More than a few nights were spent going FLICK FLICK FLICK on the TV remote: Jeopardy! HGTV! Arthur! Coronation Street! (okay, that was me) Dr Who! MI-5! Midsomer Murders!
And thus it was that we happened upon an episode of Super Nanny one night. Do you know this show? It centers around a very earnest and very British 30-something former nanny and her attempts at rescuing middle America from its disastrous attempts at parenting. The parents are generally idiots; the kids are generally horrible. The twins were captivated. "OMG, I can't believe his mum lets him DO that!" gasped FDPG after one second of action, so I left the show on, intrigued at the parenting possibilities. Mind you, I sometimes wonder if they jack these kids up on all kinds of sugary substances before they commence filming, because it's hard to believe that any kid does ANY of this stuff unassisted by either sugar, allergic reaction, or violent video intravenous. The kids in this particular episode were running into other people's houses, hitting their parents, and generally behaving without any sense of propriety whatsoever. It was weird, alarming, and slightly unbelievable.
Anyhow, as we're watching, the two brothers do something totally and completely over the top with each other, and Super Nanny, as it her wont, interjects with a slightly patronizing cameo, which goes something along these lines:
Parents? Do you see this happening in your neighbourhood? How would YOU react in this case? Would you
a) Leave the kids to work it out themselves
b) Do nothing
(and here she pauses and looks very archly at us the TV audience, just in case we're not sure which one is the correct option)
c) take immediate action by intervening
At this point all of us had a vaguely disturbing flashback to something we had experienced earlier this summer, an incident involving a few kids we knew (one of whom has the uncanny knack of bringing out the very worst in his colleagues). An incident involving some bullying and a kid with some, umm, hmm, let's just call them social issues. An incident to which I was very sadly privy. And an incident in which none of the parents involved seemed to want to have much involvement with. An incident in which I was very clearly told to back off and leave the kids to work it out themselves. One parent (not the parent of the victim, I hasten to add) even went so far as to demand that I apologize to the kids for getting involved at all. And he was mad. Really mad.
Which made me sad. Really sad. Just what, I tried to ask him, are we teaching our children when we allow them to be cruel without just cause? Are we teaching them to be reasonable adults? Adults we will one day admire?
Or are we teaching them that they can do whatever they want? That we will never call them on their willingness to go along with one Badly Intentioned Idiot just to stay in the group?
But all that went nowhere. The entire event was left at a stalemate.
It makes you wonder, sometimes, doesn't it?