Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Things I Learned at Panera

I work from home most days, but today I really needed to be free of distractions, so I decided to get out of the house. I know there's a certain irony in the fact that I needed to leave my own (empty) house to get really focused, but it got me away from the phone, and also away from the usual daily routine of doing fifteen things at once--like answering every email as it came in and keeping a dozen browser windows open and all that.

It worked out very well and I got a lot done, but I also couldn't help overhearing a few things. The first came from a couple of young women who were apparently studying for a test. "Is it considered a muscle?" one of them asked. "Yes, it's considered a muscle." She answered her own question, which was good, because I was stuck back at "considered". I'd previously been pretty sure that something either was or was not a muscle.

The main thing I learned, though, was that most parents are Different From Me.

I really wanted to write that I'd learned that a lot of people shouldn't have children, but different people have different priorities, right? My way isn't necessarily the right way, right? We're all just Different.

The first parent who caught my attention was the mother who said derisively that her 15-year-old was still "watching Hannah Montana and drinking chocolate milk". Please, God, we should all be so lucky. I'm no fan of Hannah Montana (or Miley Cyrus), but I know what's going on out there in the world. If my kid wants to watch G-rated shows on the Disney channel and drink chocolate milk at an age when a lot of kids are paying someone to buy them beer and getting decidedly R-rated in someone's basement, I'm going to be delighted.

That was nothing, though. The next story I heard was a little sketchy, but it related to a boy who apparently had a penchant for violence that troubled mom, so she got him some shooting lessons to kind of give this a productive, disciplined outlet. Admittedly, I didn't catch all the details here--something about that rushing sound in your ears when you go into shock, perhaps--but what I heard was enough to make me want to pull my kid (and all the other kids I know) out of the local school system just in case.

The thing is...this was just one day, in one spot in the midwest. One small thing, one not so small. But it's got me thinking about all of the other conversations out there, all of the moments and thoughts and things unimaginable to me that are going on all around...and the things I think or do or take in stride that others might see the same way.

It's troubling me in a way I can't quite put my finger on. It's something like this: if we can't even agree on whether or not it's a good idea to give your kid a firearm to work out his aggressions with, what hope do we have of finding common ground on the laws and the wars and the troubles that plague our streets?

No comments: