Dignity in childhood.


The other day I was visiting my mom at the salon in which she rents her station when suddenly, the owner- who we don't know very well at all- suddenly walks up to my daughter from where he was sitting quite a ways away and says, "Hey, you talk too much." My daughter, who was sitting at the manicurist's chair and commenting TO ME on how beautiful the polish colors were, immediately lost her smile. Her body hunched over so subtly, but I- being her mother- caught it quite obviously. She stopped looking at the polish and stared down at the floor.

I was in shock. I was speechless. At the same time I wanted to sucker punch him, I sat there motionless in disbelief. When I snapped back to my senses, I went over to her, locked eyes with her and asked, "What were you saying, love, about the polish?" And made sure she knew I was paying attention and was not at ALL bothered by her talking. She began to say something else when the same man interrupted her with complete disregard again for her feelings and began to tell me his dog passed away. I put on my therapist hat and decided that this gentleman meant no harm even though he had caused my daughter emotional harm twice in the span of a mere minute. My knee-jerk reaction was to say something rude and stern back to him but I realized there was no benefit to this. He was clueless as to what he had done. Looking back now I wish I would have said SOMETHING to him though because maybe, in my daughter's eyes, I made it permissible to interrupt her and perhaps she would think my silence was saying her thoughts were not worthy of being heard. Upon further meditation, I realized that the reason I didn't say anything was some awful childhood programming of my own I have about never being rude or stern to an older person or calling an older person's attention.

Childhood can be very undignified. I see it everyday. EVERYDAY. Yesterday at an indoor playground, a mother pulled her kid out of the ballpit because he was throwing balls outside of the pit along with some other boys (mine included) none of whom were being punished for it. She dragged him out by the arm, violently smacked him, and yelled at him in front of everyone. Then she threw him back inside. At a local coffee shop, a father went about his business chatting with a friend and getting his coffee while his daughter tugged at his pants, trying desperately to get his attention the whole time they were there and he didn't once make eye contact with her or ask her what she wanted. I see children spoken down to, manhandled, bullied, manipulated, abused, lied to, and ignored by adults and older children who are at age where they [should] know better. It is infuriating. I get so angry when people treat children like second class citizens or like less than what they actually are- brilliant little balls of energy, asking to be loved, taught, and guided. Children depend on their parents and adults for so much- for real and true information about the world, for gentle guidance as opposed to forced or aggressive coercion, for understanding their place in the world, for help discovering and developing their imagination, for help developing to a stage where they can make sound choices for themselves, and on and on and on- if we are all not careful, we can seriously damage the course of their lives.

That people want to exert power over a child is mind boggling. How can it be that in a situation where someone has the upper hand (oftentimes only due to mere size) people will take their fullest advantage of it when a child is involved? I can't wrap my head around it. Take the man who told my daughter she talked too much. I know he didn't mean anything by it, but would he say that to one of his older patrons? Would he have gone up to the wealthy middle-aged lady who was under the hair dryer who WAS talking too much to say so? Of course not. THAT would be considered rude and uncouth. But to just walk up to a child so nonchalantly and say what he said, while smiling, is considered harmless.

When I mentioned it to my mom later that day, she jumped to point out, "Oh, I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it." And when I mentioned the injustices children have to endure, she stopped listening to me and began another conversation with my father mid-sentence. I understand that generation isn't looking at the things we are (and by "we" I mean, Gen X, Y, Z, Millennials, Next and hybrids thereof). We dissect and examine. We revolt and uproot. They like to keep quiet and keep the status quo. I get all that. So, I understand but I certainly don't stand by these actions that suck the dignity out of childhood- such a creative, fecund, and sweet time of life.

I urge everyone reading this to examine the way they treat children- whether theirs or others. Sometimes all it takes is one word from one person- one- to slice through a kid's confidence and self-esteem. We can drag down or give wings to the up and coming generations. I choose goodness and to remind these little angels of their wings with which they can fly.