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Monday, September 5, 2011

Better to be 15 now or 1987?

Not all the discussions and debates were frivolous and silly over my vacation.  Sure, we had talks about our first concerts and our jobs.  There was a conversation about credit card debt and mortgages I found pretty insightful too.  But there was a particularly interesting sentence or two that had to do with the 15 year old boy in our group.

Namely, my oldest friend and the backbone to the trip, made an off the cuff comment about what he was up to when he was 15.  He pointed the question at one of his oldest friends and the father to the boy.  Pretty much went like this:  "Boy the stuff we did when we were his age."

I could describe details but I think you get the point.  At 15 in the 80s life was infinitely easier.  In 1987 I was headed out first thing in the morning and coming back sometime around dinnertime.  I would head back out and get home to sleep.  Years before that, at age 9, I was pretty much doing the same thing.  I could get on my bike and head to the high school.  I could take a walk, alone, to buy my dad some smokes.  I could engage in a wiffle ball game in the middle of my street.

At 9, my daughter would never dare walking down our street alone.  She has spent about 10 pedals riding her bike on the street (with me watching over every inch of the trip.)  She could try to get me cigarettes...  but we all know how that would work.

And what of that 15 year old boy today?  Any chance he can get a fake id and get served at his local?  Would he even want to drink?  In many ways he showed a greater maturity than most of us.  Although very much wired in and gaming (Call of Duty, Dance game on Xbox, etc...), he wanted to sail on his free day down South.  I don't think I knew what sailing was at 15.  I barely do now.

Kids are exposed to so many things via all types of media (social and otherwise) I wonder how much of them dare experience the very things they are exposed to.  We fear letting them go yet are content letting them stay inside.  I think I prefer the older model.   That is to say, go out and experience everything you can NOW!  To virtually experience it will never satisfy your human urges.  I would prefer my daughter have a few drunken episodes early in life rather than go crazy week 1 at Harvard.  And as heart-wrenching as it is to write, she better have some dating experiences along the way too.  The sports and/or clubs should continue for sure.  Sleepovers and bike rides through town are mandatory.  I want to be sad and devastated when she says "I am going to a high school football game with my friends dad, can you drop us off."

It was encouraging to see a young man very much aware of what the world has to offer.  He is focused, intelligent, funny and polite.  This is exactly how we should raise our children.

It is a dangerously fine line though.  As we inch closer to the tenth anniversary of 9/11 we have to be very careful not to raise soft children.  I hear subtle references to how delicate some pee-wee football leagues have become.  Boys, often times raised more by their mothers than fathers (and playing video football more than real football) are getting hurt more and unable to withstand the rigors of a contact sport.  More ways Bin Laden's terrorist act has crippled our socioeconomic realities.

If we are scared, how on Earth can we raise children to be unafraid?  It is impossible.

Our children today still have the potential, in fact more, than we did 20/25 years ago.  With so many more problems today there generation will be relied upon. The demand for innovators and thinkers is more prevalent now than ever before.  Should we continue to raise our children with kid gloves how will we find them?  From confidence comes confidence.

10 years later I think it's about time to claim back what is ours.  Gas too high?  Screw it.  Let's re-invent fueling.  Home prices a mess?  Change the system.  Your damn right we have the power to make a difference.  Do we want to our children to be stuck with more trouble or have all the tools to succeed and prosper where we never did.

15 today ain't easy for sure, but it has the potential to be magical.

I can hear my Sociology professor yelling at me about what I just wrote.  "This rant defines my belief that altruism does not exist."

I accept that.  If I am selfish for wanting my child (and others like her) to succeed so be it.  I think that is better than wanting them all to fail.  Plenty of us (ME INCLUDED) have done enough of that.

"Looking up, looking like, my losing streak is done."      Eels "Losing Streak"

You may know this track from Shrek...

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