Have kids reached the tipping point or is it just 'the next generation'?
I feel there is cause for alarm when I have a look at how children in the western world are growing up and their behaviour patterns that result. Obviously for every parent or teacher out there, there would be another gripe about kids of today. This was surely been the case when I went through my fun childhood years (1974 till 2004 and possibly still a few more to come) and was the case when young Churchill threw his peas on the floor in a tantrum 100 years earlier, or 100 years before that even, when little Johnny Appleseed (really John Chapman) would not tuck his hoes into his breeches no matter how much his nurse maid scolded the lad with threats of no candlelight for a month.
Yes I am sure every age and generation has had the same woes over their young and the rebelliousness of the ungrateful sods. That's not quite what has got my attention. What worries me is the lack of influence real people now have on children, whether they are trying to mould them or not. With the incredible amount of opportunity for youngsters to interact in a somewhat superficial, but seemingly very real platform, of social networks and all things computery, I feel that the yout (as Danny DeVitto calls them in my cousin Vinny) are sliding to a point where the masses of them are loosing vital experience of life ... the experience of how to deal with other Humans.
What sparked this off in my squishy brain, perhaps a little undernourished and beat up after a few recent drinking bouts, was firstly a trip in the local Rikki Taxi service. My car was in for repairs of the window that had been smashed by dem crooks. I was catching a ride with the Rikki service to retrieve my car. The interesting thing about the Rikki service is that it picks up other passengers on route to your destination if it, more or less, fits in. Its quite fun to meet some exotic hot Dutch angel who is heading to the beach at 10:30am on a Tuesday morning or a ditsy hippy from Obs who can't quite remember her own name and pays for the ride in coppers.
Today though it was at the St Cyprians Girls Diocese/Convent/Castle/School or what ever the church calls it, that the Rikki was heading for his 2nd pick up once I was already comfortable seated in the old London taxi, complete with Nedbank branding from top to toe.
The passenger in waiting was a 16 year old cute little thing extremely overladen with bags and guitars and more bags. Files, novels, textbooks and science projects all included in her load scholarary paraphernalia. I helped the young thing into the Rikki while she explained in the strangest English that only parents or teachers get to experience, how she is always carrying so much stuff and what an effort it was. Not complaining mind you, just commenting through some deeply drawn breaths and rosy red cheeks brought on by the effort. Now this was clearly one of the studious girls of the Convent paying much diligence to her studies and academia rather than on the other distractions and vices a 16 year old faces at that delicate age. Yet her ability to talk to me was incredibly sad to see. There was no awkwardness nor embarrassment at all, just an extremely limited set of skills - and I am not talking traditional ones that a Duchess would be sent to Switzerland finishing school to acquire- just a basic switch from her favoured buddies speak to be able to talk to a 35 year old. Not able I am afraid to report. I did find it poor form I must admit. Then it came time to pay the taxi and she had no clue how to adapt to make him understand where he was to take her or how she would prefer a certain break down in her change from paying a cheap fare with her R100 bill.
I helped Miss keen bean school girl out the car with all her baggage and marveled at the level communication, or as this case unfolded, the lack there of. The Rikki dude was clearly not aware in the least and carried on to the location I had asked him for. Now while waiting for the car in a dodgy part of Woodstock a little 9 year old comes cruising along the road with a dilapidated soccer ball under his arm. I motioned for the lytjie to drop the ball and have a kick about with me. He looked at me as if I was freak show. So I went for a more explanatory tact of communication and said "hey ... kom ons speel" hey come lets play. The little droll just walks straight past me. No fear, no jealous possession of his ball, just a total lack of energy or understanding to what I thought was an ingrained in guys young and old when there is a ball in our midst and an opportunity to kick it, throw it, lob it, pitch it or hit it to each other.
Is the interaction between today's youngsters and their elders slipping to levels of grave concern as quickly as I think they are? Don't get me wrong. I think there are incredible children out there with skills way beyond what elder generations had, but its like having a brand new car with all the fun stuff and you don't know how to actually drive. It could be a difficult battle to strike a balance with all the incredibly awesome opportunities that are available to the under 18's and keeping them involved in real life at the same time. I hear that these days when a 14 year old pops round to visit his/her buddy to 'play' for the afternoon or for a sleepover, it's not uncommon for them to sit in separate rooms on two different computers to talk to each other and those 'out there'. I think the potential for these fortunate kids is phenomenal if they are kept in touch with the many other benefits of life that are still worthwhile to them besides the new new stuff. Things that are real are still easily the most important as we are finding out, sometimes at the harsh end of some difficult experience. Real food is better than processed crap, real medicine is better than that which is made in a laboratory (still learning the lessons here) and Real people are better for children to interact with when growing up then the other options.