When I turned around to look and see who could possibly be talking, he looked directly at me and continued his casual cursing conversation with someone who appeared to be his mother. He appeared to be around 13 years old and was pushing the grocery cart. She was chatting with him as if he were saying “gosh darn it” and walked right around me trying to get her half-gallon of milk out the fridge. I was standing there in the refrigerated section, just listening and looking. Mom was unconcerned.
Another time, I was driving my van and was at a four-way stop sign waiting for three boys to cross on one side of the street and another boy to cross on the other side.
Each of the streets that connected to the stop had a car waiting for these children. The boys were in no hurry, walking slowly, stopping in the middle of the crossing to point and hurl epithets at one another. They were all just adorable — clean-cut little boys, dressed well, at the age where their pants are not sagging yet, backpacks strapped, calling each other the “B” word and talking a lot about who was going to get the you-know-what beat out of them. The ringleader looked directly at me, and me at him, and continued talking trash, even though he knew I could hear him and see him.
I have seen children fighting in church and on the schoolyard. I have heard children use the “N-word” in loud conversation walking in the mall, seen little girls with clothes on so tight you could almost hear the stitches scream “we’re gonna blow!” I have seen boys walking with pants cinched below their butts and so they have to hold on just to make sure the pants don’t fall off; seen young people with tattoos on their necks and faces almost ensuring that they will never be able to get a job where they could receive benefits; seen young people with earrings everywhere; seen children who cannot read or write well enough to complete a conversational phrase without OMG or BTW.
I do not consider myself that old. However, back in my day, children would have never used a curse word in front of an adult, would never continue to use the curse word if an adult were near, would never have been allowed to continue to talk if a curse word were heard, would never have glared at an adult when they looked at them, and would never talk out loud in a public place.
I could go on with all the things that would not have happened back in my day. The real question is: What is wrong with us now?
There a saying that the inmates are running the asylum — in this case, it appears that the children are running adults. Now ain’t that crazy?
I don’t know if it is old-fashioned, if it is my Mississippi upbringing, or if I have just finally become an adult — whatever the case, this nonsense has got to stop. In this time of not squelching our children’s individuality and allowing them to express themselves, I believe we are so close to the precipice that falling off into the abyss is coming real soon.
Let’s take some time and take stock of our future. The children we are raising need guidance, need love, need to express themselves. They also need to understand there is something to respect, that modesty is a virtue, and that the ability to converse without screaming or using profanity is important. And, I would add, there is something to having a spirit of humility.
• Yolande Barial is a Tracy resident and mom. She is among a select group of local residents with columns in the Tracy Press.