Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Well, as I can’t sleep and I have this on my mind, I may as well throw it down and get it out of my system while I’m thinking of it.
The thing with change is that some changes are not necessarily good ones. Like, for example, when Americans started working harder for more STUFF they didn’t really need, they were forced to change a lot of habits in favor of convenience. Convenience foods, for example. Disposable diapers. Driving more. Sleeping less. The other thing that has me really, really bothered, is the fact that family has become such a very low priority in today’s American society.
The thing is, it seems like more and more we just want easy, quick solutions, but it’s costing us so much more than we realize. It’s costing us our health, our families, our very happiness. Divorce rates are up, and while it could be argued that part of that is because women have been able to find a voice, stand up for themselves and given a choice out of abusive situations, the major bulk of divorces are not folks who were in dangerous or abusive situations, bur rather, people who made hasty (or lazy) decisions. Today is my 14th wedding anniversary. In my grandparent’s day, that wasn’t anything to crack a nice bottle of champagne over. Heck, I think until you hit 20 years of marriage, you were probably still considered to be in the “honeymoon years” back then. (Okay, I am obviously exaggerating, but still.) People didn’t just pop out kids to get a bigger welfare check in my grandma’s day. Oh sure, people then still had kids for dumb reasons. (To be fair, I have yet to think of an actual “good” reason for having kids, they all seem pretty selfish to me, but some reasons for having kids seem outright idiotic.) Still, it seems like it was a decision that was made with some forethought. It seems like even if the same age old problems within families existed, there was a certain unity, a certain sort of dedication that just does NOT exist today.
Most states have “safe” baby drop off laws, now. The last time I had to go to the ER, I saw a sign that said something like, “This is a designated safe drop-off zone,” or something to that effect and I was utterly baffled. Drop off for what? Why would it be safer here? I thought maybe it meant “drop-off” of illegal materials like drugs or guns or something, but then looking around at other signs I realized, oh. No. It’s for babies. What disturbs me about this isn’t that babies are then (hopefully!?) better protected against abandonment or abuse or neglect, but that there is such a high need for this sort of thing to exist! Why? Why oh why when there are adoption programs in place, when there are birth control options in the first place, why do we have to have these sorts of places? Why is getting rid of an unwanted baby (however one chooses to do that… abortion, drop-off, whatever…) treated almost as if one were unsubscribing from a mailing list?
No, I know. I know. There are always circumstances and I do know that sometimes it just can’t be helped. It’s a sucky world and sucky things happen and it’s better to have things in place to provided safe options for people rather than pretending that these circumstances don’t exist, but it pisses me off and freaks me out that these circumstances (whatever they may be) exist and are so prevalent in today’s society.
The thing is, we’re such a disconnected society that we just don’t fucking care about anything but our next fix. Our next smoke, our next coffee, our next Mtn. Dew, our next TV show, our next WoW raid, our next hit of meth… whatever our drug of choice is. There’s no investment in family or community anymore. We are social creatures, but we’re losing our ability to connect socially and it scares the crap out of me. It’s no wonder we’re so depressed. It’s no wonder we’re so unhappy. And why? Why is this being allowed to continue? In losing our connection to community, we’re losing resources and power.
What if… what IF something really bad happened. What if The New Hitler decided to step in and say, “Um, yeah, so, here’s how things are gonna roll from now on,”? We’re so complacent, we’re so well herded into our own little pens in our own little cubicals in our own little suburban prisons, we’d never see it coming. And who would rise up? Who would say, “Oh HELL no, I don’t think so!”? We’re so disconnected from ourselves and each other, we wouldn’t even be able to rely on our own family members to watch our backs and keep us safe.
For a long time I’ve felt this disconnection. Sometimes, I would think it was “just me” that maybe something was just innately broken inside of me. Truth be told, that’s not at all a bad assessment, but what I didn’t realize is that the damage extended far beyond my own head space. I’m not alone. I’m not the only one sitting by my computer thinking, “This isn’t right. Something’s wrong. Something’s missing. I’m lonely. I’m scared. I’m empty.” The fact is, a lot of people are in the same head space because we aren’t living the way we were meant to, the way we lived for generations past since the beginning of humanity. We are pack animals. We need other people in order to feel safe, fulfilled, secure, happy. Things have changed dramatically since our grandparents were kids, and while we have the availability for more/better/faster communication, we’re losing the ability to connect and be a part of something bigger.
It’s no secret that volunteer organizations big and small have always been run by the same type of people… the same people, really. The PTO mom also volunteers at her church, the Cub Scout dad also goes to the school field trips, the same hand full of parents organize the carnivals and barbecues and banquets and food drives every year. That part isn’t shocking, though it is at times disappointing. This will likely be a problem forever because if someone else is doing it, then why bother stepping in? We’re lazy, it’s true. If we have water and food handed to us every day, why would we go out hunting or foraging for more? Oh sure, a few would for sport or entertainment or to fulfill some other need or interest, but the fact of the matter is, we’re lazy. So if that’s sort of the “norm” based on human nature, why is the lack of volunteers (in any organization, not just scouting, though of course that one’s near and dear to my heart) cause me to be in such a state?
The thing that really is disappointing is people’s attitudes toward their community. And by community, I don’t even necessarily mean their town or even their immediate neighborhood. The problem starts even closer - within their own homes! People are so divested in even their own families, it’s impossible to see how anyone could connect socially at all. We don’t call or take care of our parents, we don’t talk to or spend time with our kids, screw volunteering at the local soup kitchen, we don’t even care about our own flesh and blood.
The way kids are treated in today’s American society is appalling. From the time a child is born born, we’re in a rush to ship them off to someone else. “Oh send them to the nursery, I’ll have 18 years to have the little bugger annoy me.” Wow, um. Why did you have kids again? Okay, I’m not really knocking moms who decide they want a night of sleep before they head home with their new bundle of soon-to-be-neglected joy, I’m just saying that it seems odd to me that it’s always someone else’s job, anymore. At six weeks they get shipped off to daycare so mom can work, probably to earn only about enough to pay for gas, her wardrobe, and daycare. So, wait, she’s working so she can pay for her kid to be raised by someone else?! Weekends kiddo gets shipped off to grandma’s or aunties, (or dad’s, since, you know, divorce rate is so high and all that) because, well, duh, mom needs a break!. After all, she’s been working hard all week. Schools are expected to teach manners and etiquette, because, well, parents don’t have time! “Well cared for” kids are really the kids who are invested in the most after school activities like Judo, and piano lessons, and soccer, and summer camp, and band camp, and duh, let’s not forget school and, well, pretty much, kiddo is always occupied somewhere else, with someone else other than his own parents from the time he gets up in the morning until almost the time he goes to bed at night. Those who aren’t so “lucky” end up with XBox and neopets.com and Disney Channel to babysit them.
Why? Why are we so afraid to connect with our kids? Are we so selfish? Are we so caught up in our own selfish whims and needs that we refuse to think of other people? Have we completely forgotten how - and why - we need to reach out?
And why is it when a kiddo says, “I wanna join Cub Scouts!” his parents say, “We don’t have time for that!”? We all have the same amount of time, it’s simply a matter of how we choose to spend that time. Parents would rather spend that time dropping kiddo off at soccer practice or dance lessons - because then the parent doesn’t have to stay and can plug-in online, or on their cell phone, or to the TV, or… hell, go have a drink at the bar, I don’t really know what parents are doing, to be honest. I do know that there is no family time, anymore. There are no game nights, no dinners together, no walks, no picnics, no nothing. Even when parents go to recitals or games, they are observers, not participants!
Now, mind you, I totally and completely get it when a parent says, “Nah, we’re not going to be able to attend the [insert scouting activity here], because we have church on that day.” Church is a family activity. I get it when parents say, “Oh, we’re going to be out of town visiting Aunt So-and-So,” that’s a family activity! Those are exactly the kinds of activities scouting promotes, so that is a totally reasonable explanation for not attending a scouting event. The thing that kills me, though, is when kids will say, (and yes, one boy actually said this), “Oh, my favorite TV show is on [the night of the den meeting]. I guess I can’t join scouts.”
What. The. Hell.
I’ve had parents avoid signing their kids up for scouts because, “Oh, I thought I could just drop him off.”
You know, I get sometimes having to do other things. What I don’t get is never spending time with your kid. What I don’t get is a mom saying, “Well I have OTHER kids to worry about,” but when I call to get her to pick up a dumped off kiddo she’s not home - but those other kids in question are! I get making arrangements with other parents in a den to “trade off” so that every parent gets one den meeting a month “off” from helping. What I don’t get is trying to push scouting off as yet another reason not to connect.
At the Boy Scout level, I do see much more independence. It wouldn’t be expected for a mom to show up to EVERY troop or patrol meeting. Honestly, that’d not only be overkill, it’d be stifling and silly. What pisses me off more than anything is seeing boys stand up in front of their group to receive awards and to not have a single family member present to represent them… time…after time… after time. What pisses me off is Cub Scout parents sitting in their car outside of a den meeting talking on their cell phone the whole meeting rather than taking that meager hour to interact and connect with their child. What irks me more than anything is parents who talk AT their kids and not to them.
Look, we’re all imperfect. God knows I have my faults. God knows my kids wish I were a different sort of mother. But at least they know what sort of mother I am, because I AM a mother to them, through thick and thin, bad and good, high and low. We talk - and sometimes yell - we laugh - and sometimes cry - we try - and very often fail - but the thing is… we do it together. That’s what family is all about. It’s not about a forced photograph once a year, it’s about the every day connections that bring us closer together. It’s about trust and communication and protection and cooperation - just like any other good relationship.
As jacked up as things may be sometimes - oh and they often are - at least I have my family and I know I have my community.
I can’t say I’ll ever be “best friends” with my kids. (I don’t know that I’d want to be.) But I know Devon told me when he had his first kiss. I can’t predict whether or not my kids will come back “home” for Christmas every year for the rest of my life, but I do know they’ll remember some of the silly, crazy, fun traditions we have had - and maybe carry pieces of that on when their raise their own kids. There’s no guarantee that TDO and I will be celebrating our 15th anniversary a year from today, but I do know that neither one of us is going to get pissed and walk out because someone left the cap off the toothpaste or wrote a bad check or because I want a dog and he doesn’t.
Further reaching, I don’t know that my neighbor Sandy would bring me soup if I were sick, but I know I would feel pretty comfortable asking her to watch Jenica if I were in a pinch. I don’t know that Cable Guy would donate an organ to save my life, but I know he’d lend me $20 for groceries if we were in dire straights. I don’t know that I’d help the folks across the street build a barn, but I do know I’d watch their pets for them if they went out of town. It’s the little things like that which make life a little more bearable.
The larger community… I just don’t know. I’m working on it. I’m feeling my way around. I do know that the food drive bucket we put in the local coffee shop whose customers are primarily “earth loving, community driven folks” received no donations from outside our pack. We received two bags of coffee and three cans during the two weeks we had the bucket out and all of those donations were made by families within the pack in order to encourage others to “give a little something.” The coffee shop owner was livid and asked to leave the bucket in place through the holidays in order to stir up more interest. He said, “Maybe people didn’t have enough time to see it.” Unless the owner was emptying it every day, there were almost no donations. At the end of December when we went in to drop off some cans of green beans (and so TDO could get his coffee fix) - our cans of green beans kept company only 4 other cans. Four. For the entire month of December. Ouch.
I know times are hard. I know it’s hard to give when we’re so scared we have so little ourselves. I get that, but I also think that it speaks volumes for how closed we are. We’re holding so tightly to our chests, our arms never open enough to give - or to receive. And where does that leave us… in our community, in our city, state, country… globally?
I just don’t know.
Scott at 01/09/09 09:57 AM
Preach it sister! That was a beautiful Post, friend. So dead on to how I’ve felt and observed our society slowly decaying…
You’re not alone. And you’re soo right…