Children Matter, Families Matter, Home Matters
Our children need more love, security and stability than many in our nation are willing to give
I grew up in a household with several rifles and shotguns. I learned to use a rifle at a young age. I was also taught gun safety in a rather rigorous fashion by my Daddy.
I’ve never been a gun hobbyist, and I never felt like jumping on the gun control band wagon. And while I understand and sympathize with the fear that drives students to demand school safety, I don’t for a minute think that gun control will stop the killing. It can’t, because it doesn’t address the things that are creating and driving the killers.
Here’s the problem: We have, for several generations, treated our children like baggage we stow wherever we can to free ourselves so that we can get back to the real business of our existence. The focus of our lives isn’t our faith, family and homes. Our lives are devoured by a constant push to get and spend.
Wordsworth said it with a poet’s tongue: In getting and spending we lay waste our powers … We give our hearts away, a sordid boon!
Christ the Lord said it with blunt authority; You cannot serve both God and Mammon.
I would add that if a society is built, as ours is, on the inhuman values of getting, spending and serving mammon, that society cannot avoid destroying large numbers of its children. Let’s consider for a moment what that means from a kid’s-eye-view.
Too often, children today spend their days in impersonal, regimented environments where they are just one of many children being cared for by people who don’t love them.
They are taught to conform to group behavior before they develop their individual sense of self and their own interests.
We have expunged play from our children’s lives. They never, from the time they are born, have time for simple, puttering, self-discovering, self-actualizing play.
They have very little or no opportunity to just be with other children in free, healthy playtime and fantasy. Even their recreation is adult-oriented and managed.
Instead of tossing a ball around with other kids, children today are driven by their parents to soccer or Little League, complete with uniforms, adult coaches and a schedule of games. The parents sit and watch while the babies compete in what is, once again, a regimented job of work rather than free and joyous play.
The single salient point in all this is that children’s lives are never their own. They are always, from their birth onward, objects to be acted upon and pushed into conformity to a particular shape and way of being that is oriented toward pleasing other people in the name of “success.”
Children who can’t march in step are trampled underfoot in a process of ongoing failure, humiliation and alienation that begins when they are as young as three or four.
A critical secondary component is that today’s children spend almost all their growing up with people who don’t love them. No matter how dedicated a teacher or a day care worker may be, they have lots of children to manage, and they can't love them in the way a parent loves.
Our kids, from the start of their existence, live over-regimented, impersonal and limited lives that do not resemble true childhood. At the same time, many kids end up staying home alone from the time they are very little. Older kids care for younger kids. Far too many of our children are raising themselves and one another. The only real “guidance” they get comes from other kids.
Anyone who has read The Lord of the Flies knows how that ends. All you have to do is watch the news to see the result of the sadism that children practice on one another and the indifferent way that our institutions allow it to go on. Kids turn to one another because they don’t have parents to turn to instead.
On top of this, mom and dad are often divorced and at war with one another. Even worse, a lot of times there is no dad, not even an absentee dad. Many children today don’t even know who their fathers are.
Single parents behave like adolescents themselves with their revolving beds and ongoing dramas about dating. Add a heavy dose of drugs and alcohol on top of that, and you have kids who are not only raising themselves, but they have to act as their parents’ confidants, support and caretakers.
We have reached the tipping point where second-generation abused children who grew up in this environment are now attempting to raise children of their own. They have no idea how to do it.
They didn’t experience a childhood of their own, never knew the security of a stable home life, and were put through the sausage factory themselves. They can’t give what they can’t imagine, and they cannot imagine what real family, stable home life and actual childhood are.
Our solution for this is to ignore it. We ignore how fractured and crazy people are becoming. We ignore that our children bully, molest, assault, batter, abuse and torture one another. We ignore the suicides, rapes, abortions, unwed births, constant lying, sexual assault and hysteria of our young.
The only thing that focuses our attention, albeit for a few days at a time, is a mass shooting in one of our schools.
But even that superficial level of concern doesn’t last. In our increasingly fractured society with its 24/7 news cycle, we lose interest in the most recent school shooting in a week or so and switch to the next thing.
Meanwhile, the damage to our children continues.
In all our ignoring, the most important thing we ignore is that children matter. Families matter. Home matters.
We’ve forgotten that. We do our best to rewrite reality with pithy little quips about how “tough” children are. But children are vulnerable. Children are helpless. Children need love, security and stability the same way that plants need good soil, sunlight and water.
We like to say that children are our future. But along with all our ignoring, we tend to ignore the simple fact that they really are.