Today, on my way to the wood, I came past the playground. A father and his little son were playing soccer, kicked the ball to and fro, from one side of the field to the other. The little boy ran rather eagerly, the father rather slowly, uninterested, without much passion. I stopped and watched and after a while I saw how the boy ran slower, more half-hearted. At the goal both stopped and then they walked ahead to swing.
When I came back both were still there. The boy playing and nudging the swing, the father aside, holding his hand as if he was filming his boy. The boy looked bored and disappointed. He was there with his daddy, but at the same time he was alone, playing for himself. (If it even was playing what he did.) He wasn’t able to entice his father to join the game.
The father made a rather sullen impression. The mother must have told her “both men” to go out and have some “nice” time. The father had accepted the job to play with his kid and was now fed up. So what he did was doing the moves, kicking the ball, touching the swing, standing by. All with the air as if he was waiting that his boy would come to an end with his play, that he finished his occupation. As if he was waiting that his pet finished his little poo and both were ready to return home.
The boy felt that his father wasn’t with him, that he had no interest in playing with him. He tried to entice him into the game, but his father didn’t respond. After a while he gave up, strolled a bit around the equipment of the playground. Finally both went off, and I guess it was only the father who was relieved about that.
In my town there are a lot of young couples, academically educated, in their mid-thirties. He has a nice job in one of the financial- or IT-companies around, she is a dedicated housewife, mother, eager proponent of healthy life style, natural food, and other bourgeois occupations. Those couples tend to have one or two children, mostly a boy and a girl, between three and six years old. It is instructive to watch how they educate their children.
Imagine the kid is about to learn to drive the bicycle. It drives on the sidewalk, a huge helmet on its head (whereas knees and ellbows stay unprotected). The kid cycles and just before it reaches the corner, the mother screams “Stop at the corner! … PLEASE!” There are of course situations in which an emergency scream is in order, but on a tranquil afternoon, in a street without traffic, there is no need to scream at all. And there is no need to somehow water the order down by adding a loud “please”. Why confuse the kid with a contradiction?
But the more astonishing aspect is that those women (I’ve never seen it in men) talk in exactly the same way with their pets. If doggie is running a few steps ahead they are screamed into halt by a “Stop!” that is literally followed by a “Please!” No kidding. There is the queer habit of people to treat their children like their dogs. And vice versa.
Have you seen those mothers (it’s mostly mothers, not fathers) on bicylces with a child in the child seat behind? Not only does the kid wear a helmet (that in an accident will distort the kid’s neck). The mother carries a backpack too that is so huge that it pushes right into the child’s face. In order to avoid this the kid has to move its head to the side and backward, very uncomfortable. One wonders who is more important, the kid or the backpack. But this is exactly the point: the kid as the backpack are stuff to be transported from A to B.
The curious thing is that there are indeed similiarities in the education of children and dogs. But there is one major difference that Gerriet Hellwig once stated thus: “A dog you raise to obedience, but a child your raise to freedom.” The tragedy is that today it’s exactly the other way around: dogs are raised to freedom and children to obedience. It’s better to be a pet these days than a kid.
One summer the nine-year old daughter of a friend of mine wanted to go to the open air bath. As her mother wasn’t around the nanny told the girl just to pack her stuff and go if she’d like. The girl did so and seemd to have had a nice time in the bath. In the evening the mother scolded the nanny. How irresponsible to let the little girl go out alone to the bath, without accompanying her. So many things could have gone wrong, all those possible accidents, dangers, assault.
I was baffled. This is a town where nothing such happens. Where you can ask for the way or for being helped. We’re in an affluent town, no assaults nor abductions. So I didn’t understand the fuss. On the contrary, I think that something very problematic was sowed. What the mother taught her daughter was that mistrust and fear are normal and appropriate attitudes towards life and people. That even when seemingly nothing harmful is present, the world is full of threats. Hidden threats, invisible risks. So don’t ask for help, don’t trust the neighbour, don’t cross the streeet alone – everything is full of dangers.
The problems will come when the daughter is around 16 or 17. As she has no experience with people or life other than the artifical constructs of her gated community, she will not know how to assess a boy who might be interested in her. In fact, she will behave like an insecure, bitchy teenager whose smug attitude will invite guys who are fond of “breaking resistance.” So what was meant as protection may in fact be an invitation to trouble. Perhaps it is best she stays at home and attends her violin lessons.
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