We have all known that moment when a naughty child is so priceless in their mischief that you CANNOT help but laugh, or turn away to hide your amusement. I bet most of us also have that one friend or family member who think their bratty child is the most adorable creature ever – while the rest of us want to send the parent AND their child to the (silent) naughty corner for reform (and peace for the rest of humanity!). My husband cannot abide naughty children and as if it is part of some cosmic conspiracy, he attracts bratty children within ten minutes of being seated at any restaurant… In all the years of our marriage there has never been an exception to this phenomena! He has earned himself a reputation as a brat magnet and the rest of us just have to suffer along with him. What amazes me, is that in all these episodes – the parents of these children do NOTHING! Who can blame a child for thinking that it is okay to behave badly, when their parents have been consistent only in re-enforcing that notion by lack of correction? So you don’t believe in smacking your child – that’s fine – I believe children respond well to reason and consequences too!
One morning, Peter and I encountered this little monkey family in Kruger Park. The baby looked very fresh from Heaven and we couldn’t help laughing when we noticed that he was casually putting a cigarette stompie (but) in his mouth as if it was the most natural thing in the world. At this point, I am going to avoid getting started on the consequences of humans littering, and focus on why else the picture struck me… isn’t it such an accurate reflection of the situation many children find themselves in today? So many of our youth are left to their own devices because their parents are too absorbed in their own lives to notice and intervene? I am not passing judgement on why this happens, because the reality is that life is tough and many parents sacrifice everything to feed and clothe their children and many are too exhausted to see what is really going on. Others work such long hours to provide for their families, that the reality is that they never actually see their children! This is tragic, but for me, even more tragic is the growing trend of parents who do not know where their children are and what they are doing, because they are more concerned with their own lives. At this point, I might be ruffling a few feathers, but I can testify to the truth of this, from years of outreach work with young people – this story is not as uncommon as you might hope.
Fast forward a few years and we wonder what happened to the youth of today! Our generation was never like THIS? True. Nor was the generation before us like we were – some might call it progress, but when you are picking up the broken shards of young lives, it looks a lot more like regression. In all this – we forget one incriminating fact –
We are the curators of the generation that comes after us. What happened to the youth of TODAY? Well, the unfortunate answer, is WE happened. Or perhaps in most cases, we failed to happen.
Call me an optimist – but I believe it’s never too late. We all have children and young people in our lives – there is a beautiful saying that purports that “it takes a village to raise a child”. Indeed. So what are we going to do about it? Parents sometimes need help – especially in these difficult times. They don’t need judgement – they need love and support, given with genuine love and courage. So my question is: “What happened to the elders/ mentors/ leaders/ parents of today?” Perhaps it is not too late to change the answer.