As adults, we may tend to think, What could kids possibly need escape from? After all, the child’s full-time job is going to school and getting good grades.
School and life ain’t what they used to be.
In school, many children encounter bullying, especially if their appearance or behavior is different from what the bully thinks is normal. Because many of us experienced bullying when we were growing up, the tendency is for us to tell the child to accept it, saying “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never hurt you.” The truth of the matter is that words can and do hurt, and in many instances, words can kill. How many times have we heard about a bullied child or bullied adult who decides to take his pain out on another by shooting up anyplace?
There is not a place our kids can turn where sex, violence and bad behavior are not being advertised and, in many instances, celebrated. On every electronic device, on television, on billboards and on magazine covers, visuals are seducing our children to accept what used to be unacceptable. Children practice exit drills in school, just in case someone decides to disrupt their day and their lives, causing mayhem.
Our girls see many women older than them trying to squeeze their size 12 bodies into size 9 clothes, which teaches them to not accept themselves. They long to wear makeup and disguise the beautiful skin they have, in exchange for painted images far more mature. We rush our girls into womanhood before they even know what a woman is.
Our boys think wearing pants that hang down off their backsides with the belt cinched tightly on the hipbones is cool — many not knowing that this idea of sagging came from the incarcerated prisoner who had to find some way to signal to the other prisoners that he was available for a sexual encounter. Our boys hear men in music using foul language to denigrate women and glorifying fast money with minimal work. This music has crossed over into the mainstream and is now constantly heard as background in television commercials and on any given Sunday during football and basketball games.
In the perceived need to fit into the false image of reality our skewed society has given our children, there is pressure. Our children, whose brains have not yet fully developed, have to learn somehow to navigate this minefield we have created and emerge fully functional and responsible. They have to be wary in movie theaters, walking on streets and in the malls, for they never know when someone is going to shoot, start a fight or abduct them. Our children are no longer innocent.
Back in our day, we played. We played hide and go seek, tag and four-square, and as we got older, we sneaked and played spin the bottle. The kids of today do not play. If you ask them to go outside and play, they look at you as if you have lost your mind.
We the adults, the ones in charge, have messed it all up — and we can fix it. Giving our children a soft place to land in an environment of safety, where a listening, nonjudgmental adult allows them to relax, is a good thing.
• Yolande Barial is a Tracy resident and mother. Her column appears monthly in the Tracy Press. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.