Friday, April 12, 2013

It takes a village to destroy a child - and we're doing a great job


In the past few weeks, I’ve read an abhorrent number of stories about teenagers doing unspeakable things. From two separate incidents of alleged rape of intoxicated teenage girls – resulting in the suicides of those girls, to beatings, shootings, stabbings, bullying and bomb threats.

I read these stories with horror at the grievous behavior. Disbelief at the lack of decency, humanity, compassion and morality of these young people. Bewilderment at what seemingly makes this OK in this society today and what has changed from 10, 20 or 30 years ago. 

Some comments in these articles echo my sentiments. I have to weed through the blatant violent threats against the perpetrators and the sickening rants of idiots who think that whatever was done to these victims was “deserved” in order to get to the incredulous responses from what I can only assume are people my age who say that this kind of behavior would have rarely if ever happened “back in the day.”

And they’re right. It wouldn’t have – or it rarely would have. And though I realize that my parents probably used that same sentiment about my generation, I’m sure they’re all shaking their heads at the state of our teenage society today. 

But here’s the rub. Who is to blame? If you read the comments, it’s the parents. It always goes directly to the parents. Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza? Nancy Lanza’s fault. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the pair behind the Columbine High School massacre? Parents again blamed. And these teenage boys shaking in their boots as they await Anonymous.com’s threat to publish their names for assault, rape and possibly manslaughter of that now deceased teenage girl? Read the comments. Here’s one: “Parents are what has happened to our kids or more accurately lack of parenting. Some parents are no better than just substandard baby sitters, wrapped up in their own trash too much to notice that something very bad is happening to junior.”

I’m not going to disagree that parents may be part of the problem. Kids live in homes where both parents are working long hours and often stay connected to work via phones and computer long after they leave the office. Kids are home alone way too much and left to their own devices. “Babysitters” like TV, video games and other technology are utilized to keep kids occupied when those technologies are in my opinion one of the BIGGEST contributors to the decline of the family unit.  

But I gotta tell ya – I have a teen that is in the throes of this crappy, violent, insolent society. I hate what he is up against and all my attempts to shield him from it feel fruitless. I found a job with a flexible schedule so I can be home shortly after he returns from school. I limit his exposure (at home) to technology and make sure it’s safely tucked away out of his reach at night. I even have a block on our TV so he can’t get into any “inappropriate” shows that are so prevalent on the myriad of channels we’re provide through cable. How many parents of 15 year olds do that? 

Does it matter? Nope. Not at all. Have you checked your kid’s Facebook lately? If you’re lucky, he or she is posting pictures of unicorns and rainbows and having discussions about homework problems and play practice. Unfortunately, the teen Facebook scene is really more like a porn site. Seriously, check it out. 

Language fit for a sailor, BLATANT drug and sex references, outright bullying and general inappropriateness of epic proportions. Want me to name names? I could – just to see if the parents even have a clue. Oh, and don’t just look at your kid’s Facebook page. Because they can create them under ANY guise they want to. And they can be friends with anyone they want to. And they can be whoever they want to be, and whatever age they want to be. Look at their Facebook messages. Check them out. Again, if you’re lucky, it’s a discussion on the latest “who likes who.” If you’re not, it’s much, much darker. 

Do you know what they watch on TV? Have you watched TV lately? Just listen to some of the programs and see if you can go a whole minute without hearing a “bleep this” or “bleep that”. See if you can watch a program without something being blurred out, or something without a sexual innuendo, or violence. Just try it. 

And yeah, here I go with the video games again. Too bad. Don’t give me that crap about promoting dexterity and coordination and tactical skills. Math, science, reading and sports do all that. Not first-person shooter games where you can earn points for bigger and better weapons and BONUS you can play with people you’ve NEVER EVEN MET. WHAT A GREAT IDEA. 

One of the biggest issues I see in my experience with teens is that for some reason, they seem to think that they are on the same level as adults. Like it’s an even playing field. This astounds me. When I was growing up, no matter how “mature” I thought I was, my parents were in charge. THEY were the adults. They weren’t my buddies. I respected them regardless of how much they pissed me off because I thought I should be able to do something they weren’t letting me do. 

That sentiment is virtually gone now, and I don’t know why. It seems to start around middle school – this “mistaken maturity.” And it’s evil and deadly because they’re NOT mature. They’re NOT ready. And they MUST be parented. The problem is, as author Jane Cowen-Fletcher said and Hilary Clinton revisited, “It takes a village.” And there’s no village anymore. It seems to be a bunch of tired, overwhelmed parents trying to do the right thing in the midst of a society that could really give a shit about the morals and values of our young people. And since they can’t beat it, many join it. They stoop to their teen’s level and embrace the video games and the inappropriate TV. They allow the excessive technology and access to God knows what on the Internet. The kids are exposed to these poisons LONG before their brains can handle it, and it takes its toll in the form of desensitization. Desensitization to true feelings – to compassion – to morals and values and those incredibly important things that make people GOOD. 

How do we get back to GOOD? Can we get back to GOOD? Can we somehow stop the influx of degradation and smut and violence and somehow protect our children from being exposed to this too early – if at all? Who is the “they” who allow these evils to be so readily accessible and how can we make them stop? How do we instill in our children morals and values and more importantly, how do we get them to stick so when they’re faced with the bad in the world they can turn and walk the other way? HOW???

I'm befuddled beyond belief and don’t have the answer. I don’t think I’m a bad parent. I’ve done everything I can to raise my children in a proper, Godly way and I feel as if it is being stripped from me every single day. I feel powerless and hopeless. I feel as if I am on a constant, fruitless and desperate search for the smallest sliver of goodness pie in society that I can go and curl up in with my kids all safe and sound. 

That sliver of pie exists for some – I don’t know how, but it does. You families are the lucky ones. For others, even the BEST of parents, the outcome is not as optimistic, especially if your child has been exposed. If he or she has, it’s like a virus that spreads like a flesh-eating bacteria. Unfortunately, this parent with the best of intentions and the defensive nature of a momma grizzly bear can do nothing but  stand by with a bowl of chicken noodle soup and some Band-Aids and hope that someone comes up with a cure before it’s too late.

3 comments:

  1. You missed all the brutal mob attacks carried out by "teens" over the last couple of years, most recently, in Chicago.

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  2. Unfortunately, society as a whole lost respect for authority years ago & it has been a downward spiral for nearly 50 years. Was it rock & roll that started it? The drug culture of the 60's that continues to be romanticized by Hollywood? Vietnam? Watergate? The rap culture? My father retired from being a high school principal after 25 years in 1993 because he saw society changing and knew it was not for the better. In 1968 & through most of the 70's, when a student was sent to the principal's office my father could reason with the student, impart some homespun wisdom, and send the student home knowing full well the parents (plural) would "take care of it". He did not have an assistant principal or a dean of students to help him. He had parents supporting him, and that's all that was needed. In 1976, he had to decide if a pregnant girl could stay in school or be expelled. The father, yes, the father, of the unborn baby freely admitted to being the father and stood by his pregnant girlfriend and vowed to marry the girl & take care of his family. For that reason, Dad allowed them to stay in school (and they are still married). As years went by a funny thing happened. Former students became parents of current students. When a child was sent to the principals office, they would call their mother who would come to the school & make a profane scene at the expense of my father & the offending teacher who had the nerve to discipline little junior. The parent (singular and almost exclusively female) began taking the student's side and condemning the teachers, principal & school district. The district had to have an attorney on retainer to deal with all the legal threats from parents for perceived sleights & improper handling of a wayward child. Pregnancies became more common & the gossip was always "who is the father" because no one stepped forward and there was more than one possibility. Society had become so lost & repugnant to my father that he retired early and never encouraged his children to follow in his footsteps. And this was 1993!

    Add to all of the above ADD, ADHD, autism, and 20 other affictions that permeate our schools today. My high school now has a principal, two assistant principals, a dean, & four special ed teachers (it used to be one & she taught truly mentally impaired children) because of all these behavioral disorders. That's right, disorder. You know, its what Websters describes as "a term used to denote children with a lack of discipline whose parents suck at parenting but will never admit they are at fault so they give the kid some drugs and blame the school district by threatening legal action".

    So, it all comes back to parenting. A lack of discipline. The lack of a father figure or role model in the home. The courts telling parents "it's not their fault" they suck at parenting. Sure, go ahead, our courts say, remain immature your entire life, be irresponsible & unaccountable for your actions, & for Heaven's sake the world will always revolve around you. Its not your fault.

    Whose fault is it?

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  3. I agree! Years ago I was a Girl Scout leader, now that my former Brownies are teenagers, I take great pride in being the busy body mom that corrects their inappropriate behavior, language and even grammar on line. I'm sure they roll their eyes now, but hopefully they will look back and can recall a few adults who were willing to actually BE adults and cared enough to wade into the tidal wave of social media crap and attempt to set limits.

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