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a collection of commentaries, observations, and insights on the 21st Century landscape of American culture and politics 


Where Have All the Children Gone?

by ALT Allen 

My son had the flu last week. My first-born, now sixteen year-old, 6'2" son had the flu last week. And, for a short while, this capable, articulate, and almost fully grown young man was my baby boy again and he needed his mom. I drove him to the doctor, brought him his medicine, fed him lots of juices, and felt his forehead every hour on the hour. But, mostly I was just there for him.

Throughout the week, my mind kept wandering toward the future. Two and a half years into the future, to be precise, when my son will be a freshman in college, hundreds of miles away. Who will take care of him when he gets sick? (Yeah, I think I already know the answer to that one -- some babe will bring him soup.) Time to cut the apron strings, I thought. Time for the kid to learn to take care of himself. OK, fair enough. But, exactly when is that time?

 As I tended to my son, that same week a 14 year-old Florida youth, already convicted of brutally beating a defenseless little six year-old girl to death, was sentenced as an adult to spend the rest of his life in jail without the possibility of parole. He was twelve when the crime was committed. In California, a 15 year-old shot and killed two of his classmates,  wounding thirteen others. Columbine redux. The 14 year-old lived alone with his mother. The 15 year-old lived alone with his father. Whatever else can be said about single-parent households, most everyone agrees that a child living with just one parent, for whatever reason, is forced to grow up a little sooner than a child raised in a normal, mother-father household. Please take note that I use the words "normal" and "mother-father" with full awareness of how they will be interpreted by the word police and self-appointed guardians of political correctness.  If Mom is a druggie and Dad is a serial rapist, then Junior would be better off being raised by elephants in the jungle. That there may be dysfunctional examples in a given lifestyle does not, of and by itself, justify the selection of  an alternate lifestyle.

The 15 year-old was able to commit his crimes, we are told, because his father owned guns, to which the boy had access. 

The 14 year-old had access to a TV set. His defense was that he was only imitating a wrestling move he had seen on TV. Apparently he needed to imitate it repeatedly until her little body was decimated. Children, the popular culture tells us, commit crimes because there are too many readily accessible guns. Because they have access to the Internet, which is a free-for-all of all the good and all the filth and all that is corrupt that can be found on our planet today. Because they play video games, which are too violent, watch TV and movies which are too violent, and listen to music which is too violent. 

All of the above is true. The creators and hawkers of these products say their products don't kill, people kill. They're right. Children...children who are guaranteed a childhood...children who are protected by and from the adult world...children who are reared by adults willing to take on the awesome responsibility of being a constant and guiding presence in their lives... these children don't kill people. And, how do we rear children in our society today? We drop them off at day care at six-weeks of age where they are cared for by a revolving cast of underpaid and under-trained workers. If they are really lucky we turn them over to a nanny, or series of nannies, for whom this is a job, not a calling. By the time they reach school age we over schedule them with wall-to-wall organized activities guaranteed to rob us of any family time which would require our participation. We demand that schools educate, entertain, and raise our children for us, at least until the evening hours, when we stop for dinner at McDonald's and then send them to bed. Otherwise, they become latch-key kids. We don't monitor what they watch or censor what they listen to. But, we expect the media to do it for us. A recent article in the Washington Post newspaper (March 11, 2001) detailed what constitutes fiction books aimed at young adult readers. The category is usually aimed at readers age 12 and up. According to the article's author, Linton Weeks, "Lust, hatred, horror, darkness, dysfunction, drugs, disease, and gruesome death permeate young adult literature.  Eminem, American Pie, and MTV's Undressed have nothing on contemporary teen fiction." Parents are happy to see their kids reading.  But, they don't check out what they are reading. America's organized librarians do read these books and  think they're swell books for your kids. That's because the American Library Association has its own agenda. It is paranoid in its zeal to protect its members First Amendment rights and against any and all censorship.

 Congratulations... your kids are being raised by the ALA. A lot of people and a lot of groups are raising our children. A lot of parents are not. Providing for our children is one important aspect of parenting. It is not the most important. Being there to guide, nurture, and protect is the most important part of parenting. Saying "no" to our children and taking the heat for it is being a parent. Turning a blind eye to it, and expecting schools, or government, or businesses to do it for us, is not. For two parents, working in tandem, it is a difficult and challenging job. For one parent trying to do it alone, it is nearly impossible. In a household where only one parent works and the other can dedicate himself to caring for the children, the task is daunting. In a household where both parents are away from the children for ten to twelve hours a day, it is the children and their childhood who will pay the price. 

A number of years ago there was a television ad for one of the armed services. The tag line was, "The toughest job you'll ever love." That's what parenthood is. We are the guardians and protectors of our children. We need to stop rushing them through childhood. We need to censor their exposure to adult themes and adult problems. We need to stop pushing them out the door, armed with knowledge they can't handle, but disarmed of values and responsibilities. I'm sorry if that's not what you had in mind when you set out to have a baby to fulfill you.  Or when you had a baby because you wanted someone who would love you  unconditionally. Or when you had a baby to make you  feel more like a man or more like a woman. It's not about you.  It's about the children.

 Grow up, and let them have their turn at being children. 



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