Is every generation dismayed by the moral unraveling that seems to occur, like a meticulously cable-knit sweater with a loose thread, pulled a little looser year after year in the generations after our own?
A decade or so ago I watched my friend’s eldest daughter as she put up pictures of the Spice Girls in her room. She was perfect as all pre-teen girls are perfect: full of opinions and curiosity, a keen social observer. At that age they travel and preen in small flocks swinging between unselfconscious natural beauty and coy strutting. I eyed the posters, each one a somewhat appalling stereotype of femininity and wondered anxiously about the state of “girrl power”. As midriff baring shirts & peek a boo thongs came into fashion I pushed my little girl in the swings and thought smugly to myself “at least this phase will have passed by the time she is a teenager.”
Now we have Katie Perry & Lady Gaga and really, is there any body part left unexposed? Rhianna is all over the radio singing the praises of S&M, Brittany had a hit song about a threesome. There are video games like Grand Theft Auto and Mad World, which make atrocities interactive. Inevitably, we fret over the loss of innocence and imagination in the childhoods of both our boys and our girls.
Then, I read statistics like these in Backbone magazine: “Kids Can’t Swim, Tie Shoelaces or Make Breakfast” (more small children can navigate the web than can ride a bike)
or news items like this one: “Sixth Grader Arrested For Spilt Milk”
Ã‚Â (violence trumps manners)
… and I feel deeply afraid for our future. These are the things about which we truly need to be alarmed. Turn up the volume on the radio and sing your heart out with your kid, play the horrible game with them, talk through the stuff that worries you, laugh about the rest. It is gonna come, and to try to hold it back is to spit into the wind. Or guarantee your teen will pierce something you heartily wish they hadn’t.
Music and style and are as ever-shifting as hemlines, and like hemlines, they leave less and less to the imagination. But perhaps it is ever thus? Elvis after all, shocked a generation of parents.
Concern about the perils of a pelvis seems quaint in comparison to statistics about the declining health and moral welfare of our children. This generation of wired but inactive children may be the first to die younger than their parents. This generation of smart sassy hyper-informed kids is going to be in for a terrible shock when the world doesn’t clean up their spilt milk for them. Or worse, when they figure out that their sense of entitlement does not in fact guarantee them pay cheques or a clean planet to match.
We have a responsibility not to look on and tsk, but to hustle our kids out of doors, treat them like the children they are, give them boundaries and manners and a sense of what is right and what is wrong. In short, we need to teach our children how to live in the world like they just might inherit it.