustment is all very well, except for the fact that the US is in a very bad place economically, and we need all the talent we have to carve out a niche in the global economy.
    Here’s a Joanne Jacobs post on how detracking has hurt high performers:
    http://www.joannejacobs.com/2009/12/untracked/

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