Childhood is seldom the fluffy marshmallow fantasy that adults would hope for their offspring. My own experiences included a lot of physical and emotional pain. We moved a lot and I had to leave friends behind. I worked in the fields on weekends and during the summers for ten years. My grandfather was an unpredictable alcoholic. My parents argued as much as most parents. My uncle was in prison. I was in several painful accidents. Two men tried to kidnap me on the way home from school. One year my classmate stole my birthday doll. There were weekly gang fights at many of the schools I attended. My friend’s baby brother died in his sleep. My first boyfriend decided he loved someone else. I could go on and on. I don’t remember ever having a perfectly perfect life.
However, I often feel that my life was a Disney movie compared to the experiences of some of today’s children.
I was talking to my daughter yesterday and to a colleague the day before, and we were trying to pinpoint the differences between the two. I have reached the conclusion that the major difference between my generation and the current one is color.
When I grew up everything was black or white, good or evil, yes or no. Bad things seemed more isolated. Bad people were insane or evil, but either way they would be punished. Even if things went horribly wrong, your mom said, “That’s not right” and you had hope that tomorrow everyone would come to their senses and it would be right again. And we were more isolated and insulated. We didn’t even have a television for years. I didn’t see the news or know what was going on in the next town, much less the next country. Only major disasters and events filtered down into my little world.
Today everything is gray. There are no clear cut lines between good and evil. Everything seems to be acceptable “under the circumstances” because that is the politically correct attitude to adopt these days. You don’t want to be rash and say that someone or something is wrong. Tolerance. That’s the good word. There is no preaching at the dinner table about the evils of the world. That would just be wrong and might hurt someone’s feelings.
And children aren’t isolated from anything. Children see and hear things that would have shocked my mother. They shock me! And they see them so often that they don’t give any thought to them at all. Nudity, rudeness, crudeness, anger, and violence are a part of daily life for many children. If they don’t see such things in their own environment they see and hear them on television, games, and music videos. Cursing is so casual that many of my kindergarten students have heard and can use a dozen swear words. You might be surprised to hear what some of my former students have intentionally told me I could do! Many play games I wouldn’t let a teenager play. They watch movies I wouldn’t want to see! Add to that the fact that they see and hear the news about every evil, violent thing that happens in the world and it all becomes too much. They just accept and go on. And if that is the way they start childhood, you can imagine how they finish it.
I hope you weren’t waiting for a solution, because I don’t have one. I know we can’t go back. I know that communication is a good thing and that acceptance of others is also good. But it worries me when a kindergarten student tells me in casual conversation “we played Call to Duty last night”, or tells me all about the latest teen music idol. It all seems too much too soon.
Be careful today...little eyes are watching you!