One of the great things about being a runner is that getting older is a good thing. You’re 65-69? Great! You’ll do better in your new age bracket, now that you don’t have to compete against those fast, young bucks in the 60- to 64-year-old group!
One of the great things about being a teacher is keeping up with your students. Monday, they’re seventh graders tediously factoring trinomials. Tuesday, they’re wearing their white coats outside a crowded bar in Gainesville, holding signs, trying to convince woozy patrons to wear masks.
I am a doctor.
I have held the hands of Covid-19 patients as they died.
Please wear a mask.
Of course, the health care professionals did get some push back:
Doctor after five years of medical training: May I offer you a mask?
Florida Man after five beers: Masks are stupid. The virus is a hoax. Where did you get those statistics?
Doctor after five years of medical training: The Center for Disease Control.
Florida Man after five beers: Don’t you know the CDC is run by a bunch of communists and Cubans?
Doctor, (of Cuban descent): I take it you won't be wearing a mask?
I have never missed a Tuesday newsletter in ten years. Nor have I ever written a political blog. I won’t start now. I write about parenting. Parenting is about having kids who listen to you, think what you have to say is important, trust you. At its most fundamental level, parenting is about taking care of your kids, keeping them safe. In Covid-19 times, keeping your kids safe means insisting that they wear masks. The abusive bully quoted above has parents. Presumably at some point along the way, his parents suggested that he not be an egregious ass. How did he grow up able to disregard their simple, sensible advice?
Parenting is about knowing that not everyone shares your values. Parenting is acknowledging that there are a host of folks who want to straight up harm your kids. Someone wants your kids to drink alcohol before they are of age; someone wants your kids to drink Kool-Aid. Someone is suggesting that your kid not wear a mask and be at increased risk of a painful but preventable death from an insidious disease. Someone wants your kids to do that which is not in your children’s interest. Lots of someones.
My old student described a group of a dozen mask-less sorority girls about to enter the swarming venue. The doctors offered them masks. The girls seemed to look to their leader, the president of the organization. Then 11 of the girls, almost in unison, shook their heads, declining the offer of the masks. Peer pressure is real.
The essential question becomes: how can the opinion of parents remain more cogent than the influence of random thudpuckers? Loving parents don’t want their children to become addicted to nicotine; loving parents don’t want their children to have unprotected sex; loving parents don’t want their children to become infected with the Corona virus.
Parents therefore have to be right. Parents have to make the correct call early on and across ages and stages. It’s the relationship, stupid. Respect is earned a drop at a time but can be emptied all at once.
Your kids are more likely to trust you, to do as you say, to respect your insights if you have listened to and appreciated their concerns over time. If your kids want to play sports, let them play sports. If your kids don’t want to join the soccer team, let them read books instead. Encourage your kids to play a musical instrument. But don’t force them. Recommend that your kids take challenging academic courses. Then back off if they want to drop an overwhelming math course. There is a direct line between allowing your kids to be who they are and having them trust you on the bigger, life-affirming choices down the road.
Because before you know it, your kids will be deciding whether or not to wear a mask. Here’s hoping that they will listen to their parents and their doctors rather than the drunk bullies, sorority presidents, and other folks whose bad advice will result in harm.