Writer’s Name: JC Gardner
Title: It’s not my child. Let me mind my own business.
Recently, I was walking outside near my job in Baltimore City. A mother in her late twenties said to her young daughter of about three years old, “Keep the f*** up!” I paused near the local Payless Shoe Store window, trying not to stare. Then she repeated her command and grabbed her daughter’s cheeks and squeezed them together until she cried and repeated, “I SAID KEEP THE F*** UP!”
I was horrified.
Unfortunately, this was not the first time I’d heard inner city mothers berate their children publicly in this manner. Each time, it cut me to my core. Each time, I walked away and shrugged it off thinking, It’s not my child. Let me mind my own business.
But there was something different this time. When she grabbed the pretty girl’s face, I felt it too. When she cursed at her like they both were in a prison gang, I cringed inside; it was painful to watch and to hear.
I glanced at them, as she dragged the crying girl down the street, pulling her like she was a discarded rag doll. I wanted to give that “mother” a piece of my mind. I wanted to ask Baby Girl if she was okay, but I moved on in the opposite direction.
I walked around in a bit of daze reflecting on the mother’s actions and my inaction. When I thought back on it, when that mother first yelled at her child, Baby Girl didn’t even flinch. It was clear this was a “normal” conversation between them. It was only when she hurt her face was there a reaction.
How many other children are being raised in this manner where this is considered ordinary behavior? If this goes on in the street, what goes on behind closed doors?
I cannot fathom the psychological damage inflicted by this type of upbringing. Since the children are in purgatory at home, when they are placed in a normal environment, such as a school classroom, their conduct oftentimes is off the hook! Video games, rap music and horror movies may be contributing factors to irrational behavior, but I believe the buck stops with the parent, not with the teacher.
These children – and I believe there are many of them – are “our” future. Sprinkled in with the privileged children will be these broken souls, anxious for attention by any means necessary, including bullying, fighting, lack of respect for authority, violent mood swings, etc. And what will society do? Prescribe pills, label them ADHD, and put them with the class of kids deemed “slow.” And at the end of the day, where do they go? Right back home with wayward parents who don’t give a damn about themselves, let alone the children they brought into the world. Many of these children are nothing more than a way to get paid!
My nephew has one such young man in his class. At the age of seven, Corey* is already showing signs of being a juvenile delinquent. Corey hits children for no reason. He calls his classmates hurtful names and has no respect for authority. My nephew, along with other students, was a direct recipient of Corey’s wrath. School aids and teachers alike constantly reprimanded Corey, to no avail. One day, Corey decided to pick up a smaller, younger student and slam him to the ground because he felt like it. Since this was like his umpteenth time of being in trouble, that he was (finally) suspended. His father is a known street hustler; his unwed mother is a young girl herself. Both parents (on different days) came to the school to protest the school’s decision. They screamed on the school and insisted Corey NOT be suspended. He’s just a kid! So the school caved and Corey was not suspended. Didn’t miss one day.
Personally, I think that Corey should have stayed his behind home for at least one day. I fear his parents defending him did not teach him a lesson. It will just cause him to be more calculating next time.
I grew up on a block that many comedians talk about – the block where the neighbors kept an eye on you and reported you to your parents if necessary. We played outside, getting all sorts of physical activity on a daily basis. We had a strict curfew and knew our place. Church wasn’t an option; it was a requirement. I could not go anywhere without my parents meeting my friends and also knowing their parents too, and we always had to travel as a group.
That village that used to raise a child has eroded. Neighbors barely speak to one another and their children follow suit. I don’t even see children playing with each other outside anymore, except for an occasional bike ride or hoops game. Now they’re holed up at home in front of a television that has over 800 channels to choose from. Sitting down has replaced moving around. I’m not knocking technological progress, but instead of it being a companion to the old school way of life, it has replaced and eradicated many of the morals and values that helped shape my generation of youth into successful adults.
I want to believe that our children are our future. I’m just scared it might be true.
*The name has been changed for confidentiality purposes