Monday, November 25, 2013

Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard

Today, as Isaiah was talking a mile a minute in the car, I told him that when I was a kid, adults used to say that children should be seen and not heard.

Think about that for a moment. The huge difference between being a kid in 1983 and 2013. Not to put too fine a point on it, in 1983 kids were expected to entertain themselves and stay out of trouble. It wasn't just us kids that parents didn't want to hear from. They didn't want the school calling home, they didn't want notices from the library, they kind of just wanted to have a kid to dress up and show off at the holidays, and to sit down and shut up the rest of the time. There was none of this open up and share your feelings shit. Your parents did NOT want to hear it. If you broke up with your boyfriend and lay across your bed sobbing, they didn't validate your feelings and build you back up until you were in a better place emotionally. They told you to keep it down in there.

My uncle Sol would respond to emotional turmoil (or any turmoil, really) by saying, "By the time you get married, it'll be all healed." He said that for skinned knees, too.

When I was a teenager, my mother was horrified - yes, horrified is a good word for this - to find out that I'd had sex. Of course, sex was never, ever discussed prior to that day. When my mother found out I was taking birth control (courtesy of my grandmother insisting we visit Planned Parenthood) she freaked out, when maybe, just maybe, she should have said that if you're going to do it anyway (and I was) that it's important to protect yourself from more than just pregnancy.

Today my son brought home an assignment from his health class, asking students and parents to discuss appropriate ways to show affection, whether it's ok to have sex with someone you plan to marry, and how to prevent HIV. So we discussed, in both a clinical and (what I hope was) a realistic way. When my mother found out we'd had sex ed in 8th grade, all she said was, "Don't have sex." Oh well, I guess now I won't. Said no one ever.

It's amazing we didn't come out to be a generation of terribly emotionally stunted people. We were expected to not have any emotions or relationships until we left home, and then we were expected to embark on healthy relationships as functioning adults. Ha! Now parents are the extreme polar opposite, they want to be right smack in the middle of everything their kids do. It's as if they forgot how to parent and think they're simply older friendly type people who share a dwelling with these kids. Parents who think it's ok to accompany their kids to job interviews, and write letters to college admissions departments because little Susie deserves that spot even though she's only got a 2.3 GPA.

Wait a minute. Maybe instead of teaching us to be emotionally dead, or at least emotionally quiet, our parents were inadvertently teaching us the beauty of self sufficiency. You didn't get the part in the play because someone was better than you, now suck it up, kid. That made us suck it up and try harder next time. They sure as shit weren't writing letters to school administrators on our behalf. (See paragraph one, they didn't want to hear from those people, so they weren't exactly initiating communication) We had to do it ourselves.

Back there in the car, when I tell Isaiah that according to my parents' generation, children should be seen and not heard, he immediately told me that idea was woefully outdated. He said, "It's not the 80s!" and then he rolled down the window and screamed at the people on the street, "I am Isaiah! And I will be heard!"

Fuck yeah, kid.

No comments: