Some recent events have forced Eeees and I to have a talk with Walter, our oldest, about birds, bees and other similar topics. He is approaching an age where he has to learn to cope with certain urges and understand certain feelings that his body is giving him. He has to learn how to properly deal with women and what are the healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with them.
During the conversation, the topic took a detour from him to his classmates. To be honest, I was kind of surprised to hear the things that I heard. I've been told that the vast majority of his classmates spend a fair amount of their free time discussing "hot babes" with each other. Some of them have pictures of "hot babes" on their cellphones, including some that are unclothed. Many of them, it seems, have seen movies or television shows that are highly inappropriate (IMHO) for thirteen-year-old boys. All this in a yeshiva that, while, not at the outmost fringes of the right-wing is certainly on that side of center.
To be honest, I'm kind of shocked and a bit angry. I'm shocked that there are parents that are so clueless as to what their children are doing. I'm not saying that Walter is an angel -- heaven knows (pun intended) that he's not -- he's got his own teenage issues to deal with -- but I can honestly say that we have a pretty good handle on what he sees, listens to and reads, and we do screen for inappropriate material. We didn't let him see the latest (fourth) Harry Potter movie because we felt the bath scene with Moaning Myrtle was somewhat inappropriate for his age. Maybe in another year or two... but not yet. I know that most (all?) of his classmates have no doubt seen it. One kid in his class carries around episodes of Family Guy (a funny show, but not for kids) on his MP3 player. The kids in the class talk about Borat (they saw Borat??!!) and some of the reported homosexual content in the movie (I haven't seen it, so I can't comment on it one way or the other. However, according to the report from CommonSenseMedia, it's fairly explicit).
Do parents know what their kids are doing? My son sometimes complains that we won't let him watch this or that. But in the end, we believe that it's for his benefit and that he'll thank us in the end. After all, isn't that what responsible parents do -- shield their children from things that are inappropriate?
I'm also a bit angry, but I suppose that it's somewhat my own fault. I'm angry because for years the yeshiva has been making me feel (or, perhaps more correctly, I've been *allowing* the yeshiva to make me feel) like a sub-standard parent because we have a television in the home and we allow our kids to watch DVDs, read secular books, etc. But now, I see what other kids in the class are doing and, with perhaps one other exception, I find that our child is probably the most "shielded" kid in the class -- and I'm angry. I'm angry because (a) I feel like I've been stigmatized by the administration for no reason and (b) instead of needing to screen the other kids from mine, I find now that all along it's been my kid who has been needing screening from the other kids! And yet, Eeees and I were the ones who were told that we run a "liberal household" by a former principal at the school. If only he knew what would become of this class five years later!
I just don't get it. Who is in the wrong here? The "good parents" who "don't have a television" or "don't watch movies" but have their kids watching things that are highly inappropriate and who have pornographic pictures on their cell phones; or me, who openly has a television, who openly goes to movies (although my kids don't) and who does his level best our guide our children in what they should watch and see and try to teach them that some media are just inappropriate for them at the present time?