“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” ~ Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
When I was younger, I hated it when older folks would say “when we were younger, we didn’t do that or we behaved better or this or that.” It used to irritate me no end. “Times have changed and they should accept that,” my fifteen year old self would think to herself while she politely smiled and didn’t say a word.
Over a decade later, how ironic that I find myself doing the same even before I have even hit the age of 30. Am I the only one who thinks children are becoming aware of their own sexuality and being desensitized to sexual acts a little too early in life? Technology has brought the world closer than my great-grandmother and even my grandmother could have ever imagined. The leaps and bounds in technology in recent times are amazing. But it has brought with it a whole new world that requires parenting skills our grandparents never needed. The world wide web is freely accessible from any number of devices especially cellphones. Almost every child has a cellphone these days. Controlling what they access on their phones is nigh impossible. If they want to access adult content, they will.
In addition to that, there’s the small matter of television. I love me a good series. While watching my newest find, Weeds, which is about a single mum who sells weed to make ends meet after losing her husband unexpectedly, while at the same time trying to deal with her hormonal teenage son and an even younger son with a severe identity crisis and sociopathic tendencies, an interesting realisation dawned on me. Almost every wildly popular series in recent years involves sexual relationships in high school. So much so in fact that I had become desensitised to it. I found myself rooting for the vampire boy and the teenage girl in Vampire Diaries to Hook-up. I found myself silently cheering when the outcast in Jane By Design finally “dates” the hottest girl in the school. In almost every series I have watched that deals with high school, sex is the norm. When did this happen? I hadn’t even noticed the issue until the 15-year-old girl in Weeds says to her boyfriend’s mother, “I am ready. I have made him wait 3 months. I’m 15 years old. I know what sex is about. Even before I had sex with my last boyfriend I was prepared.” Stop the bus! The 15-year-old is sexually savvy. Kill me now.
I can’t even begin to comment on music videos, twerking Mileys, naked Nikkis and blurred lines. You all know what’s out there. The child in the picture could be 10 years old or less and the side of her head is shaved and she is pouting. That is more than a little disturbing. I can’t help but wonder what her parents are thinking. My mother would have saved everyone the trouble of wondering and shaved my whole head. My primary and high school principals would have done the same to me. Any of my mum’s friends would also have done the job for my mum even before she saw my hair. But that was then. Way back then before courts passed judgments allowing 9-12 year olds to engage in sexual activities with each other legally. (Remember my post on The Price of Raising Children in the Diaspora?) It feels like I am behind the times even before I am old enough to be.
Maybe Anne Frank was right when she said “Parents can only give good advice and put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
I am not a parent yet but I can tell you now that our generation will have its work cut out for it in the parenting department. You can’t prevent a child from accessing the internet and you can’t prevent them from watching TV. If we shelter our kids too much they will be sitting ducks, if we don’t…..
I guess the bottomline is we will have to deal with issues directly that our parents could get away with ignoring and we will face issues previous parenting genreations never imagined.