Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Boss of the World

So Ethan has this new interest in people in charge and "authority."

In some ways it's distain (he came out of Sunday school a few weeks ago after a lesson on the authority figures in his life and declared "I HATE your authority").

I get this. Sometimes for a kid it feels like life is all about many, many different people telling you what to do.

And of course this interest in bosses and being the one in charge has everything to do with power -- which is really appealing to a just-turned nine-year-old boy. Those who wield the most power (aside from parents, who are asking him to do things he doesn't want to do) are to be admired.

Gaining an understanding about authority happens when you begin to see that there is a structure and reporting system or chain of command in all of the entities in this life that either directly or indirectly affect him -- school, government, even church.

This may have begun when we were talking about the superintendent of schools and how he visited Ethan's school one day. I remember our superintendent when I was in elementary school. A stern man with a big balding head, he terrified me.

"Do you know Craig Cooke is in charge of all of your teachers?" I asked him.

"I thought the principal was in charge," he replied.

"Well yes, but Craig Cooke is HER boss," I said. This gave him pause. "Who is Craig Cooke's boss, then?" he asked.

As often happens in these situations, I didn't quite know, which had me tossing around answers without really knowing what I was talking about. This seems to happen often, as a parent. "Umm, the state education commissioner?" I pondered.

"No, the Board of Education!" Ethan replied, as I wondered where he gotten that from (some book, apparently). I wondered: was he right? and then lamented I didn't pay attention more in that State & Local Government course in college.

Despite not receiving true resolution on Craig Cooke's boss, Ethan felt confident enough about the matter to discuss the whole thing with his principal a few days later. Apparently the principal filled in one afternoon for whoever takes the students who walk home from school over to the crossing guard. She and Ethan got to chatting, and, Ethan announced proudly, "I told her Craig Cooke was her boss. But not the crossing guards' boss." (We'd talked about that, too).

I don't know how many times Ethan has asked me who's in charge of the police; the firefighters; the people in a hospital.

Of course when the election came around there were ample opportunities to talk about the way government works (or doesn't) and who reports to whom. Once again he stymied me as we talked about our town's mayor and town's manager. Wait a minute? What's the difference? I'm still wondering, and realizing even now how incredibly dumb and uniformed children's questions can make you feel.

Trying to explain "checks and balances" and the three major branches of government is a bit much for a third grader (and my somewhat lacking store of knowledge). But I've made an attempt, several times.

One day he asked me about the Supreme Court. He loved to hear that it was "the highest court in the land." Even better -- that the president even could not overrule something the Supreme Court decided. "The Supreme Court," I heard him saying to himself, smiling. Oh, the power!

Another time recently he asked, "Is the United Nations the boss of the president?"

"No!" I answered, probably too vehemently (shudder). "The U.N. is not the boss of our president."

"Well, who is?"

"No one, really."

"The Supreme Court is."

"Well, not really. They don't tell the president what to do." I felt another discussion of the three branches of government coming on.

"Wait, I know who the president's boss is!"



And well, that was that. He has a point. Even when it doesn't feel like it.

It's great when kids make you think, and when kids make you learn, and when they help you remember things that were once more difficult, and yet easier to understand.

"In the Lord's hand the king's heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him." - Proverbs 21:1

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