MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
Non-school vacations, when parents take their children out of school to go on holiday, are stirring up controversy. The British Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the school that fined a father in the United Kingdom for taking his then 6-year-old daughter out of school for a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. This case had people online, including the popular podcast Dis Unplugged, buzzing about whether it is all right for parents to take their kids out of school for a vacation.
Non-School Vacations Ruling Speaks to Bigger Problems
Even though the fine was small (about $180), the U.K. father wanted to make a point about the rights he has to parent his kid the way he wants. And ultimately he failed. Find out why you should side with dad in this case:
Parents Know Their Own Kids
This dad clearly felt his daughter could handle a week off from school. Some parents know their kid can’t miss the work and still keep up, so they do not take off unless the school is closed. While schools have good intentions and teachers can get to know their students fairly well, most parents know their own kids better. Ideally, the teachers and the parents are regularly communicating about what’s happening in school and at home, so that everyone can make more informed, customized decisions about each child’s education.
Grown-Ups Can Be Responsible
Unless they are abusing or neglecting their kids or acting immaturely or irresponsibly themselves, parents are adults capable of making responsible decisions. This father had not come up on charges of abuse or neglect. In fact, according to reports, his daughter had a 90+ attendance rate at school before and after the trip. Clearly, she and her parents were showing up, which demonstrates some responsibility.
Micro-Managing Parents Is Uncool
We joke about how in the 1970s our parents let us walk to the park by ourselves when we were in elementary school or how seat belts were optional, and we miraculously survived. Nowadays, we’ve gone to the complete opposite extreme. Now, we reprimand, fine, or even jail parents for allowing their kids an Oreo cookie at lunch, to walk anywhere by themselves until they are well into their teens, or take a vacation when school is open. Some of these changes are positive; seat belts and child safety seats are a great thing. But we’ve gone from one extreme to another. We need to find the sweet spot in the center. Let parents take that stick out of you know where and do their thing. An Oreo now and then won’t kill the kid and a modicum of independence might help us all.
Kids Should Be Kids
A teen who misses a week during junior year of high school, when the pressure is on to prepare for college admissions is one thing. A child in elementary school, especially in kindergarten or first grade, is another. Sure, school is always important. But soon enough kids will be growing up and getting jobs full of responsibility. Let them be kids while they’re kids. Life is too short to be a grown up from the start. Missing first grade should not be a life sentence to mediocrity. It should mean having to catch up on playing house and sounding out words. Of course, the amount of time one is absent should make a difference, too. A week is not three weeks, which is different and could require some sort of repercussions. Still, youth should be on the side of the dad and his daughter in this case.
The Vacation Might Be Better for Development Than School
This idea might be the most controversial opinion I’m sharing here. But I have found that when I can focus my attention solely on my child, he pays more attention, behaves better, and seems to feel more secure. Work and school get in the way of all that. On vacation, I can really place my energy on talking and bonding with my son. We’re both more relaxed than usual. Any chance we get to do that is fine by me. I’m not sure if he’s ever going to remember the algebra he will eventually learn, but I know he’ll remember our times at Disney World and in Italy forever. He is going to be this small for a short time, and it’s already flying by me. Kids who spend real quality time with their parents – eating at the dinner table, going on vacation – are less prone to peer pressure and, I would bet, do better in life.
My Child, My Choice
The bottom line is that this father should have had the right to make decisions about his daughter without interference from the government. While education is of the utmost importance, and I value teachers and all they do for us, in the end, my son is mine. He’s my responsibility. The same is true for this father and his daughter. As a result, we should all be able to make decisions we think are right for our children. Period.
Di Meglio has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10. For more handmade crafts and party gear, visit the Italian Mamma store on Etsy.