In some ways, parenting becomes easier as the kids grow. They need less attention. They can cut their own meat. They remember to wash the shampoo out of their hair.
But other problems arise. How much freedom do you let them have? How much do you let other parents shape your parenting decisions? How much heat do you put on them for good grades? In the past month, we have had two big debates about Jonah, our 13-year old.
Last month, his French teacher sent out an e-mail to parents announcing the eighth grade French trip to Quebec. She said that it would only cost $750. There will be a general class trip later in the year that will cost about the same amount of money. This is an outrageous amount of money for a class trip at a public school. The trip would also mean missing four days of school.
What to do? We didn't want Jonah to be the only kid in the class to not attend this trip. He would miss out on bonding time with the other students.
But the trip had only marginal educational benefits; it is a glorified cruise. He would have tons of make up classwork to complete when he came back. We could scrounge up the money, but then we wouldn't be able to do something else as a family. And it was the principle of the whole thing. Public schools should not put parents in this tough position.
We decided to hold him back from this trip.
Problem number two is the Violent Video Game problem.
We don't have Call of Duty or Halo. We don't have a big screen TV. Recent studies show that violent video games make kids more aggressive. We have a ten-year old on the house with an autistic spectrum disorder, who isn't great at distinguishing between reality and fiction. We have plenty of other video games like FIFA soccer, Portal 2, Skyrim, and Minecraft. We held the line here and told him that he couldn't have COD or Halo.
But this is leading to playdate problems for Jonah. On Friday, he invited a friend over after school. This doesn't happen very often, so I pulled out all the stops on fun. I had pizza for the boys. I let them break into the stash of soda in the basement. But what was the first thing the kid asked when he came in the house? "Do you have Call of Duty?"
Jonah plays those games at other kids' houses. He has friends who have nine and ten-year old little brothers who play Grand Theft Auto and worse.
We decided to buy him COD for Christmas and then activate all the parental controls on the game to the maximum. We'll also make the rule that the game is only for an hour on weekends and then keep Ian out of the playroom when the game is on.
Parenting 1, Peer Pressure 1. We stood our ground with the French trip, but gave in on COD.