NOT ON THE STREET WHERE I LIVE
Unlike Victorian children who were expected to be seen and not heard, American children, according to writer Daphne Merkin, have been protected and indulged to the point where they have a sense of entitlement. How, she wonders, will these little inhabitants “of their own imperial worlds… grow up with sufficient psychological flexibility to relate empathetically to others.” (“Les Enfants Terribles,” Daphne Merkin, “W” March 2012). What’s more, she speculates that Adam Mansback’s “Go the Fuck to Sleep” is a bestseller because it exposes the same doubt among many parents.
Recently a video went viral which suggests Merkin and Mansback might be right about those doubts. In it an enraged father complains to his daughter’s Facebook friends that he’s raised a selfish, thoughtless brat and then pulls out a gun and shoots the computer.
The performance received rave reviews, but frankly, I found the episode chilling. Did the man give a single moment’s thought to the repercussions of his implied threat, his foul language or the needless shame he caused his daughter just to salve his hurt feelings? A thirteen year old may be excused for her lack of judgment. Her brain isn’t fully matured but can the same be said in the father’s defense?
If Merkin and Mansback are correct that we are a nation of over-indulged children how does that square with the following facts?
1. Federal spending for Education falls far below dollars spent on the military, the rescue of defaulting banks, and economic development.
2. We have an economy where both parents must work to survive but unlike other western countries, there is no national support for child care.
3. The cost to parents for children in public schools is rising as government funding declines.
4. The cost of higher education saddles young people with debt for years.
Far from putting children first in this country, our treatment of them is a national disgrace. I don’t know where Daphne Merkin or Adam Mansback live, but it isn’t on my street.