Carlman: Kidding aside, it’s hard to be a child these days
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org December 27, 2012 10:34PM
Susan_Carlman_01 Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer Sun Publications 2009-02-09
Updated: January 29, 2013 6:06AM
It’s been a pretty tough year to be a kid.
For one thing, a whole lot of children whose families have never known want have suddenly come face-to-face with the cold realities of economic hardship.
Area social service providers report little letup in the influx of families turning for help in ways they’d never envisioned. Naperville CARES (Community Acting in Response to Economic Hardship) will turn 15 in 2013, and in fiscal 2012 alone, the agency helped more than 2,100 residents in the community, disbursing some $270,000 in support to families in need.
And I’ve told you before about how the Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry is accommodating ever-larger numbers of hungry people. The pantry feels keenly the effects of food stamp participation, which serves an unprecedented one of every eight Americans.
On top of that, sadly, kids in Naperville have had to deal this year with developments even more frightening than chronic hunger.
One Monday morning in February, students at Spring Brook Elementary School heard from their principal about the loss of second-grade teacher Shaun Wild, who’d been stabbed to death over the weekend after he tried to stop a bar fight in downtown Naperville.
Halloween brought the unspeakably violent murders of two local children, allegedly by the mother of one of them and babysitter of the other. As if that weren’t horrendous enough, two household dogs also were slaughtered on that awful evening.
And then there were those 20 little kids gunned down at school in Connecticut a couple weeks ago.
Along with the mourning demanded by these injustices and horrible crimes, it seems we need to spend some of our grieving budget on childhood as well. Kids just don’t get to be kids for very long anymore. And that’s just sad.
I’m not the first to lament this loss of innocence. It’s painfully clear that the days of gobbling down a bowl of cereal, kissing Mom’s cheek and then hopping on the two-wheeler, not to return home again until the dinner bell rings, are forever gone. The dangerous world we live in makes it so.
So, if I have a wish for the new year, that might be it: for joy to have a prominent place in childhood again.
Please understand, I’m not pining for Ozzie and Harriet. They’re gone and with good reason. We just need to catch up on raising kids in an era that’s so very different, in so very many ways, from the world in which television’s fictitious Nelson family lived.
Kids are smart. That’s part of what complicates the task of shielding them in some way from the ugliest things swirling about them as they make their way toward adulthood. Aggravating the challenge is, of course, social media — which often disburses to them insults, untruths, half-truths and the occasional brutal smack of reality, none of which they really need to know — all of it far faster than the blink of an eye. It’s scary.
Add to that the rising tide of skepticism, pessimism, distrust and unbridled fear that absorb so many of the adults around them, and it really doesn’t seem all that fun to be a kid anymore.
I wish I had a solution to this whole melancholy matter; I’ve no good remedy to offer here. But I do owe thanks to a letter writer, a Naperville resident named Mike Kaindl. Like me, Mike has four kids. And like me, he sees the sobering task of child rearing as best approached with a level head.
“Good parenting is not simply constructing a danger-free bubble around our children,” he wrote in a letter we published this week. “It includes helping them on a daily basis to recognize, avoid and/or cope with whatever bad stuff life may throw at them, and to help them develop strategies to successfully and safely live with life’s dangers.”
May 2013 bring us all the energy, inspiration and heart to do just that.