Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Evil in the News–and parenting fears


Lots of fodder for the ‘what if I screw it up’ fears, of late… between drug addicts eating other people to narcissists killing kittens and people for fun and fame… what lovely texture to give to a parent’s nightmares of ‘how bad it can go wrong.’

I will never suggest that the fears are irrational: clearly, these charming individuals exist, and clearly at some point they had parents.

Whatever could go so  wrong that the adult product is so much of a mess?

In a lecture given by Dr. Gordon Neufeld, he describes a cultural problem that most people are not even aware is a problem –the generation of children who are not being invited into the generation of adults. While it’s new (he speculates 1960s) and radically different from all that’s come before, it’s already something that most parents feel is normal. How quickly social change becomes normal is astonishing. Two generations, and a completely new way of being in the world is ordinary and old. Today, it’s perfectly ordinary to assume the children will be happier among ‘their own kind’ and routine advice that adults ensure they have child-free time to themselves, to do the real things of real life, uninterrupted by the inconveniences and irrelevancies of childhood.

I noticed a long time ago that the people who spent the most time away from their children during the week were the same people with long lists of babysitters and child-only activities for the evenings and weekends and school breaks –something about not being around children most of the day seems to destroy a parent’s confidence? willingness? ability? their naturally-bonded desire to spend time with their children.

Dr. Neufeld’s point is that these are children growing up attached to their peers –they look to their peers for ‘how to be people’ and are virtually uninfluencable by the adults who a mere half century ago would have been the guiding stars of their lives, who they strove to be like and to be accepted by.

Today, when the charming youngsters, like Luka Magnotta and Karla Homolka are learning from each other’s company ‘how to be human,’ you can readily see what the core problem is.

It’s long been known that factors like unwantedness (just the fact that a child was unexpected and unwanted), single parenthood, unwed mothers, absentee fathers, poverty … it’s long been known that these are linked in much higher numbers to anti-social youths, and violent crime.

Today, we have ‘nice families’ producing the monsters of tomorrow, within stable and often wealthy wedlock, where the children were often not only wanted but sought after with tens of thousands of dollars worth of fertility treatments and international adoptions… and the chain that links these kids with the poor, inner-city teenage mothers of the past is peer attachment.

The child born of a 16 year old mother is not guaranteed to be raised without attachment to the adults in the world, in fact, that child may have far more stable collection of caring adults who stay close and care deeply about how the child lives than many children who move from suburb to suburb, with upwardly mobile (wealthy) parents –and a long chain of strangers providing daycare and education and sports coaching for the vast majority of their days.

Children need to know that they are cared for by the important adults in their world –parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents–so that their primary concern as they grow up is that they fit in with them, not whether or not they ‘fit in’ with kids like Karla and Luka…