Ideally, we want to raise caring and tender children who rightfully grow into wise and smart adults. Unfortunately, the way into adulthood is, and always had been, fraught with predators and disappointment and liars. We prefer to pretend these evil elements are not among us — and within us — and the ability for adults to repress inherent danger in the spinning world is what particularly places children in a purposeful peril.
“Kill Your Parents” was a rallying cry of 1960’s America. We were embroiled in an unpopular war in Vietnam, the world was fighting to change with hope-through-force, and the liberal campus of Columbia University in the City of New York was embroiled in one of it’s worse moments in its history during the Spring of 1968.
There are times when children are right and parents are wrong. We’re so often trained to think that children know nothing when they actually know quite a lot when it comes to their thoughts and feelings. It’s just too easy for parents to overrule their children just because they “say so” and because they’re older and taller and heavier than the kids below them. Sometimes parents need to obey their children.
There is nothing more raw in America — land of amber waves of grain — than when someone goes hungry. When that someone is a child, there is no greater human shame than refusing to feed hungry kids or, even worse, feeding them, and then pulling the food out of their gaping mouths to teach the sin of the parents a lesson.
Life has changed for modern children. When I was growing up in the Midwest, you sought freedom — and if it wasn’t granted with a bicycle, then you found other, more nefarious ways, to run away and play far away from your doorstep.
It isn’t that way any longer. Today, kids are protected and driven and supervised in organized sports and cultural events. There’s no spontaneity now because there’s fear of the unknown and danger in the creative. No sandlot baseball. No football games with self-set boundaries and special scoring. Everything is regulation. There can be no divergence from the norm.
We’re creating a society of young people who are risk-averse and too frightened to set their own agendas and follow their own, unblazed, pathway. Fun is the new mysterious stranger. “Do what you want” is the new monster under the bed.