May 9, 2006

Zoo Story: Kids In, Out and Under Control

Saturday Larry took me to the zoo. (Read Larry's Zoo Story) What a great idea, we thought. Several animals had given birth to babies, and it would be fun to see the cute cuddly infants.

Well this was true and not so true. For one thing, some of the “babies” were over a year old. Like the tiger twins who were born in June of 2005. Still they were adorable, and the way they playfully knocked each other around like caroms, reminded us of how fun kids can be.

The human kids on display weren’t nearly so adorable. And they weren’t locked up in cages either. We were appalled at the behavior of so many of them. Screaming, throwing tantrums. I actually watched a four year old hitting his mother over and over and over. And over, with his stuffed animal: I WANT POPCORN! NOW NOW NOW! Fortunately, most of the parents knew to discipline their kids and teach them it’s not acceptable behavior. Wait, that’s the show Super Nanny. Here at the zoo the parents were letting their kids wreak havoc on them. Hey keep it at home.

I’m not a parent, so I can’t judge how hard it is to be one. But I can make a fair assessment of what I’ve observed in public. And it’s awful. I’ve seen it in department stores, from Robinsons May to Ross. The other weekend I trying on a shirt, when over the dressing room stall came the piercing sound of a Hispanic kid, screaming bloody murder at his mom. I peeked out to see four women in the hallway, chatting away, doing nothing to stop him. He stopped for a moment to see if they’d react, and then went on. He was working it. But the women did nothing. Finally I yelled over my stall, “SILENCIO, POR FAVOR!!!” I heard whispers and giggles. And more screaming. I should have yelled was, “Alguien da eso hijo una TIT!” Someone give that kid a tit.” Ay caramba. No wonder our prisons are filling up. No wonder the Kenneth Lays and Jack Abramoffs of the world violate the law with no compunction. No one has boundaries any more.

Why are parents afraid to discipline their children? Are they afraid of hurting them? Or are they so insecure, they can’t risk losing the approval of their own children?

My sister and her husband seem to be doing a great job with their four children. They’re strict with them. They make the rules clear. When the kids disobey they get warnings, and then they get punished. They also get rewards, and they get a lot of reminders of how much they are loved. My brother in law makes a point to do a one-on-one activity with each of his kids. They feel special. I’m really amazed at how well they’re doing.

But the oldest is only 12. What’s it going to be like when they all reach puberty?

Nancy and Phill home school their kids. Or rather, Phill goes to work and Nancy exhausts herself trying to teach four kids under the age of 12. I wouldn’t be so worried, except that they’ve come under the influence of this couple, Michael and Debi Pearl, an Amish looking couple who are big on discipline and spanking, girls staying at home and not going to college; men cut their hair but not their beards. Girls never cut their hair and God forbid they wear pants. Debi cites some verse in Leviticus that for a man to dress in women’s clothing is an abomination unto the Lord, and for a woman to dress like a man is an abomination that causes desolation or whatever.

Okay yeah, most conservative faiths have a problem with cross dressing or drag. I gotta admit, most drag queens or kings make me feel sad for them and icked out. But there’s a big different between trying to be a man and wearing a pair of jeans to the supermarket. And what about Scotsmen and kilts? What about those white wigs that the british barristers still wear to court? Indian women wear saris and pants under them. "The only cultures where women wore pants were the Eastern ones," Debi Perl says, as if they're already condemned pagans and the trousers are the reason.

My brother in law has already said his daughters won't date. They can be courted, and they'll have to be chaperoned.
What about going to the movies?
Oh, they won't do that either.

Phill's also said he doesn't believe his daughters should live out from under his roof until they get married. They need to be protected. They're my responsibility, I'm their covering.

This kind of thinking was normal in 1850. But this is the world my nieces and nephews are growing up in right now in 2006. Maybe they’ll pass right on into it. Maybe Emily will get married at 16 and start having babies at 17. Maybe Emily will want that life. She sure is good with kids, and she’s very mothering. But maybe that’s because it’s the only thing she’s been modeled. There are plenty of cultures who do that. Including the Hispanic cultures right here in LA. Who are we to say what’s the acceptable time to get on with life? I can’t help but think of Emily in Paris, learning to make crepes. As of today, it’ll never happen. Unless her father goes with her.

I’m not a parent, I can’t judge what it’s like to take on that job. But I am qualified to report what I see. And right now, all I see are two polar opposites:, out of control barbaric kids, or happy obedient kids with a narrow of acceptable behavior.

I realize our culture is out of control. Way out of control. Not just spoiled kids. But just go to the supermarket and the check out lines are littered with gossip magazines about Heather and Denise's war over Richie. Charlie Sheen's prostitution addiction. Go to 7-11 and the check out desk is papered with porn magazines disgused as "for men."

It's sad. It's really tragic. Kids can't grow up with any sense of innocence. Nothing is pure or good anymore. Make all sex OK, make it accessible and all OK, and nothign has any preciousness. Flood the jewelry market with diamonds and diamonds won't be worth anything. Plaster us with any and every kind of sexual pleasure. Nothing is bad any more. Well then nothing is good either. Nothing is special. Nothing is pure. It's like the artist squeezed out all his tubes of paint and made one big blob of gray.

What a sad, empty, valueless world.

I understand exactly why my sister and her family have retreated from modern American culture. But maybe God wants us out in this world, this culture. God loved the world he created. Doesn't he? Shouldn't we be out in this world, loving people, modeling a different way? and not having to put on a bonnet to do it?

I heard about this church in Vegas, where strippers are welcome. The pastor just wants them to know they're loved by Jesus. Maybe the girls don't leave their jobs right away. Maybe they never do. But isn't that first step knowing you're loved?

On a ligher note: Larry did get assaulted at the zoo, not by a human, but by a Peacock. Either he was challenging him to a duel, or trying to come onto him. Oh no, a gay peacock. The end is surely near.

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