Tag Archive | "children"

Precious Cargo

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As precious gifts, children are meant to be cherished.  Innocent human beings, they look to their elders for life’s basic necessities and, just as importantly, guidance, love, and protection.  These truths should be obvious.  It boggles my mind, then, when I witness mindless acts that place little ones in danger.


Driving down a busy commercial street the other day, I yielded to jaywalkers.  The ones I truly wanted to throttle darted across the street encumbered by baby strollers and dragging toddlers by the hand.  Were their errands vital enough to put the children’s lives in jeopardy?  Most drivers strive to be vigilant, but accidents do happen, particularly when thoughtless parents and guardians facilitate them.  It takes a few extra minutes to wait at the crosswalk while the traffic light changes, but those minutes can mean life or death.


There are times when those behind the wheel are at fault; drunken drivers fall into this category.  Three sheets to the wind, DWIs rarely seem to injure themselves.  As police reports nationwide attest, the drunks usually maim or kill those who are blameless.  Kids riding along with inebriated adults are at risk, and so are those in other cars.  I was once acquainted with a woman I thought to be a bit slow.  She was a very nice lady, but I sensed that there was something not quite right about her.  A few weeks after our first meeting, her niece informed me that the woman’s entire family had been riding in their car, obeying the rules of the road, when a drunk driver struck them.  The woman and her husband survived, but her father and two little boys — her only children — were killed.  What a terrible heartache to bear!


Alcohol is not the only addiction plaguing youngsters.  Drug users have been known to keep their stashes where curious young hands can get to them, resulting in irreparable damage and even death. 


And let’s not forget people who leave their children unattended in public places.  Where I work, I often see customers who dash from their cars and into the store, leaving their children behind to make a quick purchase.  Their frantic glances through the store window are not enough to ensure the children’s safety. It’s an inconvenience to remove the little ones from their car seats and secure them again. But it’s better to be inconvenienced than to lose a child to a kidnapper, child molester, or murderer.


A woman I know was once vacationing at the shore with her family.  She had fallen asleep under her umbrella, as had her family.  As the others slept on, she suddenly awakened with a strange, urgent feeling.  The moment that she sat up, a little boy about three years old passed her, carrying a child’s surfboard and heading straight for the ocean.  No adult was following him.


She took after the boy as he toddled on relentlessly, catching up with the child just as he put his board into the water.  Unable to swim, she prayed to find the right words that would bring the boy back onto the sand.  Thankfully, her prayers were answered.  She had planned to alert the police once the child was safe with her family.  But just a few steps before her beach blanket, an angry man appeared, barking at the child — as if it were his fault — “So there you are!”  Cautiously, the woman asked the little boy, “Do you know this man?” “Daddy,” he said, and walked off with the man.  Badly shaken, the lady wondered what may have befallen the little boy had she not been a good person.


Those of us who have fond memories of our childhoods may not be fully aware of the dangers that lie in wait for our children.  In days gone by, parents thought nothing of allowing their children to stay out late, particularly on summer nights, riding bikes and catching fireflies with their friends.  Neighbors once knew each other, communicating frequently and keeping a watchful eye on for each other’s children. Now we live at a frantic pace, in a world that has necessitated the passage of Megan’s Law and the institution of Amber Alerts.


If you are a parent or guardian, teach your children not to approach strangers, no matter how sweet their bribes may be (i.e., promises of candy or a lost puppy that needs to be found). And don’t make assumptions that routine situations are necessarily safe.


For instance, don’t allow a child visit a public restroom alone.  Predators armed with changes of clothing and scissors to cut hair can quickly alter a child’s appearance in order to spirit him or her away.  Young children cannot fend off adults intend upon snatching them and doing them harm.


Strangers are not the only threat.  Before giving your children permission to play at a friend’s house, get to know the friend’s parents.  Be sure that they are aware your child will be visiting or spending the night.  Most importantly, feel the parents out to get a sense of their character.  You don’t want your children in a home where drugs, alcohol, and/or guns are accessible. 


If someone else takes your child to the beach, remember the incident that I just related about the woman and the little boy.  Make sure that lifeguards are on duty, that the adults know how to swim, and that they don’t take chances when the tide comes in.  Water safety extends to the home.  Baths for young children should be supervised at all times.  Don’t leave a child in the tub alone, for it only takes a minute to drown in a few inches of water.


Also, be sensible in terms of your selection of toys, games, and general recreation.  As much as a child may desire a toy or wish to engage in a pastime, veto it if it is dangerous or inappropriate. Establishing and enforcing rules for your child’s protection is a key element in good parenting.  Scrapes and cuts are the byproducts of a normal childhood spent exploring the world; everyday accidents are often inevitable.  But, with caution and common sense, terrible tragedies can be avoided. 

The Peter Pan Syndrome

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Peter Pan

If “thirty is the new twenty” today in terms of people’s maturity, could ten be the new five?  It might be, given that children seem more overindulged and pampered than ever before.  Today’s youth benefits from freedoms never enjoyed by prior generations.  In the past, youngsters were forced to grow up quickly, assuming much more responsibility than their counterparts of 2009. 

 

Nowadays, babies come into this world because of their parents’ desire to have a family.  Cherished and spoiled, many children have no real obligations other than school and extracurricular activities, including various sports.  With all of their free time, they text and chat with friends on their cell phones, surf the Internet, and watch a good deal of television.  Today’s teens stay up longer in the evening, sleep later on the weekends, go to the movies, and hang out at the mall.  While the young ones enjoy all this leisure time, their parents take care of their laundry, tidy up their rooms, and act as chauffeurs for all of their social engagements.  Kids are generally given material wants such as electronic games; they do not have to work to earn the money to purchase those items.

 

Things were very different in times gone by.  Children were born out of their families’ necessity to create an unpaid source of labor.  This labor was vital to the maintenance of households and farms that did not contain the appliances and other technology that we now take for granted.  Of course, children were not put to work the moment they left the womb.  But as soon as they had developed the proper motor skills, they pitched in, doing whatever needed to be done.

 

This entailed and was by no means limited to weeding the garden, gathering kindling for fires to heat the home, harvesting vegetables, drying the dishes, or carting water into the house. A trip to a creek or a well to carry water back to the home was a real chore.  It was worse in winter, when kids had to break the ice on streams and ponds to access water for the family, including companion and farm animals.

 

The laundry was not a matter of tossing dirty clothes and detergent into a washing machine.  A roaring fire had to be built to heat a large caldron filled with water.  Once the water boiled, the clothing was placed into it and stirred with a long pole to agitate the garments and thus ensure their cleanliness.  More water had to be toted in to rinse the clothes of the soapy, dirty water.  As electronic dryers did not exist, the clothing was hung on clotheslines to dry.  And if no rope was available, the garments draped onto trees or bushes.

 

We complain now about working eight to ten hour days, but before technology (and labor unions), the workday was much longer. Children had to rise at dawn, or earlier, to feed the farm animals, muck out the stalls, milk the cows, and gather eggs.  Since breakfast items were not bought in stores and placed in refrigerators by hard-working parents, meals had to be planned more carefully around the hens’ and cows’ production.  And, fresh water was required for cooking and washing the dishes.

 

Children attended school when it was feasible, usually in clement weather; winter dictated that children remained housebound.  The snow was too deep to travel across and frostbite was a real danger.  Also, in bad snowstorms, it was easy to lose one’s way just a few feet from one’s own front door for lack of landmarks, such as the crowded developments and streetlights that we have today.  Children took much of their knowledge from their parents’ experiences.  For instance, the sons of blacksmiths, farmers, and carpenters learned their crafts at their fathers’ knees.  Mothers taught their daughters how to cook, can food, sew, and keep the house clean (imagine doing this with no vacuum cleaners).  When the crops ripened, children were often pulled out of school to help with the harvest, which was a critical chore.  To literally survive the long, cold winters, families were dependent upon not only their farm animals for sustenance, but upon the crops that they could “put up” in glass jars or store in dark basements.

 

As a result of their responsibilities and close relationships with their immediate families, kids did not have much time to socialize beyond school or church functions. Transportation was not readily available unless the family was fortunate enough to have extra horses.  These precious commodities were not only used for transportation but also for clearing land and plowing fields.  Horses were not to be used for a lighthearted visit with friends.

 

While today’s offspring may perform chores such as taking out the trash, babysitting, or mowing the lawn, they certainly are not as overwhelmed as the kids of yesteryear.

 

As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I can relate to some extent to some of the things these hardworking youngsters endured.  I grew up in a large middle class family that lacked some of the modern appliances of the day.  For instance, we had an old Maytag ringer.  It was a pain to lug the water needed to fill up the tub to start the first load.   When the water got too dirty, it was time to refill it.  I also had to fill up a rinse tub and feed the clothes and linens through the wringer without popping it.  That particular task was scary, because I always feared that I would break the device and receive a lecture or worse, a lesson on my derriere.  By the time I had hung the clothes out to dry on the line and had emptied the machine, I felt as if I had put in a long day’s work.

 

As I grew older, I was expected to work in the garden during the summers, pulling weeds out of the ground by hand, not with a chemical spray.  When the vegetables began bearing crops, my duties expanded to picking green beans off the vines.   This may not sound like much of a chore, but imagine working beneath a hot sun and getting bitten repeatedly by mosquitoes. Once the green beans were picked, we had to snap off their tough ends so that they would be ready for cooking.  Sometimes, my sisters disappeared during this phase, leaving my mother and me sitting on the porch, snapping beans.  This was the best of this particular job, as it gave me a chance to talk and connect with my mother.

 

I did not grow up with a telephone in the house.  My family finally acquired a phone when I was a teenager, but even then, my siblings and I were not allowed to use it much; it was an added expense for our large family.  In those days, frequent caller plans did not exist.

 

Lacking a dishwasher, more than a few arguments ensued over who was in charge of washing or drying the dishes.  My mother had to referee her share of fights.  If the situation called for it, my dad stepped in.  If he felt that we needed more encouragement to behave, my dad would grab a switch (a branch) or the fly swatter, and use it our behinds.

 

If your children make a fuss about the few minor chores they are required to do, feel free to whip out a copy of this article for them.  Kids now enjoy many luxuries, including indoor plumbing, air conditioning, dishwashers, the ability to communicate instantly with their friends through technology, and the gift of prepared and ready-to-prepare foods.  In addition, child labor laws prevent youngsters from having their education interrupted to do backbreaking work.  When you tell your kids to enjoy their childhood, they’ll understand a little better just how good they have it. 

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