Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Neighborhood is Dead

And I helped kill it...

Every so often one hears a lament over the death of the old fashioned neighborhood -- that sunlit playground where children larked and housewives chatted over white picket fences. Kids forsook the TV and got plenty of exercise with their friends, and parents didn't worry because they knew that the watchful eyes of the neighborhood mothers would keep their children safe.

Many neighborhoods aren't like this anymore (though certainly some are) and several possible culprits have been put forward. Two income families receive a good deal of blame. With no parents home, who is to watch the children? And so children are ordered to remain indoors. Another favorite whipping boy is electronic entertainment: Clearly the children are all inside watching TV or playing video games.

I think there's a great deal to both of these, but another contributing factor is cultural and moral fragmentation. For example: a few months back I was talking to the ten-year-old son of the family down the street. Among other accomplishments, he mentioned his enjoyment of horror movies ("killing movies" he called them -- such as Alien vs. Predator) and bragged about his drawing abilities. "I can draw girls," he announced. "You know, all slutty with boobs and piercings." "Ah..." I said. And I made a mental note that I never wanted my little girls playing anywhere near this budding pervert.

If you want your kids to grow up Catholic (or any other orthodox form of Christianity) in today's culture, you frankly don't want your kids around the average neighbor kids. My own parents tended to be pretty hesitant about random neighborhood kids when I was growing up, preferring me to play with kids of their friends from bible study or other students from the parish school. And when I did hang out with other neighborhood kids, we sometimes lacked common experiences. They reveled in Nightmare On Elm Street, Poltergeist and Highlander. I made a futile attempt to brag about having seen John Houston's The Dead (it almost worked since they didn't know that despite the threatening title it was based on a James Joyce story) and tried to interest them in Time Bandits, but it didn't really work. They were all proficient on Atari and early Nintendo systems. I was never allowed to have one, so when I played on their I tended to lose badly. And so on.

Looking back, I'm generally quite glad that my parents kept me separate from the wider culture, and I intend to do much the same for our kids. (With sufficient work you most definitely can choose your kids friends.) But without a doubt that kind of cultural and moral segregation is one of the factors in breaking the "everyone watches everyone's kids" dynamic that so many remember fondly.


Anonymous said...

I think this was very well said. My wife and I were just talking about this the other day. We have some kids in our family is Catholic although not as stringent as we are, but their kids are pretty good kids. They are allowed to watch more TV than our kids are and they do the video game thing while our kids don't. But for the most part we trust the family and they know our sensibilities. Another kid in the neighbourhood seems to be a good kid as well. Polite, but pretty quiet. At his house though there seems to be more of a rotation of people coming in and out of the house...adults, that is, who are not the mom and dad. He also has a older brother, guestimate around 12, with 2 earrings, a girlfriend, and a motorcycle. We don't know the parents very well and don't prejudge them, but just to be safe they are not allowed over to his house. He can come to our house and play but thats it.

We sometimes think that we are being overly protective about who our kids associate with. But just like in public school, all it takes is one kid in the class to start poisoning the minds of your little ones. Its so important to guard over them when they are little, allowing playmates from families whom you know and trust and share similar values.

CincyDarwin said...

Here, here! Most of my children are adults, and I practiced these same principles, and am very thankful I did. The most helpful thing was to find friends for your children of whom you approved. Then they didn't consider themselves "deprived". Instead of telling the children what they couldn't do, I generally told them what they could do. Finding out what good and honest things they like to do, and keeping them immersed in those things when possible was a huge help.

Well said, Darwin! This is a battle that brooks no mistakes. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that "bad company corrupts good morals." Someday your young children will be grown and will choose their own associates. I have observed that my adult children have invariably chosen well, and I'm sure yours will as well.

Thanks be to God for good, holy parents.