Sunday, November 23, 2008

Come here. Let me judge you.

As many of you know, when growing up, I was far from the perfect child. Certainly I have waxed on about my growing up as a kind of Wednesday Addams/Rhoda Penmark/Bernadette Soubirous hybrid, but here's the thing, seeing that I have been writing a lot about my childhood, I have been thinking about the fact that the world we live in being run by people that we grew up with, (like that icky kid that ate paste that is now the CEO of a Fortune 500 company) I have also become increasingly aware that our world will soon be in the hands of the young people that occupy our schools and malls.
This brings up another quandary. I am curious about a phenom that is slowly picking away at the core of my sanity like the creepy blond kids from "Village of the Damned":
Why is it that some young women go out of their way to sound like they are five years old when they speak?
Aside from the Minnie Mouse pitch that sounds like every statement is a question, they pronounce words in a child like way, like "did dint" instead of "didn't", and if I hear a grown man or woman say "Veggies" one more time, I think I will get violent. (Do they also say "meaties" and "deserties" when describing the foodies they are having for lunchies at the restauranties that they have to use the navies in their SUV-ies to find?)
Like Monsieur Moose always says, I blame the parents. Maybe it is all about the way children are being raised these days.
On CNN today there was a story about the hazards of strollers that are configured so that the child faces away from the person doing the pushing, some neurotic mommy or daddy that studies these things have released a study that says the child suffers developmentally later in life if they have to look out at the big wide world and should only face the caregiver. Hhmm.
In a later non related story, another study says that children are being raised as totally co-dependant neurotics with over sized egos and an inflated sense of self worth that is biting them on the ass as it were, when they enter into said big wide world as young adults.
What ever happened to the time when being ‘mature and independent’ was considered a good thing. You know, back before we insisted on turning our children into perpetual toddlers or overcautious ninnies.

Monsieur Moose related a story about an exchange he witnessed at a high end grocery recently. There was a young father shopping with his 5 year old daughter -that looked like Jabba the Hut with pigtails- who had decided that she was not going any further and was determined to stay put in the breakfast cereal aisle. The father pleaded, "Ell-a, don't you want to go with Daddy to pick some out some cilantro?" making a face like Rene Zellwegger she replied "NO!" The father continued his plea, literally getting on his knees in the aisle, "Ell-a, please come with Daddy, you are the prettiest ballerina in the world, please come with daddy to choose some cilantro..." "Are there frogs?" she bartered. "I don't know Ell-a, but wont you come with Daddy?" "I WON'T!" "Ell-a, please? You are the best ballerina in the whole world, you are the prettiest ballerina in the world, please, please, please?" Her final words were "Only if there are frogs..." At that point Monsieur Moose said he left as quickly as you do exiting a dentist office- after swishing and spitting I assume.

As you know, I move in many circles, the high and low-brow are familiar territories to your dear le Cornichon, but the strange world of children are a mystery to me and until very recently I rarely even noticed kids unless they were screaming at the top of their lungs in a public setting, but here is a story about a recent experience involving this curious realm of Kinder.

A couple days ago, I was giving the 12 year old son of a couple friend of mine a ride home from a trip to the National Gallery. As some of my fellow art lovers wanted to grab a late lunch, I decided to op-out and much to the delight of his two daddies-the Bobs- I agreed to drop off young Halston on my way home. Upon arriving in the parking lot and seeing my sporty two seater waiting for us, he stopped short. “Uh…where will I sit?” he asked. “Up front,” I answered, “That is, unless you prefer to ride in the boot.” “But what about the airbags?” he questioned further. “Don’t worry,” I chided gently, “I’ll disable the airbags.” “Don’t you…think it’s a bit dangerous to let a child ride up front like that?”

It took me a second to realize that he was, indeed, referring to himself as the child. But that wasn’t even the part that really got to me. What really set me on edge was that I was standing with a 12 year old young man, no more than 2 inches shorter than me, who, although he could speak three languages and was smart as a whip, was honestly and sincerely scared of riding in the front seat of a car. When I was a wee misanthropic tot, riding in the front seat was a damn badge of honor! Even worse than that, he’s not all that abnormal. I look around me and all I see are droves of frightened kids. Ten year olds who have not yet worked up the nerve to get on a bicycle, teenagers who have never gone swimming, 5 year olds who refuse to even wipe themselves for the fear of germs touching their perfectly sanitized hands. When did childhood become so terrifying? When did growing up get so scary?

This summer, I took a wildlife appreciation trip with a group of outdoorsy types. We were in a gated resort at a site no more than 500 feet from a playground.
As I sat chattting with a young lady who was watching over a friend's daughter, a bored little girl, who looked about 8, that dawdled by a picnic table.
“Why don’t you go over to the playground?” her Mom's friend suggested.
The little girl cast a withering glare.
“Why not head over there and play with the kids?”
Without an adult?” Holy Christ.
“We’re going to be right here. We can see you from here and you’ll be able to see us.”
I don’t want to.” “Why not? Don’t you want to play with the other kids?”
How would I even make friends?”
At that point I piped in, “It couldn't be easier dear, the same way you make friends any other time. You just go up, introduce yourself, and ask them to play.” That little girl looked at me like I was the stupidest person in the world. “I never do that. My Mom does that for me.” “Are you kidding me?” I asked. She shook her head vehemently in reply.

So I watched as my friend walked her to the park and realized that she was absolutely right. That playground was jammed packed full of overprotective Moms leading nerve wracked children over to other nerve wracked children, introducing the nearly silent kids to each other as they struggled to hide behind Mommy’s legs, choosing a game for everyone to play, and in some cases, even sticking around to make sure everyone was ‘playing nicely.’
Stricken with a feeling of unbelief, filled with astonishment and perplexity, I couldn't finish my martini.

It’s no wonder why there are so many teenagers and young adults with a severe lack of social skills. Growing up, no one gave them the chance to practice. Back in my day, you either worked up the courage to ask another kid to play or you played alone. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for most of us to become first class schmoozers. A child has a statistically better shot at being struck by lightning than he has of being kidnapped. Yet, I’ve heard of some kids who have had the stranger danger mantra cripple them so completely it’s highly doubtful they’d let a fireman pull them out a burning building! I’ve met children who fear bears, tornadoes, and going to hell. They’re afraid of falling down, getting an infection, burning to death and drowning. They’re afraid to hike in the woods, build a tree house, or ride their bike around the block. They won’t go in water above their bellybuttons, they won’t go on a roller coaster, and they won’t introduce themselves to another kid their age. They can’t use a butter knife, they’re not allowed to stir something sitting on the stove and most of them can’t even play alone in their own backyards. Yet, we seem surprised when they turn out neurotic, antisocial, co-dependent, whiny little babies far into adulthood. What can you expect after experiencing a childhood of near constant fear mongering? Listen, it’s a good thing to teach your kid to wear his seat belt and caution him against doing anything overly reckless. But when you overdue it to the extent the kid won’t even get in the fucking car, you’re doing more harm than good. We should be easing our child’s fears, not instigating them. Ultimately, the goal of parenting is to raise confident, independent, well rounded adults. How can you possibly accomplish that when your parental caution turns into downright hysterics and your frightened children decide to opt out of growing up completely? I’m sorry, but no one raised a ‘mature and independent’ child by inadvertently scaring the shit out of them.
AND dont even get me started on another interesting parenting phenomenon: The creation of the Best Friend Parent. You can normally find the Best Friend Parent cleaning her child’s room while bragging on the phone to her friends that her daughter tells her everything. Her daughter can be found behind a shed at the city park getting pearl necklaces from half the school football team while simultaneously chugging from a bottle of cheap vodka. But hey! At least she can toke up with her Mother later and discuss the experience! After all, they have that kind of a relationship.
That being said- support your local Girl scout troop.
The Thin Mint!
1/4 oz Bailey's Irish cream
1/4 oz Kahlua coffee liqueur
1/4 oz Dr. McGillicutty's peppermint schnapps
1/4 oz creme de menthe
1 splash Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
Pour ingredients into shaker 1/2 full of ice, shake well and strain. (for an added taste sensation, makes a perfect companion to Freakies cereal!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My cousin teaches at a private school in Cleveland. They actually moved the start time from 8AM to 8:30AM because "it's too hard for the kids to get up that early". I'm sure their employers will let them start their jobs later if they want to!

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