Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Accessorized with Children

Michelle and Will asked me to keep Madisyn tonight while they went to pick up their new puppy Bella. I was super excited that they asked me because I hadn't seen Madisyn since her mommy and Mr. Will's wedding, and I was ready for some girl time. I decided to take her to a 'big girl restaurant' (as opposed to McDonalds or Chick-fil-A), so we went to Zios. Maddy was on her best behavior, and hammed it up for our waiter. We both had a fabulous time talking, laughing, and playing the games on her kids' menu. After an evening like this, NO ONE could deny that hanging out with a 5 year is flat out fun.

However, as I looked around the restaurant, my heart broke. The true state of our society was screaming out around the blissful little world Maddy and I had created for ourselves. Parents were out with their children, which is a start, but those children were completely unengaged in the real world. Many of the children, younger than Madisyn's 5 years, were entralled in various hand held electronic devices, oblivious to the presence of their parents and siblings. Lots of the parents were talking with each other, but many were completely silent. I was astounded at the scenes unfolding before me. It was blantantly obvious that these parents were too tired, busy, or otherwise preoccupied to be bothered by their children.

While I am the last person in the world to want to be a mother, I desperately try to connect with the children around me. I'm very aware that they are a gift to me, and that my time with them is special and fleeting. I want to pour into them and allow them to pour into me in the few brief moments I am blessed to share with the children in my life. The appalling behavior I witnessed tonight was further proof of what so many of us teachers have been seeing for years: the lack of parent involvement in a child's life has serious ramifactions academically, socially, and emotionally. These are the children that will grow up to be like "Chicago's" Roxy Hart, claiming she just wasn't loved enough as a child, which led her to commit murder. These children are so attached to the electronics they have that real relationships with true commitment seem foreign to them. Their imaginations are so limited because no one engages them in creative play or conversation frequently enough to allow their God-given innocence to flourish. Instead, it's replaced with the harsh reality of telelvision and video games, leaving educators and other reality based adults desperate to find a meaningful way to allow these children an escape back into childhood.

As I looked around me tonight, and vented my frustrations to Michelle when she returned home, we both commented on how often couples have children because it seems to be the thing to do. In Clear Lake especially, having a child is just like having the newest Coach purse, Lexus vehicle, or Gucci shoes; it's the popular, hip thing to do. It makes me want to scream, "STOP!" at the top of my lungs. There are children underprivileged and starving all around the world; we don't need emotional neglect added to the list of social ills that the world's children face on a daily basis. Children aren't accessories; they're people. They need love and emotional nourishment with a huge dose of creativity. They need to be allowed to be children, not pets or things. Lord Jesus, release this nation from its selfish ways; turn us to You and keep us from the desire to 'one-up' the neighbors!

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