Saturday, January 25, 2014

Good News for People Who Love Bad News

I'm a news junkie. Always have been since I was a kid. We always had newspapers in the house, so I read them voraciously as a young'un. Granted, I was most interested in the comics and the sports, but I kept up on the big events of the day. I remember when Nixon resigned in 1974 when I was almost 7. I followed politics and watched the news on TV fairly regularly. And of course, when I got to college and realized I wasn't going to be an engineer, I opted for journalism. I only lasted six years in the newspaper biz, but I still follow it and the news closely.

But do I want my kids (who are nearly 10 and 12) watching the news? Hell to the no. Call it a double standard, call it hypocritical, call it whatever you want, but I don't want them watching the nightly news and hearing about the seemingly daily occurrences of people shooting up schools and malls and the wars, rapes, child abuse, violent offenses and even the horrendous political discourse that goes on. I guess I just don't want them to spend their childhoods having to process all that shit. Of course, if they ask about any of that stuff, we sit down and explain it to them. But I don't see the need to expose them to all that negativity.

I fully concede we (and plenty of other folks) shelter our kids way too much. When I think about how much freedom I had as a kid from what I thought were overprotective parents, it amazes me. I had so much unsupervised time, it was ridiculous. Now, we know where our kids are at every moment of the day. Would we be doing the same thing if we had boys? Probably. Everybody's just so paranoid about bad things happening to our kids that we don't leave much to chance.

Hell, even when kids are in school, they aren't necessarily safe from violence or abuse. We trust our schools to keep our kids save all day, but obviously that isn't always possible. But we have to trust them, just as we have to trust to a certain degree in human nature, or we end up paranoid nutjobs cooped up in underground bunkers armed to the teeth. You can't control everything, and what kind of life would that be anyway?

But I can control how much of this stuff they hear about at this age. In a couple of years, they're going to be online all the time and accessing all this bad news and much more. Then our challenge becomes explaining man's inhumanity to man in such a way that they don't become paranoid nutjobs or kids who are scared of anything that moves. This is the job of the modern parent: Raising children to be healthy optimists (and realists) in a world full of pessimism. It sure as hell isn't an easy job, but it's one we have no choice but to excel at. We owe at least that much to our children.


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