Which Rules Are Made To Be Broken?

Is your kid on social media yet? Did you know the minimum age to be on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is thirteen? I know so many people who allow their kids to fudge their ages to get on these sites. So many in fact that it makes my daughter stand out among her peers for abiding by the rules. I talk to other parents about it and the pressure it puts on my kid, and the common response is that they are ‘almost’ thirteen so it’s ok. One parent even put the onus on me to keep an eye on his kid since I’m on and he’s not.

I’m a math person, and numbers are absolute. Maybe I take things too literally, but twelve is not equal to thirteen. It’s like saying well my kid is almost sixteen so he can go ahead and drive or my kid is almost eighteen so she should be able to vote and join the armed services or hey my kid is almost twenty-one so he can go ahead and drink. Some rules are made to be broken, and rules are broken all the time. It makes me wonder which ones are worth fighting to keep and which ones are ok to bend. It’s a personal decision for every parent, and it’s a tough one in my house because I have two tween daughters. One is twelve wishing she was an older teenager, and the other is nineteen thinking she’s a full-fledged adult. I empathize with both of them. I’ve been their ages once, and I sure broke a lot of rules. The drinking age in DC was only eighteen when I grew up and thanks to a lookalike at high school, I had a fake ID and was able to get into bars and clubs to see shows on the weekends. Now that it’s my turn to be the mom, I find it hard to teach kids how to follow rules when they see their friends breaking them all over the place.

     In Texas, there’s this thing affectionately called the “bubba law” which says if bubba wants to have a drink with his underage kid he is allowed to. If underage kids are with their parents, they are allowed to drink alcohol. I swear it’s true. I heard about it straight from a police officer when we moved to town. In Virginia there were specific guidelines about at what age and how long can you leave your kids at home alone. So when we moved to Texas I asked the police what their guidelines were. The answer was they have none…except for the aforementioned bubba law. It’s interesting how things are so different in different places.
     When I was growing up, we didn’t have the Internet or smart phones. These days elementary aged kids have cell phones and are hooked up to the Internet faster than you can say beware of the sexual predators. Kids are sharing their lives and locations online and communicating with as many people possible without really considering the dangers. It bugs me to see kids post screen shots of how many followers they have. Who cares? And do you even know half of them? Does it matter? I am getting off on a tangent now, but it’s this kind of social media mania that makes my kid feel like she is left out if she too doesn’t have a bunch of sites and followers. To try to pick my battles and meet her halfway, I created a second site with my information that I’m letting her use until she is thirteen. Only Joe and I have the password, and I’ve changed my iTunes password too so she can download any old app she feels like. I want to be aware of whatever she’s downloading and who she is talking to. I think the people at Facebook etc thought long and hard about the minimum age and arrived at thirteen for a reason. At thirteen kids are still very immature and impulsive. They still need to be monitored and supervised. It’s not like at thirteen you are all of a sudden responsible and able to handle your own Internet safety like we adults think we are. On that note, I keep mine private and am only connected with a few strangers for reasons I’ve decided with my adult mind are productive and positive. While she uses the temporary account, I’m trying to teach her how to use it safely and responsibly. If she blows it, she might not even get on social media when she is thirteen.
How many ‘likes’ do you have? And does it really matter?
How about dress code? Having raised an older teen and raising a younger almost teen, the length of shorts is a big issue at my house. The rule at school is to wear fingertip length shorts. It just figures that what’s popular are super short shorts. Sierra and I went around and around about this topic when she was in school. She hated all the longer shorts and would decide to wear jeans instead. So that was that. She wore jeans all the time. Zoe doesn’t like the longer shorts either, and I know both girls have taken short shorts to change into once they are out of the house. It makes me wonder why do the schools have a dress code if the parents are the only ones enforcing it? Why should my kid feel so much pressure to change into booty shorts because everybody else is wearing them? I’m pretty sure short shorts are an issue because it’s been scientifically proven that the more skin you show, the more of a sexual appearance you give off. Schools don’t want the boys distracted by the girls showing so much skin. Then you go to the pool or the beach and women are dressed in the equivalent of a bra and underwear and it’s ok (except for those Muslim women who have to be covered head to toe-saw some of them here at the beach and I wondered how hot they must be?) To meet her halfway again, I allow her to wear the short shorts anywhere she would also wear a swimsuit. But it’s already a topic of conversation – will we let her wear them to school in the fall? My answer is would you wear your bathing suit to school? Nope. So I’m dreading another school year of apparently being the only parent who wants my kid to follow the rules.
These shorts are cute, but they are way shorter than fingertip length.
Who wears short shorts?
      Don’t even get me started on the use of cell phones in school. Well ok, just this-the rules say bring your own technology for academic purposes. Teachers are supposed to take up phones that are out for non-academic reasons. So why are kids checking in during math class and posting to instagram with pictures taken in class and even skyping during the day? Why have rules if you’re not going to enforce them?
What do you think about cell phones in school?
     Because of the bubba law, we allow Sierra to have drinks sometimes. Apparently it’s our decision as the parents, and I look to the European model where wine is usually a part of life and kids are not raised to see it as an evil. She said because we are like that, she felt less of a need to go crazy drinking at college like some of the other students. But if there wasn’t a bubba law, I’d be siding with waiting until the legal drinking age although I know that rule gets broken all the time.
Would you like some wine with your meal?
     I even lost my job being a rule follower. I was the only teacher on my team reporting accurate grades (not giving credit for missing work), yet I was forced out because of it. I enforced the school’s rules and used the school’s discipline system and somehow it was twisted around that since I used it, I obviously couldn’t discipline. Dress code? That school had a uniform. Kids could wear black pants but not denim. Every day kids showed up in black denim, and I noticed it. One parent was so frustrated with me he asked to talk to me about it. He said he had three girls at that school and they have six classes a day so that’s eighteen times a day they faced their teachers collectively. They all wore the same pants, yet out of eighteen teachers I was the ONLY one noticing it. He was offended that I was personally picking on his kid. I felt horrible for him because I could understand his frustrations. I couldn’t speak for the other teachers. It was the same for the missing work problem. I don’t make up the news; I just report it. But apparently following rules waves a flag that you’re a problem for some reason. I don’t get it. Why have the rules if we aren’t supposed to follow them? Should teachers model rule breaking to their students?  Do I need to do a better job of letting things slide?  Then you run into a consistency problem.  If you let some things slide but not others, kids don’t learn what to expect.  They don’t learn that when you choose the behavior, you choose the consequence.
It’s funny that I struggle with this topic because I’ve been kind of a rebel for most of my life. I’ve broken lots of rules. I was even arrested for trespassing when I hung off the Triboro Bridge in NYC (with twelve other climbers and many support people) to protest ocean dumping of toxic sludge. I worked for Greenpeace at the time, and they are still famous today for breaking rules or ‘bearing witness’ in the name of protecting the environment. I don’t work for them anymore, but I support them financially and participate in online activism and do volunteer work from time to time. I guess as I’ve aged and become a parent and a teacher, I have more respect for rules now. But there is a lot of gray area between the black and whites. Sometimes we should follow rules to the letter (like traffic signals) and other times it’s ok to break them (like activism). As with many aspects of life, it’s hard to strike the balance.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Triboro Bridge, NYC, NY 1988
Stop Ocean Dumping (Greenpeace Action)

4 comments on “Which Rules Are Made To Be Broken?

  1. Great piece. Nice and breezy and thoroughly thought out. I love that you're being so candid; it will help you in the long run know where your compass is heading. Good for you. I'm thrilled you're doing so well, Sus. YAYAY! xo

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