As I walked through the mall parking lot, I couldn't help but notice the bright bumper stickers on the rear of many vehicles. Two especially caught my eye.
The first sticker was adhered to a family-sized van. It read "Proud parent of an honor roll student at ABC Elementary School" (The name of the school has been redacted to protect the innocent). I have seen many stickers like that and always think how nice it is that parents display their pride in their child's accomplishments.
Many schools distribute bumper stickers free of charge to each student who makes the honor roll. Other schools produce stickers that are not specific. They might say "Proud parent of an ABC Elementary School student." The PTA of a school can also sponsor bumper stickers by selling them as a fundraiser or as an item in the school store.
When I saw that sticker on the van, I had a good feeling about the family that rode in the van. A child must be doing well in school and the parent must be supportive and caring. I could be wrong and the owner of the van might be a child molester who bought the van with the sticker already on it, but I won't go there.
Then I walked a few more steps in the parking lot and saw another bumper sticker. This one said, "My kid can beat up your honor roll student."
Once again, I tried to picture the parent who put that message on that car. I couldn't tell much from the dark blue Chevy sedan. It was just a normal, everyday car - no child seats, no dents or scratches, no big sign in the window that said, "A stupid parent drives this car."
There was a fleeting moment when I thought of hanging around the parking lot to get a glimpse of the driver. But, I had a vision of the next day's newspaper headline - "Newspaper columnist in fight on mall parking lot." So, I went to my car and drove away, muttering.
Picture the parent who drives the blue Chevy. He/she takes pride in the fact that the son or daughter "beats up" other children. So proud, in fact, that he/she announces it to the world on the bumper.
Sure, the car might be owned by a lovely gray-haired woman who doesn't have any young children, but I'll bet not. Any respectable person would rip that sticker off their car in a heartbeat. That is, unless she has a sick sense of humor and enjoys aggravating folks like me.
I have met a lot of parents in my years as a teacher, administrator, and librarian. Most parents do not encourage their child to fight. Most parents are ashamed when their child uses violence against another child. Most parents let their child know they had better never hit first.
But, there are some parents who think that their son or daughter is a sissy if he/she doesn't choose fighting to solve a problem. That kind of parent tells a child- "If you are jealous of a kid who just happens to make the honor roll when you didn't, it's perfectly okay to give him a good shot out on the playground. After all, the kid is probably a weak little weenie who only studies and won't fight back."
How about the children in these families? What message is being absorbed by these young minds? Most likely this - it is acceptable, even admirable, to use physical force to solve your problem.
I figured out a long time ago that parents who encourage their child to fight are missing the big picture. They are raising children who are handicapped in the worst way. They won't be able to make their way through the world without hurting others.
There's a clear message here for the parent who drives the blue Chevy - Your priorities are screwed up.
And, there's a message for the van driver, too - Keep up the good work. Teach your child that education is important and that people without brainpower may get jealous of him. But, when your child is 35 years old, he'll be able to put a bumper sticker on his car that reads "I made the honor roll in school, got beat up by another kid, but now I'm driving this Mercedes and he's still riding his bicycle to the welfare office."
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH798@SC.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.