Saturday, July 09, 2005

Innocence versus worldliness

There are times during the coarse of a year where my children spend an usual amount of time with the neighborhood children. As a parent I want my children to have friends. I have fond memories of my own childhood summers spent outside playing around our neighborhood with all the neighborhood children. We would head outside first thing in the morning and return home only when we were hungry. I don't remember there ever being issues about large things. Sure there were spats between all the kids but I don't remember the parents ever having to intervene. Wondering if I was looking back at my youth with rose colored glasses I asked my mother if she ever worried about us being exposed to pornography, alcohol, drugs, or pediaphiles. Was she ever concerned about the language being used or the habits we were developing as a result of the time we spent roaming around the neighborhood? She said no, she did not remember any of that being issues. They are issues for me and my family. I struggle to find the balance between protecting my children and wanting them to experience all the wonderful things childhood could hold.

My concerns are not without validation. I watch the behavior of my normally obedient and loving children deteriorate in direct correlation with the amount of time they spend with the neighborhood children. Normally my daughter and son play nicely together. They share interests and encourage each other. The more time they spend with others the less time they want to spend with their sibling. When they do spend time together they don't get along and would prefer to be with their friends. The neighbor children are allowed to watch and listen to things that I do not allow our children access to. While my children seem to be fairly honest about their boundaries with others, they are young and sometimes they do not recognize things they should not see or hear before hand. My children have been trained to entertain themselves creatively. Normally I would not hear them complaining about boredom but during the summer they seem unable to find anything to do if a friend is not available to play with. Their use of certain slang words and words such as "sucks" and 'stinkin" that are used in place of other swear words that they know are off limits becomes an issue. One of my daughters friends speaks with a distinctive tone. I am constantly having to tell my daughter that I do not want her emulating that tone. The amount of time I spend on discipline issues increases exponentially as the summer progresses.

I thought I was creating balance. Limiting their exposure but allowing them to be exposed. Talking to them about what they were seeing and hearing. Encouraging them to talk to me about issues, disciplining consistently the behaviors that were undesirable. Now I wonder if we would have been better off to have realized that times have changed and that it is not possible to recreate the innocence of my own childhood. Children are no longer innocence. They are worldly. Ray Guarendi said, " The opposite of innocence is not maturity; it is worldliness. And worldliness doesn't better equip a child to deal with the world. It just makes him more likely to be comfortable with it."