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Childhood is no more
Children no longer exist. In today’s society, babies are born into a world where they are going to school at the age of three, using cell phones by six or seven, working by 13, and driving by 16. Their day jobs are their nurseries, their colleagues are their classmates, and their bosses are their babysitters. So where do the parents come in? The answer is-they don’t.
With today’s economic situation and our nation’s capitalistic work ethic, adults are throwing themselves into their careers, full throttle. People are worried about deadlines and promotions instead of diapers and play dates with their children.
To some extent, this dedication to the workforce is understood; however, with that devotion comes a strain on the family.
Primarily, children are becoming more independent-not because they want to be, but because they have to be.
From an early age, many youngsters are expected to settle themselves into a nursery school atmosphere, let themselves into and out of the house, and look within themselves to heal their “boo boos.”
Power trips occur when Mommy and Daddy come home from work and expect the children who have been taking care of themselves all day to shift their responsibilities back to playing with their toys, so that the parental role of caretaker can be resumed.
The question then becomes, “Who is in charge?” Is it the babysitter, or the nursery school teacher, or the parent, or the child himself?
Secondly, while some parents have no alternative to working to support their families, the time comes when everyone has their preplanned “vacation time,” which is more commonly recognized as the one to two weeks that adults have, away from the office, as leisure time. And while some adults use this time to catch up on their professional work, others use this time to clean up the house, garden, or catch up on bills.
Still, there are some parents who use this vacation time to make amends with their children for being buried in work instead of being buried in the sandbox in the backyard with their kids. It is these vacation times that are the most stressful for both the parents and the children, because parents try to squeeze years of recreation and quality time into a two-week time slot. As a result, vacations shift from being enjoyable periods of relaxation to strenuous competitions to see how many “family fun” activities can be crammed into half of a month. Parents are forced to prove themselves to their children through planning non-stop action, and the kids are stressed from being dragged from place to place. And some of these events are not even appealing to youngsters.
For example, take going to the movies. This past weekend I was sitting in a theater-watching Underworld, starring Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman. Without sounding “Ebertish,” I will simply say that it is a violent movie that portrays an ongoing war between vampires and lichens (werewolves). The film is abundant with murders, darkness, and grotesque images. But more disturbing than the characters in the movie, were the screams and cries that could be heard throughout the theater from toddlers and youngsters, who were scared, confused, and uncomfortable by the figures that were displayed on the big-screen. These children did not make the conscious choice to be subjected to such a film, and the theater staff did not invite them in. It was their parents who gave consent and dragged these youngsters to watch a movie which served primarily adult interests.
So we must ask ourselves as a society, why this is the case. Were these children brought into a mature movie because that was their parents way of spending quality time with them; or were the parents merely continuing to indulge in their own self interests, while bringing their kids along for the ride?
Regardless of the answers to these questions, the fact remains that children are suffering and are being neglected. It is true that people must work to support themselves; but it is also true that children need time to just be kids. They should not be forced to deal with vampires and death at the ages of three and four. And as a student body, at a university, that is eventually going to be entering into the work world, it is important to consider the lifestyles we are going to lead. Yes, it is important to establish a career, and to make money. But, it is equally, if not more, important to keep our youth as our chief priority-so that they remain more to us than just our responsibilities after a long day of work. We must nurture children and make time for them, so that they can grow into their adulthood, rather than having it imposed upon them as soon as they are able to walk.