Saturday, January 23, 2010

The difficult childhood

There has been a new and truly disturbing study in this state, suggesting that abuse of children is far more widespread than has been previously realized--but somewhere along the way 'child abuse' has been expanded to include discipline (ever try to reason with a two year old on a rampage?), sibling rivalry, bullying in the schoolyard, on and on and on. anything and everything that negatively impacts a child's safe cocoon-like existence.

The problem with this kind of viewpoint is that it ignores the realities of kids needing to learn how to deal with life as it's handed out to them. A kid in a large family is going to confront friction, arguments, fistfights and sibling rivalry. They have to learn how to handle it, just as they really have to learn their own way through the treachery of school yard bullies and those teachers who have their own agendas. If we spend all our time laying down cotton wool for kids to walk on, when they finally leave the nest they will have no idea how to function in the real world where people yell, sometimes push back, and will often fire you without considering the damage it might do to your psyche.

If you have ever watched a chick struggling to hatch, you know how hard it is to watch and do nothing, and how hard it is for the chick to hatch. But if you help it along, by making the hole a bit wider, easing the path, what you end up with is a worthless and damaged chick, unable to walk, fly, or breathe. This is what we are doing to kids, by denying them the chance to fight their own battles. Too many adults remember their own childhoods as being nightmares (and often rightly so), and want more for their own kids. But to make it too easy harms them later on, because they have no inner walls built up to support themselves.

Nearly every creative person I have ever met, with few exceptions, has had a 'difficult' childhood in one way or another. they have had to confront those walls on a constant basis, and learn their way around, or over, or through them. And we look back and shake our heads at what this one or that one endured, and say, it's a wonder he or she became what she did.

Actually, I think the struggle made the person what they became.


  1. This sort of definition creep weakens the horror of "real" child abuse, perpetuates an ideology of victimisation, and equates inconvenience with tragedy.


  2. yep yep yep

    you tend to lose your perspective as to what 'real' abuse is, when all of it falls under one umbrella. The man who was beaten bloody as a child and sexually abused is considered no more traumatized than the little girl who was spanked for biting her little brother.

    It also glosses over the entire issue of when is discipline discipline and when is it more (or not nearly enough), and instead of allowing kids and adults to work out the ordinary frictions of life as best they can, now apparently we are supposed to be raising children as if they were hothouse plants, and they will have all the moral fiber and emotional stamina of custard. And they will all end up in therapy where they can blame their parents for not disciplining them enough.

    these things go in cycles, and the next cycle will probably see a return to spankings and rules. gasp. the horror.

    I have actually reached an age when I can say, with a surprising amount of relief, thank god I won't be around to see it. Or be bothered by it.

  3. Mittens, in the magazine for the lowest IQ Americans, Parade, I ran across a remark by Jerry Seinfield that stopped me. "The reason we spoil and overprotect our children is that, in essence, the innocence of childhood has long since been destroyed and we're trying to make it up to them." That gave me pause.

  4. CE, I think every generation from maybe the depression onward, has done the same thing. "No child of mine is gonna go through what I went through".

    Only now the real goals of a college education, or a new car, or a good job, have all been achieved by middle class america, and now we must somehow protect these kids because it's a brutal world out there. Who Knows.

    Serious question, here. If the so-called innocence of childhood has been destroyed, who did it? And did it ever really exist, except in the minds of romantics and writers of childhood memoirs...?