What is Reality?

My sons have two friends, who don’t live in our town but attend the same school.  One of their parents teaches in our district, and so, they have the option, for a fee, to send their children to our schools.  After becoming dissatisfied with their own school district, both socially and academically, they decided to exercise that option.

Throughout the year, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with their mother at birthday parties and school functions, our boys, in both grades, share the same teachers.  We’ve bonded, as the new kids in town, just as our sons have.  However, as the year progresses, it seems we’re coming to different conclusions about our decisions to move our children to this school district.

I live in a town of haves.  Not everyone is rich, but not many are poor.  A large portion of families, considered middle class in my neighborhood, would probably be seen as upper middle class, or even rich, in other neighborhoods.  That’s because there is a fair amount of wealthy people, who also reside in my community.  I’m talking multiple homes wealthy, fancy cars wealthy, prep school wealthy, we throw lavish parties for our children, wealthy.  And for many of those who aren’t quite there, it’s a mind set of keeping up with Jones, even if they can’t afford it.

The parents can be demanding, especially of the schools, which like it or not, usually makes for a better school district.  However, from a teacher’s point of view, demanding isn’t always better.  In fact, it can be downright annoying to work in a school where every parents sees his or her, North Face wearing, iPhone carrying child as exceptional.

Let’s face it, not every child is special.  And, really, that’s ok.  There are plenty of non-exceptional children and adults (possibly even the parents of these children I’m talking about) who’ve gone far in life.

Having had way too much interaction with these demanding parents, the boys’ dad is unsure of whether he wants to keep his children in our district.  Add that to some of the other issues they are having, and the bottom line is, they don’t think kids, who grow up in my town, are living in “reality”.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and maybe, they are right.

Or, maybe not.

After all, what is reality?

There’s a lot of “reality” on tv these days, but the last I checked I’m wasn’t carrying Kanye West’s baby, nor do I know anyone who is remotely like Snookie, or the housewives that hale from my home state of NJ.

If you put my children in a rough school district, where gangs hold court, and education is constantly disrupted,  that’s not reality, that’s hell.  I’ve never had that experience, though I know it exists, but I wouldn’t want my kids in that type of atmosphere. I don’t live in an unruly world and they shouldn’t have to either.

Is reality children wearing hundred dollar coats and shoes?  Well, that’s not my reality, either, but for those (some of whom live in my neighborhood) with a lot of disposable income, it’s theirs.  And for many of their children, who will attend prestigious schools, nab critical internships, and seemingly fall into high paying jobs, it might always be their reality.  Staying at a Holiday Inn may seem as foreign to them as living on another planet.

Because as it turns out, reality is subjective.

But, I get it.  I know where the boys’ parents are coming from.  I think about keeping my kids grounded in “reality” all the time, because I’m not looking for my forty year old son to move back in with me because he always expected everyone else to tie his shoes for him (I’m talking to you, Second Son).

I want my kids to work hard, stand on their merit, be good people. I want them to fly. But I don’t think that means I have to cling to some idea of reality that was formed from my own experiences.  My kids aren’t growing up the same way I did.  They have more, they travel more, they want more, and they live in a scary, digital world.  It’s not necessarily better, but it’s not necessarily worse, either. After all, I didn’t grow up the same way my parent’s did.  Sometimes, when I become anxious about the world my children live in, I have to remind myself of that.

As parents, we like to believe that there are a lot of hard and fast rules when it comes to parenting, based on some perception of what we think our lives should be like.  The longer I parent, the more I realize that this simply is not true.

There are poor kids who grow to be rich and rich kids who grow up to be useless drug addicts, but there’s also poor people who will always be poor, and rich kids, who will always stay rich, and every combination in between. This could be applied to discipline, eating habits, tv viewing habits, and anything else we worry about as parents.  Who is living in reality?  All of them are.  Their own.

Which is exactly my point.  Sometimes, clinging to the reality we know limits us from what we can achieve in the future.  What would have happened if no one had dared to change their own reality.  Women wouldn’t have moved forward in education and the workplace. Institutionalized racism would still be rampant. People wouldn’t try to advance themselves.  All kids wouldn’t have access to education, and the list goes on.

Believe me, I do understand wanting to keep our children grounded, I’m not advocating for spoiled, rotten kids.  But, I don’t think we should be afraid of what we don’t know, or of people, who may have more, or just wanting better.

Instead, we should hold onto the good that made up our own reality and figure out a way to work that good into the present, and hope that it eventually makes its way into the future.  Because frankly, I don’t believe denying my kids a better education is the answer to keeping them grounded in reality.  I believe a good education is the answer to giving them the wings.


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