Who knew that being allowed to wear shorts was a fundamental right, an essential need, a fight to be fought just as people fought for integrated schools or for women to be allowed to vote? Or so it would seem to me, having read a couple of news stories earlier this year about a couple of young women across the country who were peeved over rules at schools not allowing them to wear short shorts. Some cry sexism, ignoring the fact that rules typically apply to boys as well as girls, for instance, that boys not wear muscle shirts or low-hanging jeans that show underwear. It makes sense to me to demand that minimum level of decorum. There have always been kids who disagreed with the rules or with authority. That hasn't changed, and probably never will. But over the years, I've noticed something has changed – parents. Once, kids would complain and that would be that. But in the one news story I read, a mother told her daughter to wear her shorts anyway, and if she got a suspension, oh well, screw the school. My jaw dropped. To disagree with a rule is your right, but to flout that rule – or to encourage your child to flout it – was to undermine the school authority and the idea that rules should generally apply to everyone. But more and more, it seems there are some parents who don't think the rules should apply to their kids, and question the standards set for those same children. The result is mediocrity – kids who turn into adults who put in sub-par efforts but expect to be praised to the skies, and who reject any kind of criticism or suggestions that they should do something differently or better. All parents want the best for their children. But that doesn't or shouldn't mean what the child thinks is best and what the child wants is what should always happen. I hear people from all walks of life complain about this, of parents who insist on nothing but the best for their child and that the kids not suffer any kind of disappointment. I can't imagine signing up to volunteer to coach a team only to be shouted at: “Why aren't you playing my son?” or “My girl is crying herself to sleep at night because of you!” You have to let go. It's that simple to say, but hard to do. When my daughter first started going to school, my heart was seized with fear that she would be sidelined or bullied. In the first couple of months, I heard stories of how another girl threw sand in her eyes, or how the other little girls ignored her or wouldn't let her play with them. My first instinct was to call the teacher and ask her to get involved. But I knew I had to back up and give my daughter the time and space to establish herself and make the right calls. Things did improve, and my daughter found her own niche. And when she recently told me how one girl wouldn't let her play, she told me that she stood up and said, “You're not the boss of me.” Success! I could see she was learning, not because I got involved, but because I gave her my advice, then stood back and let her stand on her own two feet. We have to teach our kids that we – and they - can't always control circumstances. Life isn't fair. Bad things happen. The people who work with our children can make mistakes, just like any other human. Parents and children alike should be to question - in a respectful and rational way - about decisions, to come up with solutions that work for everyone. But parents should teach their kids that if the circumstances do not change, the kids have to live with that, to adjust their attitudes and efforts to do the best they can within those circumstances. After all, the size of shorts they are allowed to wear is not a fundamental right, like the right to equality under the law, and has nothing to do with the person they are or can be. Children may make mistakes, fail or be punished and we, as parents, have to accept that will happen and allow it to happen, because through those failures, they will learn, grow, and in the long run, be better for it. After all, the world doesn't owe us anything for being alive. In fact, we owe it to the world to try and create positive change and growth for those around us. We owe it to our children to teach them the same.
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