The other night, our family was gathered around the computer to watch an episode of one of our geek-favorites (we like sci-fi and fantasy around here, quite a lot). Watching on Netflix, we’re spared commercials, but some of “our” shows are only on Hulu right now… and I was reminded, once again, why I’m not all that fond of some modern attitudes.
Actually, I wasn’t just reminded. I was appalled, and offended.
Go here and watch the previews, but you might want to duct-tape your skull first, because I think I felt my brain explode.
It’s a “comedy” titled “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.”
Is this really what we, as a culture, have decided to be “entertainment?” Do we really want to celebrate generational disrespect, cruel comments, destructive relationship patterns, weakness… in short, do we actually glamorize a cultivated hatred for our loved ones?
People have debated the merits of nature versus nurture in the development of traits and characteristics for quite a long time. In this situation, I’d argue that the whole negative ball of wax is a cumulative effect of nurture: how we train ourselves, and how we train those around us. Our nascent attitudes become our studied character, if we don’t watch out. Small cutting remarks grow into a habit of cruelty in thought and deed. Laziness becomes a pattern of weakness that leaves our families rudderless and grasping. Lack of respect for the inherent divine spark in every creation leads to laxity and emotional neglect, to denigration, rather than elevation.
When a child is “treated” to a decade and a half of a parent stating, right in front of that tiny personage, how Mum or Daddy “can’t WAIT til the kids are back in school,” or “how great it was before kids” or “we’re turning his room into a sewing room the weekend he graduates, so he’d better have something planned!”, how on earth is that supposed to do anything but alienate the affection that ought to exist between parent and child? Would we, as reasonable adults, ever deign to waste our emotions on people who treated us this way?
When interaction with a child, time with a child, is routinely passed over in favor of “mature” pursuits, “me” time, and other semi-selfish desires, what message does that give to a formative character? What worth must they assume they have, if they are never “worth” our time and effort?
None of this is to say that a parent ought to devote every single breath of every single day catering a child; quite the opposite! Children need not be catered to at all: they deserve nurturing and mentoring, not catering. Catering connotes “serving up on a platter, satisfying every whim”, which leads to an aggrandizement of self versus the control of self and channeling of passions in productive ways. Children need (crave!) both interactive time with parents, and quiet time alone to process what they are learning. Adults need mentoring time with children, as well as quiet alone time to continue to develop in their own passions and pursuits.
(The two are not mutually exclusive! It might be as simple as having together story time, and independent reading time, with both parent and child snuggled together, reading from their individual books. It could be as easy as inviting our children to join us in as many aspects of life as possible: preparing food, working in a garden, shopping, strolling along a riverside, listening to music, going out to a nice restaurant, spending an hour at the Lego aisle or following music paths on YouTube, just to delight over the delights of our child’s heart.)
From the show’s description, we find that it’s about “single mothers struggling to raise their over-privileged teenage daughters, whose mean-girl antics have begun to cross the line.”
If the girls are “over-privileged”, who indulged them and turned them in that path? If they are “mean-girls”, whose parental neglect and inattention allowed small negativities to blossom into a full-blown poor character? Who decided to allow “antics” to become systematic cruelties? Who decided it was too much work to take a hand in raising (elevating!) their own child?
At what point did tiny cruel “jokes” become a character trait and lifestyle habit? When did verbal abuse become “comedy?” When do we decide to put a stop to training ourselves to hate our children, and our children to hate us?
I’m offended for my fellow mothers and fathers who love their kids so much it hurts to watch them sleeping.
I’m offended on behalf of those who look into the eyes of children across the world, and want so much for them.
I’m offended for the teen boys and girls in my acquaintance who add so much to our home, when they “invade” and play our piano loudly, and bake pies in my kitchen while singing along to all their favorite songs; when they work in my gardens just because they can, and lounge on the floor playing with Legos; when they read books to my little girls, and break out drum pads, pipe chanters, and penny whistles to make music; when they drop by to introduce us to a friend or (oooooo!) an important young fellow or young lady; when they share meals with us and fill the narrow living room with size 13 feet and giggle over silly movies with us.
I’m offended on their behalf, because I feel privileged to know their young hearts, to visit with them, to discuss important things, to breathe in the passion with which they approach life. They are wonderful! They are delightful! They are good people, trying so hard to be acceptable and worthy. They deserve so much affection and kindness.
They do not deserve, in any way, alienation and disaffection. They do not deserve hatred.
If they have rough spots? Well, they’re still in formation. So am I. I’d far rather love them with their warts, than discard them and abandon them to whatever a dissolute world would inflict upon them.
When I initially posted my astonished, offended response to this show trailer on Facebook, it sparked a pretty lively discussion. A few things that came out in that discussion are particularly interesting:
1: Attitudes and affection really do change when we indulge in small, nasty comments as “jokes”. When we re-school our tongue to speak (and think) kind things, rather than cruel, we retrain our affections. We can act as agents of alienation, or of increasing respect and love. It’s entirely a personal choice. Habits can be formed for good or ill, dependent on our personal will.
2: There are so many cultural points that speak to “hatred” today! Rejection of children is a prominent one in many areas. Individual circumstances differ, of course, and not everyone will raise and parent a child, but there are so many ways to share love and life, even without having children in the home through birth, adoption, fostering, or mentoring. Loving people across the world stimulate their “affection zone” by contributing to local, regional, national, and world-wide projects that aid children, and those actions increase the natural affection inherent to the human soul.
We were not meant to be loveless. We were not meant to be self-focused. We were not designed to emotionally abandon our children (though a few generations of laxity and lack of parental example and societal pressure to “do what feels good right now” have created just such abandoned children).
We were created for better, more elevating, finer things. We were created for life, love, and joy. We cannot serve without increasing our joy… it’s quite impossible! We love whom we serve, and true love is found in the service of others, whether those others reside in our own homes, or in the far reaches of a land we’ll never see with our eyes.
That’s our nature: our inborn traits of the heart, our spark of divinity.
What we nurture? That’s entirely up to us.