Thursday, May 16, 2013

Y.M.C.A. Redux

"I believe in the forgiveness of sin, and the redemption of ignorance".
            -Adlai Stevenson

There’s always so much chatter these days regarding how children must be shielded or protected from every one of life’s little speed bumps.  Their precious self esteem must never be damaged, no sadness or disappointment must ever occur; I suppose what it comes down to is that they should never feel or be challenged by reality.  Our culture’s recent trend towards helicopter parenting of their children, protecting them from anything that’s not been sanitized, literally or figuratively, is beginning to impact even those of us that do not have children.  

When a school district felt obligated to offer “counseling” because a kid chewed a pop tart into the shape of a gun, I laughed at first, but I really had to wonder what the hell has happened to us.   

 Adults seem to have very different ideas about what being a child is like, than the children themselves.  Do we really believe the kids were actually traumatized by the “gun shaped” pop tart, or was it more a matter of politically correct hysteria on the adults’ part, because they have to acknowledge that a child might be aware of guns? 


It is almost as though one, particularly anxious, phobic, neurotic scientist, rewrote all the rules about child rearing based solely upon their irrational hang ups, and somehow, they have managed to become entrenched in our cultural outlook.  Society expects less and less of children, and as a result, they are living down to these lowered expectations.  They are being treated as infants right up until the age of 18, and then suddenly expected to function as adults. 

My encounter with one child in particular, proved to me that kids are quite a bit smarter, and much less fragile, than all the sociology gurus would have us believing.
          There I was, in the very same locker room, where I had only just recently encountered "The Scowler". During the sanctimonious tirade I had endured from her a few weeks earlier,
Read Y.M.C.A. Part 1)
she so eagerly declared, among other things, that she believed that “people with my lifestyle should not be allowed anywhere near children”,  right up until the moment I explained to her that my baldness was a side effect of cancer treatment and not a fashion statement. Not sure why that was better, but I suppose she thought she was shielding children from whatever evil influence and mental suffering  that the sight of a bald head might impart.   Just then, in walks a little girl, about 4 years old, skipping along, holding her mother’s hand.  In her other hand, she was dragging a very long and colorful beach towel.  When she passed where I was standing she dropped her mother’s hand, came to a dead stop, eyes locked on my bald head. Her mother never looked up and kept walking around the corner to the next set of lockers, out of sight.

 My heart sank, because I fully expected some busybody to intervene again, since obviously my mere presence could potentially be causing this child some deep, psychological distress.

That was when she tilted her head like a puppy, furrowed her brow, and in as serious a tone as a 4 year old can muster, asked, “ Are you a boy or a girl”.?

I was instantly relieved.  The only distress my bald head caused her was confusion about whether I was a boy or a girl.

Fair question. 

I answered her in what I hoped was a reassuring tone, “ I’m a girl”.

“Well”, she continued, logically and in the thickest of southern accents, “How come you got no hay-yer”?

Now this answer was going to be tricky.  I stalled around a bit by fidgeting with my locker then I sat down on the little bench.  She sat down on her towel. 

My first reflex, in all things, is to be honest, but how much information is too much for a 4 year old?  I figured her mother could hear our conversation from the other side of the lockers.  I also knew that if I told her that my medicine made my hair fall out she’d probably have a hard time accepting any medicine she might need to take.  Her mother probably would not appreciate me giving such a vivid explanation.  Still, I was not going to lie, to protect her from the truth. 

 So I said, “Well, I was very sick and it made my hair fall out.  I’m all better now and my hair will come back soon.  She nodded with understanding and acceptance and I could see that the answer satisfied her curiosity.  

It was truth enough.

Then suddenly she jumped to her feet and spread her towel out for me to see. It was covered with brightly colored frogs, and she exclaimed, “See my frogs”?

“Yes, I said and smiled at her, They are very colorful”!

She went on, “They are just like you! They got no hay-yer neither!”

Apparently she was not the least bit disturbed about my hair, or my illness.  Once her concerns were addressed, her questions answered,  she accepted that I looked slightly different without the least bit of angst or apprehension.   

No trauma, no foul.  

Same locker room, same circumstances, yet it was a much more mature response than I had received a few weeks prior. 

I have come to understand that in a majority of cases, when someone rants and raves about what people should or should not do,  “For the children’s sake…” it is merely a convenient way to mask their own fears and prejudices in an attempt to pass themselves off as righteous protectors, rather than the dreadful tyrants that they truly are.


Kristy said...

Kids are smarter and tougher than we give them credit. I think being truthful with them is always best. You handled the situation perfectly. Both of them!

Stacey Gordon said...

Thanks Kristy!

Al D. said...

Very powerful and extremely well written post Stacey. Glad you have your (bald) head on straight. Too bad so many of our peers around us are so intolerant of any deviance from what they perceive as "normal". Thanks for sharing with us. Hope to see you soon

Al D. said...

Very powerful and extremely well written post Stacey. Glad you have your (bald) head on straight. Too bad so many of our peers around us are so intolerant of any deviance from what they perceive as "normal". Thanks for sharing with us. Hope to see you soon