Saturday, November 13, 2010

The World Eats Children

I was reading the local paper yesterday morning (the online version to save the trees, of course). As per usual, I hit the obits second (front page comes first). I’ve always been drawn to the obituaries, just as I’ve always felt myself attracted to cemeteries. The last, usually loving tributes to folks who aren’t anymore. It’s beautiful, but beyond that, it often brings with it a wave of “what ifs.” You know—“what if I died, what would Tom put in my obit?” and “What if that was my mother, what would I say about her?”

Yesterday, it was “What if my 12 year old child who loved playing guitar and dreamed of traveling had committed suicide?”

Oh, damn. What if? What if it was my beautiful child, my heart, his life tapped out in a few dozen lines on an obit page? What if the world chewed up my boy and spat him out broken?

I look back on all the things my parents didn’t discuss with me. Suicide, drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, bullying, peer pressure, devastating depression—all of which were a big part of my growing up. I shambled through my childhood, completely lost. I was lucky in that most of my friends were good ones. Maybe not moral compasses, but certainly not wells of depravity, either. I was lucky that, with one notable exception, they all cared about my welfare, even if the stick they used to measure good from bad wasn’t quite in keeping with society’s norms. Or “nerms,” as we used to say.

They say the world is what we make it. If that’s true, we’re breathtakingly broken. I sit down and I talk about suicide, meth, and teen pregnancy with my 12 year old and my brain screams, “WHY? Why does he have to know this stuff at 12 years old? What is WRONG with us, that we’ve created a world where 12 year olds are getting other 12 year olds pregnant and 13 year olds are bullying their classmates to DEATH?”

Why do I have to explain to my child that poking at people who are different, whether it be skin color or sexual orientation, is a bad thing? Shouldn’t we, as a society, already know that? Shouldn’t that be a given? It’s 2010—how can racism or bigotry still be an issue? Aren’t we smarter than that?

And am I part of the problem because I’m making my child aware? I told him about auto-erotic asphyxiation and “huffing” when he was NINE, because other NINE year olds were doing it—and DYING. How jacked up is that? How terrible?

And if you think all THAT'S bad, imagine being a child in Gaza? Haiti? Thailand?

I don’t have a point here. I’m railing against a messed up world that eats people. That eats children. And my heart is thrumming and mind is buzzing with fear because maybe our love and our lectures and our watchful eyes just aren’t enough. That child in yesterday’s paper? Her parents loved her, too. She was their heart. They watched and guided and adored.

And the world got her anyway.

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