By Roger Barbee
Some months ago I wrote an article about people who chain dogs and leave them alone except for providing food and water.
At a house near here, someone has chained a cute, yellow puppy to a doghouse. The black and white older dog that had been there is no longer chained to the same doghouse. Perhaps it died or was "put down" because of some malady, I don't know; but when I drive past the house, I see the puppy as it begins a life confined in the same isolated space, learning to drag a chain hooked to the doghouse.
The puppy may have the food and water it will need, but it will not have the nourishment it deserves. As I was thinking of this puppy and its coming life, I thought of some of the children in the valley who, sadly, face a life similar of the puppy.
One way we chain our children is by conceiving them and then leaving their rearing to a relative or grandparents. All too often I encounter children who live with a relative instead of their parents. Yes, there are some circumstances when it is best for a child or children not to live with the biological parents. However, children usually live with a relative because the biological parents have made some choice or choices (alcohol, drugs, inability to hold a job) that causes them to abandon their child or children. Instead of parenting their miracle, they indulge their flesh.
Growing children need nutritional food. It takes time and money to shop for and prepare food that is good for growing bodies and minds. However, a diet of sugar and fat and salt, while convenient and sometimes less expensive, robs growing bodies of what they need. Yes, food from a fast food store or a convenience store may be attractive, but it is not what will last in a positive way. This type of diet not only contributes to being overweight, but also robs children of the nutrition that will develop a sound body and mind.
Health care is not an option. Regular visits to a pediatrician and dentist are needed to ensure sound health. Emergency visits to an emergency room are sometimes necessary, but not enough to provide good health; and after any visit to an ER, a follow-up
appointment with the regular doctor should be made. Poor health hinders sound growth.
Parents should recognize and accept that the world of their children is not the world they experienced. The world with its composition and expectations for their children is much different than theirs, and to prepare children for the world that they live in is unjust.
Parents who view the world only from their experience do not prepare their children for the changing world that is coming. Yes, the experience of the parent is valuable, but saying, "It [whatever the topic] was good enough for me, it's good enough for her," is not helpful; in fact it harms. Make sure your children are offered experiences and education that will help prepare them for their coming world.
Children need to feel safe. This means that their home environment needs to be a place where they know they will be loved unconditionally and that the home is secure. If you can't afford that new bike that is wanted, be honest and say so, but don't involve your children in adult issues or problems. Carefully screen the movies, videos, and television to which children are exposed. Read the short story by Kathryn Anderson Forbes, "Mama's Bank Account." and see what one mother did to protect her children.
Have conversations with your children, not at them. Engage them in dialogue about school events, local events, school activities, or national news. Be aware that gossiping is not healthy and does not nurture young minds.
Violence wears many faces. It seems to me that we are too casual about children having sex with young or old adults. In my mind, no 15 year old has the wherewithal to consent to sex with an older authority figure, and too often a young female becomes pregnant However, this is not the only violence that chains our children -- verbal abuse causes damage, too. And too often the abused grow up to be abusers.
Children are our commitment to the future, and we need to nourish them, not just provide some form of food, water, and shelter. The home is the primary provided of this nourishment.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.