My youngest is reaching that age. That age where she is realizing what a broken world we live in.
I remember when my eldest reached that age, and it was kind of a sad thing to watch. Of course, she has such anxiety issues that my biggest concern was that the realization would cripple her with fear. The youngest isn't necessarily experiencing anxiety -- just distress and disappointment.
It is disappointing, isn't it? When you've grown up in a safe, loving home and the only bad guys are pretend people on TV and in the movies who all either get their dues or come around to the good side in the end, it's a bummer to find out that bad guys are real. And they sometimes flourish. And they sometimes hurt the good guys in big ways. And they sometimes go to your school. Live in your neighborhood. Even in your house.
And it's distressing to find out that even when you are a good guy and do all the right things, you are going to suffer. Everyone suffers in some way in their lives. Sometimes it's the consequence of our own wrongdoing, sometimes it's the backsplash from someone else's wrongdoing, and sometimes it is just a seemingly random thing . . . cancer is no respecter of persons.
As I write this, a couple friends come to mind -- friends who I know simply dote on their children and cry with every milestone that comes along to remind them that these younger years are moving swiftly. They have made every effort to shelter their children from any evidence of evil or suffering in the world, because they see the childhood years as an idyllic time to be innocent and carefree. And I think most of us have that image of childhood in mind (although these moms take it a bit to extremes). Santa Claus, lollipops, playgrounds, toys, friends, happy, happy, happy . . . this is what childhood is supposed to be.
Only maybe it's not.
I fear that we might -- just might -- be doing a grave disservice to our kids by protecting them so much from the harsh realities of the world. I wonder if maybe -- just maybe -- reality coming as such a shock is a sign that we have totally failed to prepare them for reality. And perhaps -- just perhaps -- that was our job as parents after all.
When I taught honors sophomore English, I noticed that I had two types of students. One type believed that if they worked their butts off now, when they were young, they'd be able to get a good job later, make a lot of money, and then they could relax, have fun, and enjoy life. The other type were convinced that when they grew up and got jobs, life would be nothing but miserable hard work, so they needed to enjoy themselves now, in their youth, while they had the chance.
It was hard for me to convince them that they needed to learn to balance both the work and stress AND the rest and fun because life -- all of their life from now until the day they die -- consists of both.
Both pain and fun. Both suffering and joy. Both evil and good. Like learning to control both of the wayward water skis strapped to our feet that want to run in separate directions, we need to learn to stand on both extremes and continue to stand.
And maybe -- just maybe -- the reason we do such a lousy job of teaching our kids how to do this is because we do such a lousy job of it ourselves.