Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Second Childhood


I spend a lot of time thinking about the past.

Mostly, I think about what I did wrong, although I do take the time occasionally to remember my successes. Whether it's failing to apply myself in school and in sports, or missing out on boning that fine sister in college, I think a lot about my personal failures. I wonder what my life would look like now if I had the chance to relive life with my current wisdom.

I often long for a second childhood.

It's funny how time dulls all wounds. I say that because I read something recently that reminded me that childhood was no paradise. This piece perfectly describes how vicious children can be. Children seem to thrive on the pain of others, and it's easy to forget how sharp that pain felt as the years go by.

It's good to remember the bad times.

Pain can teach as well as wound. The lessons I've learned from the bullying I endured and that the bullying I dished out have taught me a lot about group behavior and morality. Without that pain and shame, would I have the wisdom that I have today? If I went back and erased all the mistakes in my life, what kind of man would that make me?

Like many of you, I'm raising childred. Miniature people completely dependent on me to protect and provide for them. I'm sure every parent has been struck by the awesome nature of this responsibility, but for me it's particularly enticing.

For someone who spends so much time considering his mistakes, it seems like an unbelievable boon to have children to shape and mold. It's almost like an opportunity to relive my life, to correct my mistakes, to accomplish all of my goals.

But, it's not.

I'm convinced that no matter how hard I try, I can't protect my children from the world. Nor can I truly protect the world from my children and their inner cruelty. Inevitably, my children will be hurt and they will hurt others. So, I ask myself, how much can I do, and how much should I do to guide their lives?

How far should any of us go to improve our children? When does guidance cross the line into control? Is control really a bad thing when it comes to children? How do you raise an intelligent, sensitive child in a world where intelligence and sensitivity are the blood that shark-minded children converge upon?

How can you equip your children to handle the wolves without turning them into a wolves?

These are the questions I ask myself when I look into my little boy's brown eyes and when I pat my wife's rapidly growing stomach. I've been given an incredible gift, but stories like the one I linked to tell me that gift is a crushing responsibility as well.

If my children are a continuation of my life, but how do I give them their own?

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13 comments:

Lolo said...

It's a sometimes terrifying feat to send your children out into the world of other peoples' children. To entrust their safety and wellbeing to other adults is an exercise in denial, at times.

I know, overly dramatic but that piece yanked me straight back to my childhood and reminded me of the ongoing challenges of parenthood. My son is 14 and even now I learn of things that happened to him in elementary school that make me cringe and tear up.

He's a compassionate and intuitive child and yet he's learned to try and be invisible whenever possible. When that isn't an option he's learned to deliver the bigger verbal beatdown or to take a punch without crying and then to deliver his own. I do my best to help him hang on to his natural kindness for the years ahead but good lord, it's tough.

Big Man said...

Natural kindness is the first thing kids learn to despise.

Seriously, there is really no benefit to be nice in most public schools. I don't know about private schools because I never attended one. That's my biggest concern. I want my son to be tough enough to survive, but I don't want to turn him into a little monster that torments other kids and makes them dread their lives.

Salsa said...

Plant the best seeds in your children and eventually those seeds will germinate and take root and grow strong. And learn to relax there is something greater than ourselves that help us along.

Salsa said...
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Salsa said...
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Rob said...

My wife and I are both teachers. Two years ago, my wife was Teacher of the Year at the #1 elementary school in our county, which is one of the top ranked school systems in the state of FL. The school is located in one of the most affluent areas in the county, and although we didn't live in that area (I don't golf, so I couldn't justify spending $100,000 more on a house just to pay $1800 a year in HOA fees), our children attended that school (school employees can enroll their kids in any school, no matter the zoning) and were certainly receiving excellent academic instruction, but were both the only Black kids in their classes. My son was 7 at the time (2nd grade) and not only a top student, but also a great athlete. Boys have a tendency to respect that-- talking trash can get your butt beat. My daughter was 5 and in kindergarten. She was also a top student and great athlete, but little girls don't care about that. Instead, first they began questioning why she wore something this week that she wore last week (yep, 5 years old), then why she didn't live in Eagle Harbor like them, and finally, when nothing else bothered her, one particularly annoying little snot told my daughter that her best friend had formed a club, but my daughter couldn't be in it because she was Black. My daughter didn't tell us or the teacher, but instead told my son. To his credit, he didn't threaten to beat the little brats (I wouldn't have minded), but in wisdom well beyond his years, told her "If that's what they say, then they're not really your friends." The next year, my wife transferred to another school, and we're all happier for it.

I can't shield my kids from all the ugliness of the world, but my kids shouldn't have to deal with that kind of pettiness so early in life.

Big Man said...

Rob

Your story, like the one on Racialicious, is the kind of thing that is scary.

I understand that children will deal with teasing, but sometimes I'm shocked at how it affects them and how unwilling they are to talk about it.

Looking back, I realize that I was targeted for teasing quite a bit, but thanks be to God that it didn't seem to really take root. Sure, I was hurt, and I cried and fought, but I don't know if I have those lasting scars that some people have. When I really think about it, I'd have to say that's probably because while I was an outcast in some ways, I also had a lot of skills that allowed me to fit in to a certain degree. Plus, when things got too heavy, I could just retreat into the fantasy world of books and be fine. Books are amazing like that.

Deacon Blue said...

I kept debating whether to post a comment, and I think in the end I don't have much to say. Going through an interesting and rough phase with Little Girl Blue.

She's great at daycare with the kids and the teachers. She's usually great with people we run into in the outside world. She seems able to take care of herself, even though she does complain to us indignantly about slights she experience in preschool daycare...etc.

But she's really working the nerves on me and Mrs. Blue with "in the house behavior" so I don't know that I have much wisdom to pass on until I can get things tied down myself.
;-)

Big Man said...

Deac

The Little Big Man is going through a tough phase as well. I just learned from my wife that he's started trying to hit her when he's angry and kick as well when she picks him up. Of course, she's pregnant, so that's a dangerous situation as well as being unacceptable defiance. He doesn't go that far with me, in fact he's typically pretty well behaved. But, I have noticed signs that he is testing limits.

Deacon Blue said...

Oh, dear Lord, the kicking...

Yes.

Popular tactic here as well. As my already effed-up knees can attest...

Deacon Blue said...

Oh, dear Lord, the kicking...

Yes.

Popular tactic here as well. As my already effed-up knees can attest...

Tit for Tat said...

You know its interesting, as boys/men there is a need to know that we can defend ourselves and our loved ones. If there is doubt in that regard usually insecurity is soon to follow. I believe it important to know how to fight and be strong enough to endure the pain. In the end I believe that knowledge allows you to be "nice" and indirectly informs others not to f... with you.

There are 2 motivating factors in life. The pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Take a guess which one is the better motivator. ;)

Raving Black Lunatic