At my daughter’s school, they have a rather efficient way of ensuring that kids are dropped off for school in the quickest and safest way possible –all before the dreaded tardy bell rings. The drop off zone consists of three lanes that run alongside the school and there are also about 50 parking spaces available. The lane that is closest to the school is for temporary parking of no more than 15 minutes and is reserved mostly for overprotective (although I choose to call it loving) parents who want to walk their kids to their classroom or participate in the morning flag activities. The second, or middle lane, is more of a traditional drop off lane where parents can come to a California stop before their kids jump out of the minivan, ala A-Team style. And the third lane is simply for thru-traffic. It’s clear this system was constructed in a way that provides order to a usually chaotic environment. So naturally, any small disruption, can have disastrous consequences – which is what my daughter and I witnessed the other day.
Parking in one of the available parking spaces and thereby avoiding the morning rush of the lanes – which, by the way, can be very intimidating to a Kindergartner and her Dad – I noticed that the traffic seemed to be backed up, which was odd for such a well-oiled operation. Looking for the most opportune time to cross the street, I see the cause of the disruption, a late model SUV who is parked in the middle lane – which is reserved for the rolling stop-push your kids out-and keep going, cars. What a violation of all that is holy when getting your kid to school! I remember thinking to myself, “oh no, I hope the car didn’t break down – what unfortunate timing!” But to my surprise and horror, we watched with shock and utter bewilderment as a Parent got out of the parked SUV and walked around to the passenger side to get his child out of the car – oh no he didn’t! You could feel the tension mounting as the scene was unfolding. Traffic is getting worse and confusion turns to anger and disgust when suddenly, one of Parents, who was stuck between the temporary parking and the thru-traffic lane, yells out their window, “What, did you take a class on Entitlement 101?!?” The stuck Parent was obviously making reference to the fact that the parked SUV had lots of stickers of a certain University located in Southern California, that shall remain nameless. But, without missing a beat, the offending Parent, looks over his shoulder and says, “Yeah and I got an A!”
After the angry mob of stressed out Parents subsided, I got to thinking about what I just witnessed. Normally, this would be the point where I hop on my soapbox and talk about how this Parent’s poor behavior is not only a detriment to his child but also to my child and how we as Parents need to strive to be better, and so on and so on – but I am not going to do that. Instead, what stuck in my mind was the word “entitled”. For most people, the word entitled has become somewhat of a four letter word and when used in conjunction with a child – whoa, avoid that kid! But then I thought, do I even know what the word actually means? I decided to consult the wise old oracle, Google, for her wisdom and guidance and she defines being entitled as, “[verb] give (someone) a legal right or just claim to receive or do something.” Nothing egregious here, so why do we use this word to convey such animosity about people’s behavior? Then it hit me, the Parent who parked their car and disrupted traffic for everyone else wasn’t acting entitled at all – he was just being a jerk! Admittedly, you can be an entitled-jerk but therein lies the distinction – how do I differentiate between being a jerk, being entitled and ensuring the two never combine? This took me a little longer to contemplate, but then I finally had it!
My Parents sacrificed tremendously so that my siblings and I could have a childhood that they could only dream of; so am I entitled? I believe I am! My Parents worked 100+ hour weeks so that we could go to great schools and afford the things that made life comfortable and allowed us to thrive, without us doing a darn thing to deserve any of it – it was simply our right provided to us by our Parents. And what prevents me from becoming a jerk, or worse yet, an entitled-jerk? I believe the answer is humility. You see, my Parents made sure we were all aware of the cost (both figuratively and monetarily) of living the way we did and having the things we had. We understood that all of this was not just given to us and that we all bared some responsibility in making something of ourselves. Likewise, I want the same for my children – I want them to be ENTITLED. I want them to have the right to do whatever they want, but to also be humble and cognizant of the sacrifices that were made on their behalf. So there you have it, entitlement, in the absence of humility = a recipe for disaster. Who’s with me in raising children that are entitled, but in the right way?