June 15, 2005

Kids Today


THEY SAY IT IS AN INTELLECTUAL FLAW to let things go "in one ear and out the other," but at my age it is merely a question of deciding what to admit onto the hard drive of my brain. It's a limited drive and at this point it is pretty much full. To write something new to it means I often have to delete something else. So I don't view this in one ear thing as a flaw but a necessity.

A much more common variation of this phenomenon is the deplorable habit of letting something go in one ear and out your mouth without first striking either a reflective surface or being passed through a BS filter -- preferably both. Once you realize that "in-ear-out-mouth" (IEOM) is an affliction of epidemic proporations in contemporary America you can spot it maiming and killing brain cells everywhere.

The latest notable example of IEOM showed up a few nights ago at a meeting of troubled Americans that I, being troubled, often attend. A woman of middle years was, as is her wont, once again bemoaning the fact that she is just, well, nuts. Being nuts is, to hear her talk, part of "being all she can be" and, even though it makes her unhappy, she seems as determined to hold onto her nutsiness as she is to let go of her girlish figure.

These reflections on her part often give way, as such reflections do, to the nostalgic and idealistic: "Things were better when...," "If only I had....," "Don't you all think I should have.....?" But last night had a variation on the theme of yearning for the past. It yearned for the really deep past -- when she was a child, or, even better, an infant.

In the course of announcing this insight to the stupified listeners counting the seconds until her 3 minutes were up, she emitted a pure bit of IEOM. She said, "I was feeling extra crazy so I took a walk down to the town beach where all the new babies were out and all the children were playing. And I saw, so very, very clearly, how lucky the babies and children were to be so simple, and so deeply, deeply sane."

"How lucky the babies and children were to be so simple, and so deeply, deeply sane" was the sort of IEOM statement that is so obviously uncontestable -- lest you be lablelled a churl -- that other females in the room (Those either presently incarcerated in mom-jail, recently paroled from mom-jail, or hoping to be soon condemned to mom-jail.) all began to bob their heads in agreement like a gaggle of drinking birds over the glass.

I, of course, am a churl. Hence my only thought on hearing this statement without a clue was "IEOM... and you really are crazy if you think that babies and children are sane for one nanosecond of the live long day. Infants and children are many things, but sane is not one of them."

The unsanitary insanity of infants is strikingly obvious. Any adult human being who has to be spoon-fed, drools uncontrollably, and has forgotten
the rudiments of bowel and bladder control had better have loving relatives, a sizable trust fund, a pit-bull lawyer, and medicare lest he or she be put down like an old dog in this society. It would seem that we put up with this behavior from infants for more than two years simply on the grounds of "they cute." Well, so are kittens and puppies and the time and expense in their basic training is considerably less. Besides, if the kitten or puppy doesn't work out you can just drop it off by the side of the road in a sack without much trouble. Try that with an infant and you are quickly brought to heel. It would seem that we are determined to protect some levels of insanity more than others in this land. I ask you, how fair and equal is that?

Children, having had some time to practice at life and get small motor skills and a sailor's vocabulary without losing the ability to screech like a disemboweled wombat at any instant and for no reason at all, present a more interesting buffet of brain disorders. Napoleonic complexes and the belief that their backsides produce nothing but moonbeams are common. Ditto a distinct inability to understand any time lapse at all between desire and gratification. Add onto those three items the realization that we have, as a society, decided that no actions of children -- no matter how awful -- are to have any consequnces other than a disappointed look and a time out, and you have the recipe for the inmates across the land to run their asylum homes. Which they do with predictable results.

In a simpler time, children's misdeeds and psychotic outbursts ( A frothing temper tantrum involving heel pounding and floor revolving on being denied a pack of gum was observed recently at a local supermarket), were controlled simply by referencing the "father" who would "get home soon." No longer. There is often no father that will be home anytime in the next decade and even when there is he is often inhibited in his impulse to renovate the insane child by the knowledge that the child knows how to dial 911 and will.

In making sure that the state guardians of children always respond to 911 calls with weapons, we have handed over the whip and the hand to the nuts in our homes. It is as if ye olde asylum provided an armed bodyguard to every sociopath admitted and gave that body guard permission to shoot the doctors if they even looked cross-eyed at the afflicted. The afflicted, of course, could look cross-eyed, stick out their tongues, and flip off the doctors as long as they had 911 on the speed dial of the cellular phones the doctors bought for them.

Whenever I observe young children in their various certifiable insanities I often long for a technological solution and training aid, but since I have been informed that my radio-controlled dog shock collar has not been approved for humans under 180 pounds I must despair.

I know that in our frantic efforts to get the control over our insane children back from the experts and government agenicies to whom we've ceded it, we have often resorted to drugs, but surely some simple behavioral modification techniques can be employed to return them to sanity.

Perhaps using the word "No" as a functional part of the conversation would help.

Alas, that seems doomed to failure as long as the word "No" functions only to instill in children the rudiments of a gambling addiction. Think about your own children or children you have observed in the full grip of a "I want this useless cheap crappy thing or I'll die now" dementia. Do you ever see "No" used as a final answer? If you have then you have also seen winged monkeys thrashing about in the parent's pants. Nope. Adults who tell demented children "No" are seen by those children as mere slot-machines:
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "No."
"Can I have?" "Oh, all right."

This is made even more of a certainty since children, being functionally insane, cannot have or hold jobs and hence have no cash whatsoever. This makes them persistent and tireless negotiators.

Another example of how demented children are can be seen in their fashion sense. Yes, from the time they learn to fasten their shoes' little Velcro flaps (Another indulgence we've made so they don't ever have to suffer learning how to tie a bowknot lest a life moment dent their "self-esteem."), children left to dress themselves will come up with outfits fit to inspire circus clowns. So unremittingly awful is a child's insane ideas about couture that mothers will go to extraordinary lengths to dissuade them from appearing outside the bedroom closet in certain combinations. Indeed, the dictum of "You are not going ANYWHERE dressed like that!" seems to be the only requirement still enforced by parents. Yet, every so often, one does slip through to a school -- probably because the parents were in a coma when the child left -- where the afflicted child promptly becomes the envy of his fellow inmates. "Whoa, stained underwear over the plaid pants and a penis gourd? Cool!"

Of course, by the teenage years, this ability to dress in a myriad of ways suggesting the increasing degeneration of the cerebral lobes has paired itself with the ability to attack parents in their sleep with edged weapons, so all restraint is lost. This accounts for many children -- during the peak teenish years of their unbridled psychopathic and sociopathic insanity -- to emerge from their million dollar homes and their personal SUVs with the look of a feces-smeared Balkan refugee with multiple facial piercings and a 'message' t-shirt promising to fight for the right to party like demented schnauzers.

Any responsible adult appearing in any of our cities and towns with this "look" would immediately be reported to Homeland Security, surrounded by Navy SEALS locked and loaded, and find themselves on a one-way flight to Guantanamo. But for our children, its "Hey, they're only kids. What can you do?"

Well, with the death penalty off the table, I guess the only thing we can do is increase our medications. It's the American Way.

In the meantime, as real adults who have survived our childhood and adolesence and been returned, somehow, to sanity, we might want to think about letting concepts concerning the sanity and innocence of our children stop passing in one ear and out the mouth.

UPDATE -- THE OTHER BOOKEND: The Anchoress has a great expansion and excellent, even insPIring, reportage and thoughts on this subject @ Kids are insane? Yes, but some are recovering. I think.

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Posted by Vanderleun at June 15, 2005 3:31 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

My 16 year old wears zoot suits and has Elvis hair and Elvis sideburns. I frankly think he's very cool. :-) Nuts...but cool.

Posted by: The Anchoress at June 8, 2005 4:02 PM

I agree that a zoot suit and elvis hair and sideburns are cool. Only because they are so nuts as to be off the nut track.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at June 8, 2005 4:11 PM

Your better off staying at home with the 12 and 12 sometimes.

Posted by: gordon westergard at June 9, 2005 2:01 AM

I can see why you and Lileks go so well together. You just...mesh. One spins one way and one spins the other way.
Another perpetual myth about children is their unspoiled honesty and lack of malice. When they would happily put you in the ground to get another cookie.

Posted by: ed in texas at June 9, 2005 5:03 AM

Proper child-rearing is more about civilizing a wild animal than teaching skills.

Posted by: Bill at June 9, 2005 8:23 AM

As I get older, I find I'm developing a natural defense against this "in one ear and right back out" business: thick bushy ear hair that stops everything, including sound. I may even leave it.

Posted by: AbbaGav at June 9, 2005 12:25 PM

My son and his immediate group of friends are far more sensible than I was at his age. . .and I wasn't particularly "out there" when I was a young teen. My peers (early 1970's) almost all seemed to be doing drugs, getting laid, and getting into scrapes with the law. Not everyone, certainly, but a significant number.

I have to admit that, as a parent, I'm much more comfortable dealing with the kids today than I would have been trying to deal with my own generation as teens.

Posted by: Nicholas at June 9, 2005 4:18 PM

Wow, Nicholas. You have absolutely no idea what's going on then. I suggest you find some ADULTS who've been forced to pull their heads out of the sand due to the shocking realization(s) of what their mainstream kids have been up to. There are two things that distinguish this generation from that of its parents: 1) there are no obvious "signs" that a child's in trouble (contrast that with the hippy 60s) and 2) the trouble kids can get into today can take your child from sweet baby to addicted thug - or worse, dead - in two weeks rather than the two years it took in the 60s.

Parents today get less warning, less time to assess, and less time to react than any previous generation. Don't ever think "all is well," check day-by-day.

Posted by: Paul Dirac at June 13, 2005 8:30 AM

Zoot suits, "Elvis hair," and sideburns are cool? You are the problem, dude.

Posted by: Paul Dirac at June 13, 2005 8:32 AM

Actually, an untuned sense of humor is much more often the problem than Elvis hair. I agree with the fact that there are often no obvious signs of trouble, but a light touch in other things is often a help.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at June 13, 2005 9:02 AM

Whoa, now that's a screed. Most of which I agree with. My kids DO have to worry about their dad coming home.

Posted by: Mel at June 14, 2005 1:28 PM

Actually, most parents are probably correct in thinking that their kids are doing all right— at least, most of the parents I know, who actually bother to interact with their kids. (As a young adult, I am often accessible to both parties.)

Sure, kids can get into serious trouble nowadays, but while opportunity is boundless these days, the underlying personality to withstand bad temptation can be and is still instilled in many kids.

Which does not prevent their insanity.

Posted by: B. Durbin at June 19, 2005 9:03 PM
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