What do dating violence, childbirth and cowboy day have in common? These represent my work day today.
March break is next week and that makes this winter carnival week at my high school. A regular part of this week every year is that we have theme days. Today is cowboy day and many of the teachers and students are sporting plaid shirts, jeans, cowboy boots etc. As a result of this I am sitting here during my break in my jeans, plaid shirt, cowboy boots and spurs writing my blog.
As for dating violence and childbirth, these are today’s topics in my two classes. There was a time when these were topics you didn’t hear about, or which your parents were supposed to cover. How did this sort of thing end up being on the school’s plate?
Dating violence is one of the adolescent issues we cover which include eating disorders, STIs, birth control, stress, depression etc. Our ideas of what is acceptable behaviour in a relationship have changed a great deal over the past 50 years and I firmly believe that it is important to teach our kids how to be safe in their relationships. As a former victim of emotional abuse in my past marriage I wish someone had taken the time to teach me the warning signs, because they were all there. The value of the units does not explain how they came to be part of the curriculum though.
Childbirth is the next stage in the child’s development after prenatal, so it is time to cover that. The folks from the VON program Healthy Baby and Me come in to do one class on childbirth and a second class on breastfeeding. While we do have a couple of students who are pregnant, this is not just for them. The sooner you know the process and stages of labor and delivery, the better prepared you will be and most students will some day become parents. Again a good reason but not really an explanation.
I guess that question comes down to, “who used to be responsible for these things?” Most of these issues would have been handled in one way or another by our families. With many generations of families all living in close proximity you may not have been warned about dating violence but you had a whole network of people in the community watching out for you. Girls were warned to stay away from the “wild” boys, those with temper problems etc and in smaller communities it would be rare to be dating someone about whom nothing was known. This doesn’t mean that there were fewer relationship problems, but parents were more aware of where their kids were, whom they were with, and what they were doing. Social expectation for dating were very different at the time as well. Of course some people had sex when in high school, but with poor birth control methods it was much more risky than it is now.
Similarly, when you had your children you used to have your mother, aunts, grandmother to help you out and offer advice. Families are so geographically dispersed now that this is not viable. What we see on TV shows about childbirth tend to focus on the problems that may happen and are unlikely to make people feel confident in their body’s ability to give birth which we do get from the fact that our female relations survived. Similarly, it is pretty hard for a grandmother to help sooth your baby through a Skype connection. For basic information exchange the world has become much smaller through technology, but this is not a benefit for real human relationships and the comfort of touch.
And so we come to my work-day today where I dressed differently, talked about avoiding abuse, and delivering babies!