Today, it was an 8 year old boy, waiting patiently in line. Each day during this summer enrichment program, we begin with a word of the day, usually one the children know. Then there are directions to alter the word by dropping and adding letters or rhyming it or bringing another word into focus for them to guess through the directions. The young lad jittered holding his paper to show me his “Word of the Day” – CRAWL – with his very own design and sentence in addition to the guessed word from the same ‘word family’ with its design and sentence. As his turn finally arrived, he informed me that he didn’t have to use the dictionary to find the definition of the new word… already knew it. The word from the same “word family”, he assured me, was BRAWL, which means a fight that is out of control. I turned my head quizzically and asked, so who would ‘brawl’. His answer came rather competently as he described some of his pastimes, engaging me on Day Two of a Q&A period with yet another 8 year old.
“Well,” he mused, “I have a videogame…Super Mario Brawl…”
“Really? How does it work?”, I questioned.
“Well,” he continued quite proudly of himself, “you brawl against others and for every life you take you get points. The more lives you take, the more points you get and you win.”
As if by an instantaneous flash of consciousness, I realized that I am an old woman whose vision cannot be clouded over by the latest of inventions or popular trends. I see things so very much differently from the children, and I daresay from many parents who find these trends ‘just a part of growing up’.
And now as I write, my mind races back to my college days when I watched school children at a large playground facility in my town. We had taken a bus trip full of kids and a few parent chaperones to a local pond where a small park and swimming were available to the public. It was an affordable jaunt and adventure for a day. One young boy, probably the age of 8 as well, used a wooden branch and seemed to be playing baseball with whatever he was able to find with some of his friends. As I approached the little gang of five, I unsettlingly discovered that what they were using as ‘baseballs’ were live frogs. The apparent lack of reality as to the harm and desecration of life that this youngster performed left me no choice but to summon his mother, a chaperone on the trip. Her answer to me gave me a sickening feeling in the bowels of my belly, worse than the . carefree ignorance of her son, “Oh….boys will be boys!” The words were spoken, I recall, as if I were the ignorant one. One who just didn’t understand the “normal” behavior patterns of children growing into little adolescents with all their quirks. It didn’t seem to matter to this mother that her son was destroying life and finding pleasure in the destruction, the harm and the abuse…it was something, in her view, that was quite normal and part of the pattern to maturity.
Instead, I see this boy now before me as one of an infinite sea of youth with the same convoluted view of enjoyment, entertainment and winning. I see many caregivers still as clueless today as they were yesterday in seeing the differences in moral and ethical upbringing. And as I watch a world wonder why, as they turn away or turn the channel or refuse to see the wrong in the injustices they themselves perpetrate, I ask myself a number of questions that desperately need answering…and soon.