Friday, May 24, 2002
What are we doing to our kids?
As adults, we lead very stressful lives. We juggle professional and personal demands on our time, sometimes succeeding and other times suffering. Throw in the fact that we live in a very competitive community, and stress becomes a common element in our daily lives. We who choose to live in this manner must be careful not to transfer this stress level to our children.
The February issue of the Concord-Carlisle High School Parents Association Newsletter hit me like a bucket of cold water. In the "Principal's Corner," Mr. Dulong talked of the issue of alcohol abuse among students at CCHS. He indicated that in the twenty-four years he was associated with his previous district only one athlete was suspended under the substance abuse rule, and that was for smoking. In the first six months of this year he has seen nine CCHS athletes suspended or lose captaincy privileges as a result of infractions of the substance abuse rule. Principal Dulong goes on to discuss the prevalence of alcohol abuse at the high school, and the expectation amongst some students and parents that, come the weekend, alcohol will be involved in many activities.
A recent panel discussion at the high school entitled "Driven to Drink" revealed the horrifying extent of this problem. According to a psychologist on the panel, students tell her that stress is the reason they use alcohol.
Societal pressures aside, we as parents need to take most of the responsibility for this problem. From the moment our kids can walk and talk we begin placing pressures on them. We push and cajole them into supplementary educational programs at a very young age. We plan play dates. We plan their days from dawn till dusk, usually without a moment of free or down time. We hit the soccer field at 8:00, move on to baseball or softball by 12:00, and somehow get in an instrument lesson by 5:00. We also place a great amount pressure on them to be at the top of their class. By the time an 18-year-old gets to the college decision-making process, the stress level is over the top.
We plan these activities with the intent of keeping our children busy, out of trouble and on the road to success. However, with lives so planned and cluttered, when free time approaches, our kids don't seem to have a clue as to how to deal with it. They are not internally resourceful and are dependent on others to provide direction and entertainment. In response, many turn to alcohol and other illegal substances to occupy their time and escape from their stressful lives. Sound familiar?
Our expectations for our children are high. At the Driven to Drink discussion, panel members indicated that the first question many parents ask when dealing with the police or the school administration over an infraction is not about the general welfare of their child but about how this "incident" is going to affect their chances of getting into a top-tier college. A review of our priorities might be in order.
We as a community need to address this issue and address it quickly. One potential first step involves time management not in the sense of structuring and planning, but to reduce stress and allow our children the time and freedom to get to know themselves, to know their peers, to explore, to play, and basically to just be kids.
E-mails have been whizzing back and forth across town these past days, many of them directed to John Ballantine, chair of the board of selectmen, after an article appeared in the Mosquito (May 17) suggesting that the selectmen might entertain the idea of placing another, smaller override budget before the town. Copies of these e-mails, sent by officers of the Carlisle Committee for Tax Fairness, landed on my desk, along with a copy of a news release written by this same organization and sent to news outlets all over the country, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, WCVB-TV, WHDH-TV, WBZ-TV, etc.
What is going on here? The heading on this release reads, "Carlisle Committee for Tax Fairness Unveils Plan to Fight Injustice." In the news release, John Ballantine is being accused of unethical behavior for proposing to place another override budget before the town at a Special Town Meeting already planned for June to deal with the CCHS budget dispute. Speaking of the proposed override, the president of the Committee for Tax Fairness, Larry Bearfield, states, "Unfortunately, we have come to expect such shenanigans at the state level in Massachusetts. However, we'd never expect such a breach of ethics in our own community."
Why can't the selectmen call for a new override vote at the Special Town Meeting in June? I am one of those in town who feel that the voters were unaware of what would happen if the override did not pass. With the focus on the schools, the fate of town employees, including the police, firemen and the DPW were barely discussed at Town Meeting. Also, many voters found the ballot confusing when Question 1A, which was voted down at Town Meeting, appeared on the ballot at the town election on May 14. The opportunity to vote on a new "mini-override" isn't such a bad idea. People can still say no.
Now back to the news release: at the bottom of the second page are these final words "Editors: Interviews with Bearfield and people on both sides of the override issue who oppose the board's decision to discuss a new override can be arranged. Call 978-371-2788. Photo editors: Photo opportunities will exist at the board of selectmen meeting."
This is not an issue to be discussed in the national press. It's a town issue to be discussed rationally and civilly amongst ourselves at a selectmen's meeting or at a future Town Meeting. I'd say winning at the polls last week has gone to some people's heads.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito