So, the high school that our older daughter attended and the younger one still attends, last year, grade 12, is on my way to work and I’ve been dropping one or the other one off on my way in for . . . wow, eight years now, and the process in the school parking lot has been getting irritating.
It’s a parking lot, space to park many cars, and at that time of morning – 8:00 am, I’m late for work, always – there are still plenty of empty spaces, mostly in the row nearest the school building, and this is exactly where I pull into a spot, wish my kid a good day, tell her I love her, and let her out. Unfortunately, there’s a line-up of cars on the road in and all through the travelling lanes in the parking area, people – women, I mean. Mothers, stopping in the driving lane, not taking a spot, and letting their kids out. I drive around it when I can, to a parking space, let my daughter out, back out of the spot and carry on to work, because I’m late, as always, and I’m pissed, I can’t abide all these soccer moms in their giant cars stopping in the middle of the road.
Then, once they’ve stopped, you can see these normal teens slowly and passive-aggressively get out of the front seat, shuffle around the car, open the back or the very back to retrieve their backpacks etc., and this often after a minute’s delay where apparently nothing is moving. I suspect these normal parents are reading their normal teen some version of the Riot Act, nattering at them about something; their teens hate them, but one more lecture will probably do the trick. Apologies to everyone else in the line of cars, but this could be the one! This speech could be the one that finally reaches my teen!
Besides the one above, I drive away from this scene every morning, trying not to think this nasty thought: that women don’t give a crap about each other, about all the other parents in that line up, they will stop in the middle of the road to do their parenting, to deal with their own family and their own problems while every other parent waits for their turn. Also this – do these parents not have jobs? Are they happy to spend several minutes doing something that should take seconds because they have no-where to be? Which, of course, if that is the case for any of them, I repeat: they are not giving a crap about those of us who do have places to be.
Maybe it’s hard to back those great SUV’s up, maybe that’s why some don’t take a parking stall – but I’m sorry. In my grumpy morning commute road rage state of mind at the time, that’s all part of the ‘mother’s privilege’ too: the bloody SUV. Soccer moms and their SUVs are operating out of the same sort of attitude. They want the giant car, gets them up off the road where they can see more of what’s happening on the road, it’s for their families’ safety – and it kills visibility for those of us still driving little cars, those of us trying to create less greenhouse gas. Plus of course, the extra pollution. We, in our little cars can see less than ever, can’t see past these giant cars at all, so every time someone buys an SUV it’s an attack on the safety of those that don’t. “My family is above the traffic now, we’re safe” – and forget the rest of you, is the attitude, albeit tacit.
That is the dark side of a parent’s – a mother’s – single-minded concern for her family: the trade-off of everyone else’s comfort and safety for it. Parenting is unconscious and generally antithetical to civilization. Family concerns need to be balanced against what is good for everyone. It doesn’t have to be ‘us against the world;’ we’re making it like that. Let’s work together, help our families, help our kids, and help the world. That principle applies in many ways.
When we keep our kids away from the bad kids, we’re protecting ours, but if we are “good” families, then we’re denying those bad kids some good influences. When we arm ourselves against the bad people who may prey on us, then we’re promoting force and violence as a way to solve our problems – a lesson many people get in trouble for learning too well. When we cheat on or otherwise niggle regarding our taxes we are saving money for our families, but withholding revenue that may help feed, house, or otherwise help other families . . . all these sorts of things that we do to protect ourselves and our kids from the big bad world ultimately work to make that world bigger and badder than it might have been.
“Safety First” is one hundred percent appropriate in the face of threats to our lives. Other than that, all of our safety concerns need to be traded off against social concerns. We should be looking for ways to protect mankind generally, and we should always be trying to make our choices as far toward the socially preferable end of the scale as possible, by default. That means just looking after us ours and ourselves doesn’t cut it, morally. It needs to move from “My family is safe” – and forget the rest of you, to “My family is safe enough” – with apologies and thanks for the rest of you.
Morally speaking, I’m not interested in your faithfulness, or your strict adherence; I’m only interested in the size of your moral circle. If I and my family aren’t in yours, then of course I think you need to shape up.
October 10, 2015